Erin Harkes
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Erin Harkes

Albany, New York, United States | SELF

Albany, New York, United States | SELF
Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Metroland Best Of 2005"

Best Solo Performer (Female)

Erin Harkes

Erin Harkes has developed an enviable stage presence over her past few years of performing. Armed with a commanding voice and catchy, soulful tunes, Harkes captures her audience’s attention and doesn’t let go until she decides to. We’ve watched as she’s built up and fleshed out a notable catalog of songs, and we love to see her perform them live.

- Metroland

"The Chronicle"

Glens Falls Rocks
July 28 2005

I was listening to the radio the other day and found a new favorite. I was tuned in to WAMC (90.3 FM) the Albany NPR affiliate, and a musician was performing live on the air, playing acoustic guitar and singing some of the best lyrics I’d heard on the radio in some time. I figured she must be some nationally touring folk or rock girl, probably signed to a major label. I certainly hadn’t heard her voice around here before.

Well, I was wrong. She was not some big star cruising through town on a publicity stint. The singer was Albany based artist Erin Harkes, and I’ve got to say that I was pleasantly surprised at that.

Erin is known in the Albany area as lead singer of the band The Rebound. According to her website ( she is an “upstate NY” native and has managed to churn out four CD’s in the past five years, two solo and two with The Rebound.

I heard her on WAMC’s morning show “The Roundtable.” She was the featured on Tuesday’s edition of the “Performance Place” segment of the show. Two songs that stuck out for me were “Half” and “Special I Am”. She has a powerful voice, feminine but not lilting or shaky.

Her lyrics are what really nailed me though. “Half” in particular is three minutes of clever turns of phrase. In a lesser songwriter’s hands the repeated use of one word could get gimmicky, but she pulls it off with lines like, “that was only half my heart. The other half won’t break.” Good Stuff.

So after her performance I was left wishing I had a reason to write about this Albany singer in a Glens Falls newspaper, then came her list of upcoming shows. This Friday Erin Harkes will perform at the Irish Pub on South Street. I am going to try to clear my schedule for this show. I recommend you do the same. Now, I’m going back to that website to see if there is a link to buy one of her CD’s.

- Bob Smith

"Into the New"

On the Rebound
By Kathryn Lurie

After a period of personal upheaval, Erin Harkes looks to enjoy her freedom and focus on her band.

Erin Harkes squirms in her chair at the Lark Tavern on a recent evening about an hour before her gig. She chats amicably, but it’s obvious that she’s preoccupied.

“I forgot my setlist at home,” she explains.

This is an important night for her; it’s understandable that she wants everything to go as smoothly as possible. Tonight is the first night in three months that she will play a gig with her band, the Rebound.

She tucks her blond hair behind her ears and wonders aloud if she should go home to get her setlist. Restlessly, she watches her guitarist, Blaze, as he sets up speakers and microphones, unwinds cords and strums his guitar.

Harkes bounces in her seat a bit, looking like she wants to jump up and take the stage at any second. “I’m just really excited to be playing with my band again.” After some personal turmoil and months of work with another band, Harkes is really eager to refocus on her own group.

Harkes, 27, debuted the Rebound in August 2002 at Valentine’s. The lineup has been through quite a few incarnations since then, but Harkes says that she feels really good about the way it is right now: Blaze on guitar, Scott Dorrance on bass (Dorrance, who has been with the band from the beginning, is unable to play this gig due to a recent surgery; filling in for him this evening is Tom Dolan of Folding Sky), and Harkes’ 19-year-old brother Matt McQuilkin on drums.

As Harkes’ fans fill the backroom of the bar, she greets them warmly, thanking them for coming and bantering with them.

Finally, after figuring out the setlist and huddling with her band for about 10 minutes (a pep talk, perhaps?), Harkes takes the stage and steps up to the mic, her back virtually arched, as if to soak up the energy of the lively crowd before her. Her arms bent over her guitar with her elbows high, she grins at her audience, and starts strumming.

‘I put a lot of things on hold for the Memphis thing,” Harkes told me at a recent lunchtime meeting. The “Memphis thing” is Memphis’ International Blues Challenge in which she, as part of area blues outfit Mark Emanatian and Folding Sky, competed at the beginning of February.

