Russ Rentler
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Russ Rentler

Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1980 | SELF

Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1980
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter

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"Concert Reviews"

Concert Reviews

"Russ's talent doesn't end with singing and playing. He is also an engaging storyteller, whose modest musings are punctuated by his dry wit."
BUTCH IMHOFF- Host of The Acoustic Roadshow


"Russ Rentler is a gifted musician
who can play any number of instruments
with great expression and feeling.
Prepare to be delighted."
JOHN GORKA


"At Mom & Pop's, our audiences are accustomed to hearing excellent performers. Every once in a while, however, there is one that stands out from the crowd. I heard more compliments after Russ's concert and more requests to ask him back again than any other performer we have had over the past 11 years. His delightful witticisms and stories, excellent musicianship on a large variety of instruments, and well-written, meaningful songs won over our audience big time!"
SUSAN DECKHART- Program Director 4/1/2005
Mom & Pop's Coffeehouse, Levittown, PA


"Tonight, Russ opened with a dazzling tune on the hammered dulcimer with the hammers flying. His overall performance was a terrific mix of folk, celtic and blues-inspired tunes with multiple instrument changes interspersed with his off-beat humor and wry observations about events in his life, including his stomach- churning entry into Manhattan from the Lincoln Tunnel that exacerbated his irritable bowel syndrome and had him choking on his Altoids. His was a most pleasurable set."
HARD LUCK COFFEEHOUSE 11/6/2004
Folk Music Society of Huntington , NY


"Having brought his entire guitar collection as well as a hammered dulcimer, autoharp and banjo, Russ sang songs alternately moving and outrageously funny. He punctuated the program with tales of his medical missions to Haiti, his life in Emmaus, the last bastion of the Pennsylvania Dutch. What a wonderful evening!"
JOHN LOVEN Program Director 2/8/2005
Joyful Noise Coffeehouse, Collegeville, Pa - russrentlermusic


"Mom and Pop's Coffeehouse, Langhorne PA"

"At Mom & Pop’s, our audiences are accustomed to hearing excellent performers. Every once in a while, however, there is one that stands out from the crowd. I heard more compliments after Russ’s concert and more requests to ask him back again than any other performer we have had over the past 11 years. His delightful witticisms and stories, excellent musicianship on a large variety of instruments, and well-written, meaningful songs won over our audience big time!" 2005 - Susan Deckhart


"Perkasie Patchwork Coffeehouse"

Russ Rentler is a very pleasant surprise. A multi-instrumentalist with a natural minstrel voice, Rentler gives us a musical treat that is relaxing but with thoughtful and creative lyrics. In "Jewel of the Caribbean," he weaves his insightful lyrics around a simple guitar arrangement for a moving tug at our conscience, and pulls our chain with the whimsical "Maggie's Blues." Rentler's instrumental selections are masterful, whether played on hammered dulcimer, dobro, or myriad of other acoustic instruments 2005 - Rob Yoder, Programming Committee


"Hard Luck Coffee House Review, Long Island NY"

"Tonight, Russ opened with a dazzling tune on the hammered dulcimer with the hammers flying. His overall performance was a terrific mix of folk, celtic and blues-inspired tunes with multiple instrument changes interspersed with his off-beat humor and wry observations about events in his life, including his stomache churning entry into Manhattan from the Lincoln Tunnel that exacerbated his irritable bowel syndrome and had him choking on his Altoids. His was a most pleasurable set."
2004 -


"Review Of Scarecrow's Lament"

I was highly impressed the first time I heard Russ Rentler a few years ago on the excellently titled Acoustic Minstrel. In 2006, I am even more highly impressed. Rentler has built upon the talent displayed on his debut.

As usual, he combines the whimsical, humorous and profound with a deft touch that leaves even the casual listener wanting more. If you give this album more than a casual listen, you will be rewarded a thousandfold.

Opening with a lovely gentle song called "Prairie Dog Exodus," Rentler will win you over with lyrics that fit just perfectly to a simple backing. The title track is a wonderful, imaginative song that has some top-rung dark humour hidden in the lyrics.

His instrumental prowess is highlighted not just in the note-perfect backing but also on a few instrumental tracks like "Crossing the Tiber" and a marvelous closer on "Be Thou My Vision."

