John Coster & The Medicine Band

John Coster & The Medicine Band

BandWorldCeltic

Wild folk-rock inspired by the traditions of Cape Breton, Irish, Scottish and American fiddling, features hard-driving Celtic music on the harmonica and fiddle. Combining stellar songwriting and traditional music,

Biography

SONG WRITER/BAND ORIGINATOR, VOCALS, ACOUSTIC GUITARS & HARMONICAS

John Coster was born and raised in Katonah, NY. His first musical influences were a local folksinger who was part of the early Greenwich Village scene and a neighbor from Tennessee who played bluegrass banjo and collected recordings of traditional and country music. John started playing guitar as an eighth grader. In his early teens he occasionally made his way into Manhattan to check out the street scene and hear some of the new singer songwriters like Dylan and recently discovered older artists like Mississippi John Hurt and Doc Watson. These were times of wild expectation and awakening, when songs like Dylan?s "Blowing in the Wind" were stirring up trouble for the establishment. The summer after he finished high school at the Loomis School in Connecticut, John traveled to Nova Scotia with a friend, fiddler George Dorian; he and George roamed about the Island of Cape Breton, learning and recording some of the powerful Gaelic music there and sometimes playing at house parties. He returned to Cape Breton to visit a Nova Scotian girlfriend after his first year at Harvard, spent more time with some of the area musicians and played rhythm guitar and harmonica at local dance parties that summer.

Over the next couple of years John and George started doing shows with some colorful musicians from the Cornell/ Ithaca area, banjo wizard Walt Koken, harmonica player Marty Lebenson, superior picker Doug Dorschug and others. Out of this matrix a group called The Busted Toe Mudthumpers evolved. Sometimes they teamed up with magician Ricky Jay, recently known for his sell out Broadway performances and acting roles in movies like Boogie Nights and The Heist. Mudthumper history culminated in a tour across Canada and down the West Coast in the summer of ?68.

"The war was raging and the sixties were peaking like an out of control acid trip, opposing forces gathering. We were driving through the wheat fields of Canada, a band of hippie country musicians with a fiddler who was a student of Mandarin Chinese and a long haired character named Ricky Jay who had recently been unfairly characterized by a New Jersey Newspaper Headline as a "Berserk Youth" but who was in fact one of the world?s greatest close up magicians. We were headed for San Francisco, taking the Northern Route, busking in bowling alley parking lots to natives from the Sioux Reservation who had no more idea what to make of us than did the local wheat farmers. The only reason we got into Canada in the first place was because Ricky had made all the keys of the customs office manager back at the St Lawrence disappear. The poor fellow had not believed Ricky when he claimed to be a magician who was simply going on a camping trip in Ontario. He leaned back in his chair with a skeptical look on his face and said ?If you?re really a magician, why don?t you make something disappear?!? His key chain was sitting on the front of his desk. Ricky picked it up and clapped his hands together and "Poof" it was gone. Needless to say in return for his keys he agreed to let us in to Canada. Anyhow at one point the Bus went North to Alaska while Ricky, George, Walt and I hitchhiked to an Old Anarchist hangout/commune in a Canyon just east of Spokane, Washington. There we hooked up with a young couple in a camper truck who drove us all to the fabled City by the Bay. We lived in Berkley. The Grateful Dead were around the corner, there was music in the streets, the police and the Black Panthers were going at it, R. Crumb came to one of our shows. Someday I?ll write a book, but I probably won?t be able to separate fact from fiction."

John left the Mudthumpers in San Francisco went back and finished up his degree at Harvard. That spring George and Bob Pine, the guitar player who had replaced John, were killed in a car accident in Nova Scotia. "They tried to talk me into going with them; I?d finished all my exams and I could have gone, but it just didn?t feel right. I didn?t get to know Bob that well but George was an amazing character, the instigator of numerous adventures including our journey west the year before. When he died, an era ended."

Coster did some graduate studies in Hartford, CT in the seventies, then began playing his original songs and traditional music with Bill Walach and Will Welling. Coster, Welling and Walach toured regularly throughout the Northeast, bringing a kind of wild Celtic influenced folk rock to clubs and concerts. When the Band split up John formed a group called Jacob?s Reunion, which also combined Coster?s songwriting with traditional music. The sound now was heavily influenced by the more formally trained Barbara Hyde on piano and Yo Oxenhandler on violin. Vocalist Sandy Sayers and bassist Richard Block rounded out the group. Jacob?s Reunion did some great harmony singing and produced innovative arrangements of songs like "Will the Circle be Unbroken". Their album, Jacob