Harkes had met Emanatian and the rest of Folding Sky as a result of singing at Tuesday night jams over the years at downtown Albany bar Savannah’s, with Mike Iwanos and the Bottomfeeders (Garry Piambino happened to be in both bands).

“I had been a professional stage crasher forever,” Harkes grins. “I’ve always loved singing the blues. I remember going to an open jam and just staring up at these women and saying, ‘I know I can do that.’ And the first three times I went it was awful. [People] were so good to me, [and] I was so awful. But I wanted it bad.”

Emanation asked Harkes if she would be interested in joining the band to battle against other area bands in the Northeast Blues’ Society’s Colossal Contender competition. Harkes agreed, and after winning the initial competition at Troy’s Revolution Hall in May 2004, they competed in the second round on July 9 at the Empire State Plaza. When they won, Harkes and Folding Sky were given an opening slot at Albany’s Fleet BluesFest the following day. In addition, winning the finals gave them the opportunity to compete in Memphis.

At the Memphis competition, there were more than 90 acts competing for $25,000 and titles like Best Unsigned Blues Band and Best Unsigned Acoustic Act. There were three nights of contests; Harkes and Folding Sky made it through to the second night before being eliminated. “We still don’t know how we placed,” Harkes says. “I definitely had high hopes for it, and I’m surprised that I’m not really devastated [about losing].”

Harkes says that there were many reasons why the band did not place for the third night in the contest, emphasizing that she considers these reasons as factors, not excuses. “These are facts. One, I got sick and lost my voice. We played the same place both nights, and it was a theater. It was an awful venue.” She shakes her head. “We’re a bar fucking band! We would’ve killed even with my voice gone. That was rough because we were a little out of our element. And honestly, based on what I heard from the other bands, I don’t think our songs were bluesy enough.”

As she left Memphis, there was a shift in Harkes’ priorities. Though she gained valuable experience and appreciated the opportunity to play in the competition, she knew she was missing something—she needed to get back to her band.

“The day after I got back, I got on the horn and I said, ‘Let’s get back to the Rebound,’ ” she says. “I knew [my band] felt neglected.” Harkes adores her band, too. She talks about them with reverence, and prides herself on being a nurturing bandleader, always making sure to get quality time in with the guys after a gig. It’s a necessary part of an intimate process, she says. “Hanging out with the band after a gig is like cuddling after sex.”

Harkes says that playing gigs, especially with the Rebound, is “honestly the best drug.” And you can see she really does feel at home on the stage. She revels in the spotlight as young women in the audience watch her intently, swaying and shaking their heads slightly as if to say, “How did you know that?” when Harkes delivers lines like, “I didn’t want to be that girl that you talked about and/I didn’t want to be the one who was complicated.”

As she employs her husky voice (which has garnered her numerous comparisons to Janis Joplin) on “Stay,” a cover from one of her favorite singers, Jennifer Nettles, Harkes takes a deep breath, scrunches up her nose a little and belts out, “I fall in love much too easily/But I can fall out just as fast.”

Harkes recently moved to her own Albany apartment after living with her mother for a couple months. She had moved in with her mom following a breakup with her boyfriend, with whom she had been living in Troy. She ended that long-term relationship a few months ago, but the break was not as smooth or as quick as she would’ve preferred. However, she now gives the impression of a bird that has finally found its wings. You can sense her relief at her newfound freedom.

Of course, there were many issues contributing to the end of the relationship; one was that the simple complication of living with another person put a tremendous strain on her songwriting process. “I couldn’t get up at four in the morning and just strum my guitar,” she explains, “and I needed to be able to do that.”

Harkes calls some of her songs “stone soup cocktails.” She says that because she’s always thinking up lines and stowing them away, she’s able to go back and pick out out ones she likes and throw them together to come up with actual verses. When she’s done, voilá—there’s a new song. “They’re like little structures that I built that I want to show off,” she says.

Her frustration of feeling creatively stifled lifted with her moving in to her new apartment. “Now I can play my guitar whenever I want.”

