Rebecca Padula
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Rebecca Padula

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“[Time, speed & distance] isn’t what one would call a traditional folk album. It’s got more depth and diversity despite its simplistic backing. Padula has a wonderful voice and writes articulate songs about everyday life. This is highlighted by the superb title cut and the moody Chronology … Chalk this one up as a stunning victory for the underdog.”
- Mick Skidmore
- Relix Magazine


The strongest selections on the recording are the title track, aided by harmony vocals of bassist Mitch Barron; the acapella track, “Uncharted Waters” about explorer Ferdinand Magellan; and a live recording of “Come On Over”, a catchy tune co-written by fellow local songstress Laura Simon. The fact that the live cut is one of the best bodes well for upcoming shows.
- Robert Resnick
- Seven Days


Review of "Fire & Water
Published 4/19/08
By Art Edelstein, Arts Correspondent

Vermont has several legendary voices. Among the men, Jon Gailmor from Elmore comes to mind. Among the women we have Patti Casey of East Montpelier and Tammie Fletcher from Eden. We can now add Rebecca Padula of Hinesburg to that list.
Padula, a name I was not previously familiar with, has produced her third album. Her band consists of electric/double bassist Mitch Barron and drummer “Shrimp.” Padula performs on acoustic guitar throughout. Together, this trio, along with a few guest musicians, has produced a very fine recording.
Padula’s voice, a rich alto powerhouse, is the focal point here while she also has solid credentials as a songwriter. She also sings several songs penned by her Vermont contemporaries.
Padula’s voice is good enough that she could, and perhaps should, explore other styles beyond those in the folksinger-songwriter category. I envisage her with a full-tilt boogie rock band or on stage in a musical. There is a lot of projection in this woman’s vocal cords and a real sense of understanding the power in her singing. Padula might, but never does overstretch, or otherwise unleash vocal gymnastics that aren’t necessary. She’s got enough control to realize that her delivery, as is, needs little else to get the song across with panache. I also like her diction, as her words are crystal-clear.
On the opening “Match,” with Paul Asbel’s guitar wizardry leading the charge, Padula delivers a hefty measure of upbeat. Padula has chosen to sing other writers’ work and on track three, Carol Abair’s “Whistle Me Dixie” has her in soft and sensitive mode. Abair is fine songwriter and her song “My Only Son” won best song of the year for 2007 in our annual Tammie Awards. I also like the Abair-penned folk song on track eight “When I Leave Winooski.”
Track four finds Padula interpreting Susannah Blachly’s “After Rain.” Blachly is a fine and prolific writer from Calais whose own recordings have drawn considerable attention on these pages. “After Rain” is a song with a Latin flavor. Here Padula gives a jazzier interpretation to the material, letting Vermont’s mandolin genius Jamie Masefield take the instrumental lead.
Padula also pays homage to the late Rachel Bissex by performing her song, “Never Go Back.” Here we get a blues/jazz treatment with Gregory Douglass on back up vocals.
There are several styles presented on this CD. Padula’s own “What’s Going On?” a bluesy questioning of world issues pertaining to Darfur, Iraq and Bosnia, finds Montpelier’s Dave Keller on electric guitar and Phil Abair on organ. They add just enough kick to propel the song through a shopping list of world misery.
Padula’s other songs are strong too. For example, “The Neighbors” discusses abuse; “Less” is about the loss of the family farm; “We Are Free” is a peace anthem; while “At Bedtime” is a sweet acoustic number penned for a child.
There’s a lot of lyrical ground covered on this album. Throughout Barron and Shrimp know when to hold back on the quiet tunes and when to let go on the faster-paced numbers.
If there are any problems with this CD they are in the direction Padula wants to travel as an artist. It is obvious that she knows lots of excellent musicians and songwriters and has included them in this project. The result is a recording that is a bit hard to classify. I suspect her sensibilities run toward pure folk and all she really needs is her voice and acoustic guitar to get the message across. By choosing to have a back-up band and guest musicians Padula has expanded that original direction and it gets a bit scattered in this presentation.
That said, if you want to hear another of the fine voices in Vermont music then “Fire & Water” by Rebecca Padula and Band should be on your shopping list.
You can hear this trio live next on Saturday May 24 at the Skinny Pancake at 60 Lake St. in Burlington at 9 p.m.

- Times Argus


Published: Sunday, January 6, 2008

By Susan Green
Free Press Correspondent

In an era when Britney Spears can dominate the news, the quiet modesty of a Margaret MacArthur is likely to go largely unnoticed by the popular culture.

The folksinger and folklorist, who died at age 78 in May 2006, spent most of her life tapping into a more enduring culture. While raising five children in an 1802 Marlboro farmhouse, she somehow found time to immerse herself in musical traditions that span centuries and traverse continents.

Apparently no place, though, inspired this ardent "songcatcher" as much as the state where she took up residence exactly six decades ago. That devotion was already evident in her first album, recorded for the Folkways label in 1962: "Ballads of Vermont."

MacArthur's significant contribution to the genre is conveyed in "Margaret's Waltz," an award-winning new documentary by Rebecca Padula of Hinesburg. The 90-minute film, which chronicles two 2007 tribute concerts, will screen on Jan. 18 in Burlington.

"I never knew Margaret well," explains Padula, who is a performer in her own right and channel coordinator at Lake Champlain Access Television in Colchester. "I was more of a fan."