"Waltzing Amelia" is another beautifully written and executed lost love song that will entrance once again with its deceptive simplicity. It's only as you listen that you realise this is an imaginative history tale of the famous flyer. Anyone who has ever driven a car for an extended number of years will identify with another very funny but often true song, "New Car Smell."

"Fool for a Doctor" is one of my favourite tracks here. Again, Rentler hits the nail squarely on the head with great observation.

My one worry about this album is that I am not sure if I understand the sentiments of the track "The Way Things Might Have Been." I leave it to you, the listener, to draw your conclusions. On the other hand, I loved "One Eyed Grandma."

An unusual subject for a song has to be the papacy. But then I suppose in recent years the office and the person has featured in some rather popular fiction so why not in a good song. The track in question is "Room of Tears," and once more Rentler gives us a beautiful insight into how a powerful post can affect an individual. Another piece of recent history set to music and song on this album is to be found on "Black Friday." I leave you to decipher the event or to seek out the album.

Rentler has built on his strength as a top-class acoustic minstrel of 2006 with this album.
Nicky Rossiter 3/2006 - Rambles.Net


"Review Of Scarecrow's Lament"



This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 5/06

Many have spoken and written about the healing power of music, but very few have covered the entire spectrum as Russ Rentler has, being a former medical doctor now devoted to performing music full-time.

While there may not be a professional oath a musician swears by, unless poverty qualifies, Rentler certainly does no harm with this release.

His subject matter is intriguing and quirkily presented: he moves from inhabitants of "The Wizard of Oz" to prairie dogs, Amelia Earhart, the Pontiff, a doctor's travails, the developmentally disabled, family and addictions, mannequins, gunky car interiors and more. With his mindset, I'd guess this former physician was called in to consult with his brethren many times, nailing even the most obscure ailments.

Rentler opens with what could be an inside reference to his former bandmates (more on that later) in "Prairie Dog Exodus," a Noah's Ark of animals bidding certain rodents goodbye. If you can wrap your brain around that one, L. Frank Baum's Dorothy and Scarecrow are depicted in the title cut, "Scarecrow's Lament," on a romantic road trip with a shot at lawyers in the final line.

A bittersweet tale about Amelia Earhart, told from the perspective of the man spurned as the co-pilot on her last flight, is illuminated in "Waltzing Amelia." Probably drawing from his tenure in the medical profession, Rentler sketches a doctor filling the hole in his life with a controlled substance in "Fool for a Doctor." The last verse goes:

"...Now the new wing of the hospital has been named after him
He's as close to sainthood as you could be for a Lutheran
Still some rumors circulate that he lived in sin
With a little mistress named Demerol"

Then Rentler pokes fun at the debris developing inside his car from his discarded foodstuffs and various spills. He closes "New Car Smell" with:

"...Well sometimes I do wonder if I'm a hazard on the road
One more rotten sandwich and I know she could explode
While we're worried about the weapons far across the deep blue sea
I'm driving through our neighborhood in a WMD"

"Nobody's Fool" is an elegantly crafted rendering of a developmentally disabled person and his experiences in life.

A budding romance between department store inhabitants is portrayed in "Black Friday." It's cleverly written, so much so that the listener gets almost halfway through the song before truly understanding the unfolding story. Rentler has fun again with lines such as these:

"...We're both cut from the same cloth, pressed from the same mold
I never thought I'd find my soul mate in this department store
I'll stay with you way past closing time
I'll romance you in this small town five and dime..."

Generations of family dysfunction are the genesis for the bluesey "One-Eyed Grandma." Sometimes what gets handed down is good, sometimes not. The selection of a new Pope is dramatized in "Room of Tears." Intergenerational father-to-son reactions about tragic events and war inhabit "The Way Things Might Have Been."

It's good for us that Rentler has retired his stethoscope. But please, please, please, at his next concert, refrain from asking him about that particular ache of yours. Just listen to his musical prescription, buy (not take!) two of his CDs and call him in the morning.

Note: Rentler is as close to a Renaissance Man as there is today. Probably nicknamed 'Strings' by those close to him, he plays guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, banjo, bass, autoharp, hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle and dobro.