Now that the adventure of the Memphis competition and the sadness of her ended relationship are behind her, Harkes is excited about what lies ahead. Her goals seem modest: “My biggest aspirations for the next year are to smile, to enjoy myself, and just to be comfortable. I feel like I’ve made some not-so-good decisions.”

“I want to be able to say that I’m happy,” she shrugs. “I’ve been very sad for a very long time for a number of reasons.”

As she eagerly pounds out her songs to the pack of approving fans, Harkes smiles to herself and casts her gaze skyward, looking entirely content. Don’t bother to wonder what she’s thinking about, because she says it all in her lyrics: “If everything we want we got right here before us/Why do the slightest distractions give us whiplash?”

- Metroland

"Live & Lively"


Troy's own premiere roadhouse band, Folding Sky, has won the 2004 Colossal Contenders contest and will travel to Memphis in February to compete against more than 100 acts from around the world in The Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge.

Founded by Mark Emanatian, former lead guitarist and band leader for Ernie Williams & The Wildcats, Folding Sky easily beat out the two other "Colossal Contender" bands in the most contentious contest in the eight years the sponsoring Northeast Blues Society has run the competition.

Possibly the largest crowd ever assembled for a local band contest, more than 5,000 people at opening night of the Fleet Blues Fest last Friday, cheered loudly as the results were announced, just after headliner Rhett Tyler swept the crowd with a soaring pyrotechnic display of guitar work dripping with vibrato and sustain.

Each of the three competing bands played their wild cards, hoping to garner the maximum number of votes from the audience to win the contest.

Blues-O-Saurus, led by the charismatic ball of adrenaline Ken Briggs, blew up an 8-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus balloon. Briggs, who plays bass and is lead singer, had competed two years ago with a band called Blues Inc. This time, he paraded his first-born daughter on stage to sing, along with his wife, Marla.

Fred Shapiro, the St. Peter's Hospital oncologist who treated the late Steve Katz, The Northeast Blues Society's "Jam Man," had a tattoo of his band Mojo Lightning needled into his arm weeks before the contest. He also had several comely young women with temporary Mojo Lightning tattoos work the crowd.

All three bands had spent months promoting the event and encouraging their constituency to come out. Shapiro even hired a bus to bring people up from the Hudson Valley.

In the end, experience won out. Folding Sky rocked the house with a set that easily matched the best of the 15 international acts that performed at the two-day festival. Drawing mostly from originals off the group's brand new self-titled second album, Mark's hoarse voice growled out lyrics that hammered home an edgy portrait of life of the common man. A resident of Watervliet and holder of several jobs, including history teacher, Emanatian sees the world as a sometimes hostile confrontation between everyman and The Man. It is music and the release of roadhouse baptisms that make the grind worth it.

Folding Sky's guest vocalist Erin Harkes may well have been the element that put the band comfortably into the winner's circle. Her version of "Steamroller Blues" made one forget that Sweet Baby James Taylor wrote it, and instead made it sound like it might be the second Etta James cover she did in one set. Standing firmly on two feet, this dirty blonde banshee belted out her music with no vibrato, no soft feminine wiles, just a blast-furnace breath of fire that singed the hair of everyone in the last aisle at the top of the museum steps watching her performance.

The ebullient Folding Sky held court later Friday night at the Lark Tavern, where Chicago diva Big Time Sarah sat in with the band. Sarah surprised the crowd with the kind of late-night revelry usually reserved for West Side Chicago blues bars like Lee's Unleaded, snuggled uncomfortably under the tracks of the el. At one point, the big-legged veteran performed a lap dance on top of a willing good sport. She grabbed his hands and placed them securely on her ample womanhood while delivering the goods on the classic "Fannie Mae" with all the panache of a veteran whose credits include stints with Sunnyland Slim, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. Through it all, Mark Emanatian just grinned and accompanied her as if he and Folding Sky were her regular band.

Between sets, Emanatian came over to a table that included Chicago blues veteran Tail Dragger (given his name by no less than Howlin' Wolf), King Biscuit Time magazine senior writer Sandra Pointer Jones, Rhett Tyler, Blues Storm CEO Arnie Goodman and Big Time Sarah herself. Mark expressed total disbelief that his band had won the contest and vowed over a bottle of LaBatt's Blue that he would put this win to work in representing Troy and the Capital Distrcit in general as the people's band. There's no one more deserving of the task. Congratulations, old friend!