Nonetheless, she didn't hesitate when asked to tape the two shows produced in Marlboro and Middlebury last March by folk impresario Mark Sustic of Fletcher. "He said it might be a cool, documentary kind of thing," Padula, 37, recalls.

"I was determined to document it in some way," says Sustic, who befriended MacArthur in the 1970s. "In my mind, this was a continuation of Margaret's legacy of documenting folk music, as well as a way for people who couldn't be there to enjoy the concerts."

The idea to give the project even more of a flourish, with archival material and interviews, came from Dave Richardson. He's a veteran of the legendary Boys of the Lough, some of MacArthur's oldest and dearest pals. The Celtic band played at both performances.

On camera, Richardson remembers how they would stop at MacArthur's home in between gigs around the country during the early 1970s to share music, "eat great food, drink their homemade beer and everything was wonderful." She later toured with them in the Scottish Highlands. "Margaret's Waltz" is a title Padula borrowed from an instrumental number the Boys often perform.

Maine-based Gordon Bok is another folk luminary on stage and in the film. Ditto for Pete and Karen Sutherland of Vergennes. Three of MacArthur's grown children, who regularly accompanied her, also join in the festivities.

"One of the highlights of this experience for me was to hang out as everyone was jamming," Padula acknowledges.

Despite much wonderful humor and some breathtaking musicianship, the proceedings harbor a sense of loss. MacArthur's death came within a week after she was diagnosed with a rare brain affliction called Jacob Kreutzfeld Disease, according to Sustic. The concerts were part of Events for Tom, an ongoing benefit series he has organized since his young son succumbed to leukemia in 2001.

British-born Tony Barrand, a southern Vermonter perhaps best known for his "Nowell Sing We Clear" holiday extravaganzas but now battling multiple sclerosis, sings heartily as ever from a wheelchair. He delivers a melody, written by Malvina Reynolds of "Little Boxes" fame. It describes a neighbor's baby being born while Barrand and longtime musical cohort John Roberts were driving her to the hospital from MacArthur's farm.

This is the sort of personal touch that makes "Margaret's Waltz" rather riveting. In snippets from a 1999 interview, the low-key MacArthur is seen talking about the harps, zithers and dulcimers she collected.

Yet Padula points out that her film is not a straightforward biography. "I tried to pack as much information about Margaret as I could, but it's mostly the concerts," she concedes. "I needed a narrow focus."

Although MacArthur's childhood as the daughter of a forester in Arizona and Missouri is briefly mentioned, her adult existence -- Vermont wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and influential folk figure -- receives more attention.

She was passionate about the efforts of pioneering musicologist Helen Hartness Flanders, who made 4,500 field recordings of rural ballads during her travels around the Green Mountain State from 1930 to 1958. MacArthur added many of them to her extensive repertoire.

She recorded 11 albums; co-authored the seminal "Vermont Heritage Song Book" in 1994; was named a New England Living Art Treasure by the University of Massachusetts a year later; and, in 2005, debuted at the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Frequently dubbed "Vermont's First Lady of Folk," MacArthur championed the sort of oral history that enriches contemporary society. One of her favorite compositions, "The Marlboro Medley," dates back to 1787 and includes a dozen verses about rural life.

But Sustic suspects "Map - Burlington Free Press


Discography

“Time, Speed & Distance” (2003)
“Waterfront” (1997).

Photos

Bio

You'll find Rebecca at the end of the bar, mixing up a dark folk-rock espresso with a shot of bluegrass and a hint of jazz.
Her smoldering alto and guitar combine with growling basslines and simmering percussion to create an intimate and varied show that often includes works by other Vermont songwriters.
She has performed throughout New England solo and with her newly formed, Rebecca Padula Band, at coffeehouses, bars, events, festivals, and weddings.
Rebecca holds a double degree in music and journalism from St. Michaels College. She has penned more than 40 original songs and released 2 independent albums: Time, speed & distance (2003) and Waterfront (1997) and has written news stories and features for a number of New England publications. She is an activist for independent media and media literacy, working on the front lines of free speech at her day job in public access television and is producer/director of The Instant Coffeehouse, a monthly access TV program that showcases singer-songwriters.
She has opened for Patty Larkin, Sally Taylor, Vance Gilbert, Rachel Bissex, Rod McDonald, Gregory Douglass, and Jim’s Big Ego. She was a founding member of the Burlington, VT songwriter’s Co-Operative (1999), a finalist in the Solar Fest songwriter’s competition (2000), alternate (2004) and finalist in the Philadelphia Songwriters Project’s road songs contest (2004). Winner of the 2007 Vermont Peace Songs contest. Her concert documentary tribute to folksong collector Margaret MacArthur, Margaret's Waltz, was named the Best Documentary Event by the Northeast Alliance of Community Media in 2007.

Mitch Barron, of Hinesburg, Vermont, is a multi-instrumentalist known throughout Vermont and the northeast for his fretless electric and upright bass playing. Mitch has been playing bass for more than 25 years, ranging from jazz and blues to bluegrass, contemporary folk, and traditional Irish, French Canadian, & Appalachian Old Time music. Mitch plays with his own bands (Bread & Bones, the Hibernators, the Rebecca Padula Band, the Don Sheldon Trio), is an in-demand session player, and is a frequent recording musician.
His bass and vocals can be heard on albums with: Dana Robinson, Rik Palieri, Richard Ruane, Atlantic Crossing, Karen McFeeters, The Hibernators, Rebecca Padula, Nick Bennett, Don Sheldon, Wild Branch Bluegrass Band, and Matt Witten