In the liner notes, there's a 1978 photo of the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band performing. For the uninitiated, Richard Shindell is there on the left, looking like a young John Cusack, John Gorka is present as a budding (no pun intended) Jerry Garcia (say, whatever happened to those two guys?) and Russ Rentler is on the right, looking mighty similar to a young Eric Stoltz.

Track List:

* Prairie Dog Exodus (3:57)
* Scarecrow's Lament (3:45)
* Crossing the Tiber (2:21)
* Waltzing Amelia (3:24)
* Moravian Street (3:26)
* Fool for a Doctor (3:34)
* New Car Smell (3:28)
* Nobody's Fool (3:04)
* Black Friday (5:35)
* One-Eyed Grandma (3:30)
* Farewell to Whiskey (2:05)
* Room of Tears (4:17)
* The Way Things Might Have Been (4:20)
* Be Thou My Vision (2:37)

Ownership, copyright and title of this folk music CD review belongs to me, Kevin McCarthy. Ownership, copyright and title are not transferable or assignable to you or other parties regardless of how or if you or other parties use, copy, save, backup, store, retrieve, transmit, display, publish, modify or share the CD review in whole or in part. Please read the "Terms, Conditions and Disclaimer" section on my web site for additional information about using, quoting, or reprinting this CD review. - "Kevin's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"


"Review of "Acoustic Minstrel""

Review from SING OUT! Magazine Summer 2004 Vol.48 #2

Russ Rentler

Acoustic Minstrel



Russ Rentler is based in eastern Pennsylvania. While attending Moravian College in Bethlehem he teamed up with John Gorka and Richard Shindell in a college band. They went off to fame and fortune and Russ went off to med. school. Recently he has given up his practice to concentrate on music making, and Acoustic Minstrel is his second CD.

Russ plays a myriad of instruments including guitar, bass, National steel guitar, Dobro, harmonica, autoharp, hammered dulcimer, fiddle and bouzouki. The CD is mostly a collection of original songs and tunes in a variety of styles with Russ playing all the instruments.

The recording opens with "Girl Like You," a sweet and sincere love song to his companion in life. It's followed by "Planxty Fluharty," an original hammered dulcimer instrumental with an insistent rhythm. Later we are treated to "Storm Over Delmarva'" an original bouzouki tune again with a driving rhythm. "Hypertension Blues," draws from his previous life as a physician and Russ describes the tune as Old Testament Theology meets Renal Physiology. "All Thumbs" is a rousing DADGAD guitar instrumental and the arrangement of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire" on the autoharp is well-played. This brings us to "Window in Heaven" a new Christmas song written from the perspective of a shepherd boy as he views the first Noel. It is a wonderful song and a highlight of the disc.

Russ Rentler has produced a fine recording that showcases his many talents. He is a gifted songwriter as well as a fine musician. - SingOUT


"Review of "Scarecrow's Lament""

What is obvious about Russ Rentler from the initial listen is that he is first and foremost a songwriter, and a quite talented one at that. Scarecrow's Lament is a collection of self-penned folk ballads (except for two tracks) which draw on easily identifiable emotions. If that weren't enough, he alone provides most of the traditional instrumentation behind the lyrics.

Russ Rentler began playing stringed instruments when he was in the fifth grade, starting with a ukulele he purchased with S and H Green Stamps. Aside from becoming quite talented on the hammer dulcimers, he later went on to begin building them and often uses his own on stage. Traditionally, Folk music is known as being "music of the people," and this rings true in the songs that Rentler delivers. Even though he dabbled in other forms of music, including heavy metal bands in high school, he developed what became a life-long love of acoustic music and continued to pursue his passion while he attended Medical School.

That love becomes more then evident on the stunning "Crossing the Tiber." It's a beautiful musical piece, rich in tradition and featuring interesting melodic lines. A second instrumental piece is the traditional "Farewell to Whiskey" which features Russ playing the diatonic autoharp. It is one of the two songs that were not penned by Rentler, and has a tradition Irish Folk feel to it. Short, coming in at just under 2:05, it is long enough for you to appreciate just how good he is with the instrument while keeping the melody fresh.