- Troy Record

"Rollicking Festival Leaves No One Blue"

Sunday, July 11, 2004

ALBANY -- "This is the music that gets you through," sang Teeny Tucker. "That's why I love the message of the blues."
And that message came through loud and clear on Saturday, as the Empire State Plaza hosted the Fleet BluesFest, a 10-hour musical marathon featuring a dozen acts on four stages.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds headlined with a rip-roaring set, as singer-harmonica virtuoso Kim Wilson led the hot-wired Austin combo through their biggest hits (``Tuff Enuff,'' ``Wrap It Up'' and ``She's Tuff''), as well as such nuggets as Larry Williams' ``Slow Down'' and Willie Dixon's ``Mannish Boy.''
Wilson tore through a mind- boggling unaccompanied solo, playing both rhythm and melody on his harmonica. But pianist Gene Taylor is the ace up the T-Birds' sleeve, and he was especially rollicking on the boogie woogie ``My Babe.''
Also key to the T-Birds' firepower was guitar slinger Nick Curran, who sat in as special guest for the entire set. ``If you didn't see him with his own band this afternoon, you really missed something,'' Wilson told the crowd. And indeed, Curran was brilliant with his lean trio, tearing through the string-strangling ``One More Time,'' the jump blues of ``Don't Be Angry'' and dips into the songbags of Otis Rush, Gatemouth Brown and even Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Wilson also hopped onstage unannounced for a duet with Curran.

Big Time Sarah was another afternoon highlight, chugging through ``The Train I Ride,'' ``Evil Gal Blues'' and a sweltering version of Gershwin's ``Summertime.'' Although she was seated most of the show, she had no shortage of energy. Her set was doubly astounding considering that she was playing with Michael Burks and his band -- and she'd never even met them before she stepped onstage. ``They pump me up and make me want to wiggle something,'' Sarah admitted.

Burks' own set was incendiary, although he slipped perhaps a bit too far into the Jimi Hendrix zone. When he re-emerged from the blues-rock bag, he dished up a neat juke joint jam on ``Matchbox Blues.''

Tail Dragger growled through a Howlin' Wolf-inspired set, featuring Sonny Boy Williamson's ``Don't Start Me Talking'' and Muddy Waters' ``Long Distance Call,'' abetted by an all-star group that included guitarist Lurie Bell and Albany harmonicat Ted Hennessy.

Folding Sky kicked off the fest at noon with a killer set featuring the dueling fretwork of Mark Emanatian and Gary Piambino and the gritty vocals of Erin Harkes, who managed to turn even James Taylor's generic ``Steamroller Blues'' into a polished gem.
- Greg Haymes, Times Union

"Folding Sky Looks Beyond the Region"