Lyrics

Everywhere I Go

Written By: John Coster

Everywhere I Go

Everywhere I go
I see the people and I hear them crying
Everywhere I go
I see the light of God?s love shining
Everywhere I go the darkness falls
Everywhere I go an angel calls

I saw those black clouds rising up out of the ground
And in the eerie darkness you were all the light I found
Tell me babe. Do you recall the way it used to be
When we both still believed in luck and love and destiny

Hear the thunder roll
Sometimes it feels like the whole world?s shaking
Guess I lost control
Maybe I was always faking
Stuck between the old world and the new
One thing that I always did was keep on loving you

I thought our love was a diamond in my hand
It slipped right through my fingers
Like a pocketful of sand
But still I wonder, if we do the best we can,
Perhaps some better part of us will be reborn again

Everywhere I go
I see the people and I hear them crying
Everywhere I go
I see the light of God?s love shining
Everywhere I go the darkness falls
Everywhere I go an angel calls

The World Has Changed

Written By: John Coster

The World Has Changed

Black night tumbling down/Rain pounding the street
Storm clouds blowing from across the sea/I?m walking the same old beat
I?ve seen this town for twenty years or more/Guess I know a thing or two
People saying things they never said before/Doing things they never did do
People talking about a weather change, a change in the scenery
Peace and war, men watching the shore, don?t know what they expect to see

Say what you want to me/Life ain?t like it used to be
You know it, I know it/The world has changed
Wish that I could set us free/Find some better destiny
I thought that you and me had other plans arranged.

I?m just another guy living day to day/Waiting for the bird to sing
I?m scratching out a living in the USA/Reaching for the big brass ring
Once there was a time I thought I had the plan/Working for the company
Once there was a time I thought I was the Man/Now tomorrow?s just a mystery
I can?t begin to guess what the future holds/Don?t really know what happened in the past
Peace and love, rock and roll/ I?m just trying to make the music last

Say what you want to me/Life ain?t like it used to be
I know it; you know it/The world has changed
Wish that I could set us free/Find some better destiny
I thought that you and me had other plans arranged.

Some Grand Design

Written By: John Coster

Frankie Lee stood up quick and cast his bread out on the water
He was looking for some ship or perhaps the captain?s daughter
I saw him jump when that factory whistle blew
I heard him talking but I didn?t have a clue
He said son don?t laugh so hard
It could all happen to you

But it?s alright tonight on those back streets of Dover
I know the truth is so hard to find
We all live and die more than once in a lifetime
I guess it must be part of some grand design

You should have seen this country then
When no two towns looked quite the same
We ran the coast nine times or ten
Running circles ?round the man
When Mary Ellen got too scared
I swore I?d leave that smuggler?s life behind
But I still had to get my share
And there was always one more time

Then one day the axe began to fall
She was staring out the window when the law came to call
And I got five to ten back on the dark side of the wall

But it?s alright tonight on those back streets of Dover
I know that true love is so hard to find
And love lives and dies more than once in a lifetime
I guess it must be part of some grand design

I woke one night before the dawn
Fell from a dream, my heart sinking like a stone
Those prison walls came closing in
And something snapped inside me when I knew where I had been
I had killed a man in anger but the man I killed was me
And I felt like some old sailor who?d been lost way out at sea
I used to want so much. Now I just wanted to be free

But it?s alright tonight on these back streets of Dover
I know true freedom?s a rare state of mind
And I?ve been set free more than once in this lifetime
And now I can see that it?s all part of some grand design
Well it?s alright tonight on these back streets of Dover
With my better angel I?m walking the line
We all live and die more than once in this lifetime
I guess it must be part of some grand design

Frankie Lee stood up quick and cast his bread out on the water

Discography

This World Has Changed (2003)
Dangerous Kingdom of the Heart (1993)
Stories in the Dark (1985)
Old Stones, Broken Bones (1979)
Jacob’s Reunion (1973)

Set List

Typical Set is between 45-60 minutes
-Ontario
-(trad) Mist Covered Mountains/Marry me Now/ Brenda Stubbert
-Everywhere I Go
-I used to Know
-Johnny, Johnny
-(trad) Johnny goes to France/Scollay/Morrisons Jig
-Forgive Me Babe
-Old Stones, Broken Bones
-(trad) Butterfly/Man of the House/Rileys
-Falling Back Down
-Some Grand Design
-(trad) Scanlans
-Lost in America>(trad) Josephine Dopvals
-(trad) Miss Monahan's/(Wind that Shakes)/Drum Solo/Drowsie Maggie
- (trad) Neil Gow
-Harp Solo
-Rodeo
-Revolutionary
-Inverness/(trad) Julia Delaney
-The World Has Changed