Folding Sky looks beyond the region
Band hoping to impress at national blues contest
For The Daily Gazette
On a warm autumn night in an empty Artie’s bar in Troy, Mark Emanation is singing a blues song to a crowd of 14 people - counting the bartender. Emanation’s eyes are shut. He’s all ears while he sings deep inside the protective pocket of his band, Folding Sky.
The music is earnest and intense. Clearly the group has logged countless sessions together, in both empty and packed clubs. But the band’s kind of depth, its blatant disregard for flash and tricks, is not the kind that creates top 40 hits or wins contests.
After two songs, Erin Harkes climbs on stage and starts singing the Chicago blues standard "Everyday." It’s hard to say what happens to the band when she comes on stage, other than that they’re transformed. Certainly they’re brighter, more vibrant. And the music seems more straightforward, more user-friendly. But that doesn’t fully explain what Harkes does to the band. Maybe it’s no more than this: women change men.
Whatever the reason, it becomes more apparent why a crowd of 5,000 people at the Empire State Plaza this summer voted Mark
Emanation and Folding Sky with Erin Harkes the winner of the Northeast Blues Festival. And while history is against them as they head to Memphis in February to compete in the nationals - no northeastern New York band has made it past the first round - they have reason to be optimistic.
The right band won this year, according to Donald Wilcock, president of the Northeast Blues Society and editor of the blues publication King Biscuit Magazine. "Right, because they have the most experience and show the greatest understanding of the blues."
Understanding the blues is important. Wilcock calls the Memphis judges "blues snobs." While he can’t pinpoint the elements they favor, he knows that they’re partial to traditional blues. The official criteria for the contest lists stage presence, group chemistry, a clear understanding of the blues and originality.
Folding Sky’s broad brand of funk, rock and blues will need a narrow focus for the Memphis event, because they can sound more like the Allman Brothers when they jam, or Tom Waits when Emanation falls into his swampy, hypnotic story-telling mode. And while Harkes can wow any audience with her sultry blues, she will need to securely hide her affinity for catchy rock/folk melodies.
On any given night, "depending on our mood, we can go in any direction," said Emanation. "For this contest, we’re going to play much closer to the bone. But we have to be true to ourselves as best we can."
Easier said than done, as they’ll have less than 30 minutes to show their stuff and that the essence of Folding Sky - where their magic lies - requires time. It’s a process, not a formula. They’re not a band that can go from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds flat nor do they want to be. Harkes may save the day on this front, given her high energy and ability to connect with an audience quickly.
"My advice," said Wilcock, who has witnessed several competitions, "stay traditional."
The competition is considered the nation’s biggest search for unsigned blues talent, and Wilcock says: "It’s frustrating to me that none of our bands have made it to the finals, and I’m not sure why. It’s not for lack of talent," he added.

Harkes ’ dream
Six years ago, while waitressing during an open-mike night at Savannah’s in Albany, Harkes, 20 years old at the time, had her blues epiphany. "When I heard this woman get on stage and sing the blues, I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to sing the blues.’ "
Fast forward to 2004: Harkes sang the national anthem at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., to open a D.C. United soccer game. She has recorded and released two solo CDs, and one CD with her band. This fall, she recorded "Live at Artie’s."
Harkes has been singing intermittently with Emanation’s group for the past two years, which led to their joint efforts for the blues contest.
"If I’m singing with Folding Sky, I have more freedom to focus on singing," Harkes said. "When I play with my band, everything is my responsibility. I worry about everything," which includes playing guitar, leading the group, dealing with the venue, etc.
"I thought the band was amazing," Harkes said of their show at the BluesFest. "But I didn’t think I sang that well. . . . We’re focused on Memphis right now. If we make it through the first round, I’ll be thrilled. I’m just happy to be part of such a huge event."
No stranger to the South, Harkes attended St. Andrews College in North Carolina on a musical scholarship - she played bass drum in a bagpipe band. When not on the drum, she honed her songwriting, guitar and singing skills.
As for the band, call them synchronized. Well-matched. Typically, the guitarists Emanation or Garry Piambino lead, but sometimes someone else jumps out in front, and sometimes they travel leaderless.
"We have nothing to prove to each other," said Emanation. "We just play together." He recalled past bands he’s played in that took considerable time for the members to feel safe with each other, safe enough to take risks. With Folding Sky, "We felt comfortable immediately."
"There’s no egos here," said Piambino. "I mean, Mark called me up to tell me I have to join his band. He invited me. So you know we’re not competing for any top guitar spot."
The members, which include Kash on drums, Tom Dolan on bass guitar and Bob Resnick playing percussion, are all veterans of the Capital Region scene. None of them are young boys anymore. The youngest is 41, the two seniors are 52 and 54. Some have day jobs and family. But for the most part, their children are grown and gone, and members are prepared to hit the road again, if opportunity knocks in Memphis.
"I’m just looking to meet people, play our best and enjoy the opportunity," said Emanation. "Hopefully, new avenues present themselves."
Wilcock, who writes internationally about the blues, and travels around the world to see bands, has a warm spot for the local blues music scene. "I love coming back home [to the Capital Region], because we have great musicians here."
Many of the musicians can be heard every Sunday night at Bourbon Street Bar and Grille in Colonie, which has developed into a venue for nurturing new and old blues musicians. The Northeast Society is one of some 130 local societies around the world that feed into the Blues Foundation’s Memphis competition.
Considered an endangered art form, even here in its home country, musicians have no commercial incentive today to learn the blues. "No radio stations play this indigenous music besides a few hours a week at a college station. This contest creates incentive for local bands to learn and play the blues."
"There will be more than 100 bands from all over the world in the heart of Memphis for two consecutive nights. It’s a thrill to be there, to walk up and down the street," said Wilcock.

- By DAVE SINGER For The Daily Gazette

"Jason Keller"

“Erin’s songs reflect the pain, humor and frustration that make up all of our daily lives. Her singing grabbed me the very first time I heard it, and from the response I’ve gotten; it did the same thing for my listeners.” - June 2003

- DJ 103.1 FM Big Break

"Erin Harkes"

“[Erin] is a star. And as the talented songwriter continues to play in this vicinity it is only a matter of time until she is as well regarded as any voice that has made its way through... she captured the audience's heart in their throat with her ability to transform her voice from a sweet lyrical poignancy to raw emotional power, and back again, and forth again and again...." – Arthur Gonick, March 2003 - Poor Richard's Journal


(solo) - 2000 - Bar Napkins and Magic Markers
(solo) - 2001 - Live at the Elbow Room
(band) - 2003 - Rough
(band) - 2005 - Special I Am
(solo) - 2011 - Post Haste

Radio Airplay - 'Just Like Me', "Murphy', 'Radio Off', 'Whiplash', 'Dead Cat', 'Rest Of Me', 'Special I Am'



Erin Harkes is an original singer/guitar/piano player from upstate New York. Erin began writing songs at the age of 19 and has since released four albums of original material.

The first album, "Bar Napkins and Magic Markers" was recorded at St. Andrew’s college in North Carolina. The CD features nine tracks and was a learning experience for Erin, as she recorded the album entirely by herself. Her second CD was recorded live at the Elbow Room in NYC on September 21st, 2001 and contains 4 songs; two of which were not on the first CD. The following year, she recorded first studio project with her band, The Rebound entitled "Rough". The CD featured nine original songs.

Now 28, Erin currently resides in Albany, NY. In addition to her own band, she performed with another local band, Folding Sky, for the Colossal Contender Blues Competition. They performed at the Empire State Plaza in front of thousands of people. Out of the three finalists, they received 60% of the votes to win the Northeast Blues Society’s “Colossal Contender” contest in 2004, earning a position in the international finals in Memphis, Tennessee in 2005. Don Wilcock or the Troy Record had this to say of Erin’s performance. “…standing firmly on two feet, this dirty blonde banshee belted out her music with no vibrato, no soft feminine wiles, just a blast-furnace breath of fire that singed the hair of everyone in the last aisle at the top of the museum steps watching her performance.”

Though blues has been known as her forte, her original material bounces from one genre to the next for an alternative/folk/rock mix. She has opened for such dissimilar national acts as David Allen Coe (country), Melissa Ferrick (folk), Fred Eaglesmith (Alternative) and the Fleshtones (Rock); each time well received. She even sat in with the Fleshtones for a song, and John Suvannavejh from the Metroland had this to say; “Harkes …was freed to let loose with her raspy, blues-inflected croon. Although it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one of the finest garage bands in the land backing you, Harkes’ deep-hearted rendition was absolutely mesmerizing, and even gave Mr. Van Morrison a run for his money.”

Erin has appeared on several local radio shows such as 104.9 “Acoustic Kaleidoscope”, 91.5 WRPI’s “Curious Travels”, 91.1 FM Saratoga, popular morning show 106.5’s “Wakin’ up with the Wolf” and 103.1 Big Break with Jason Keller. She also appeared on television Fox News Big Break in 2003 for a song and interview.

In March of 2005, Erin received the coveted front cover of local Arts and Entertainment magazine, the ‘Metroland’. Soon after, Erin released a live album called "Special I Am" featuring 11 original songs. As Erin’s audience and playing area continue to grow, her set is becoming more original material and less cover tunes. She is known to bust out a crowd favorite every once in awhile, giving her bit of an alter ego that can touch a wide and eclectic arrangement of fans, all the while making her original songs just as much the crowd favorite as any cover she might do.