The title song, "Scarecrow's Lament," is one that really showcases Rentler's unique ability to craft a traditional "folk ballad" with a not so traditional storyline. The track supposes that "Dorothy and the Scarecrow were star-crossed lovers," and spins the tale of the downhill spiral that happens when they act on that love, of course emphasizing how it would have all been different if "he only had a brain." What I find so distinctive and enjoyable about "Scarecrow's Lament" is that it takes characters familiar to most everyone, and puts them in completely foreign circumstances (to their original tale) but identifiable to the normal human existence. The song won honorable mention in the 2005 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest, and is the stand-out track on the CD.

Like all of Rentler's songs, and folk in general, his songs are based in that human experience. A good example of this is "New Car Smell" which was recently featured on NPR's Car Talk and is a catchy ode about just how quickly that aroma we are all so fond of disintegrates into something extremely different after an extended road trip. It's the shared knowledge, or the "been there, done that," emotion that makes it an appealing song. It is quirky and fun while being factual and entertaining.
I was curious about "Waltzing Amelia" from the moment I read the title on the CD cover, wondering whether or not it would be a tribute or spin-off to the Australian folk song, "Waltzing Matilda." In actuality, the main similarity is that both songs share a waltz beat. Another resemblance is that "Waltzing Amelia" is a very quaint and traditional in its melody and instrumentation. On this track Rentler's lyrics are wistful and have a longing to them.

Travis Wetzel guests on "Fool for a Doctor," playing violins. This is another songwriting gem, backed by traditional instrumentation. It is yet another example of how Rentler spins tales that are a brilliant blend of modern voice and tradition. Sounding almost like a soap-opera, it is about a doctor who can only continue in the wake of regret with the help of his "mistress" Demerol. It's a tragic tale, but it's beautifully executed.

By far the most humorous track is "One-Eyed Grandma." What Rentler describes is a far cry from the lovable elderly woman one thinks about when they think of Grandma. Instead the woman described is an abrasive smoker and drinker. In typical folk or even old school country, it's a loving tribute set to banjos and harmonicas.

Scarecrow's Lament is a CD I can whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who enjoys folk music, or even songs based on real emotions and experience that are backed with expertly executed instrumentation.


Connie Phillips is the Music Editor at Blogcritics.org.

- Blogcritics.org/Connie Phillips


"Review of "Acoustic Minstrel""

Believe it or not, Acoustic Minstrel could be a great promotion for green stamps. Russ Rentler first played on a ukulele purchased with those staples of times past and, as the saying goes, he never looked back. This aptly-titled CD showcases Rentler's writing and interpretation of some beautiful traditional material.

The opening track, "Girl Like You," is a gentle love song, well-crafted and beautifully played. The hammer dulcimer seldom appears to such good effect as it does on his instrumental "Planxty Fluharty," also from his pen. "Jewel of the Caribbean" is another lovely vocal offering. Rentler seems to sing from the heart in this story song of a visit to Haiti.

Christmas songs are always a risk on any album. Even so, my favorite track on this CD is a Christmas song, and I believe that with airplay it could become a staple of the holiday season. "Window in Heaven" is a new take on the Nativity, beautifully told with a gentle backing. Amid the 13 tracks, there always sits an odd cut that will either amuse or infuriate. Bach and the autoharp are a seldom-heard pairing, but Rentler's version of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" both amused and captivated me.

The liner notes tell us that Rentler is a doctor who recently closed his practice to take his music on the road, which may be a better contribution to society. The music lifts spirits, cures the blues and may help us think better than pills, but beware -- it could be just as addictive
- Rambles


"Review of "Acoustic Minstrel" from Muses Muse"

There is a sweetness and sincerity that cannot be manufactured and it thrives
in Russ Rentler's music. "Maggie's Blue's" is one of my favorites. It is a timeless tune
full of energy. If someone told me that it was either a 200 year old appalachian melody
and someone else told me it is a current original I could believe both of them.
It is in fact, one of Mr. Rentler's own.

Don't think sappy or trite or cliche. Think soaring, arcing 'put a smile on your face'
acoustic folk. Think a true breath of fresh air on culturally intherited instruments like
dobro, acoustic guitars, mandolin, fiddle and dulcimer to name just a few. This AINT
your grandma's folk music but it does give a respectful nod to its influence.

Rentler's voice is sweet and plain and almost timid at times but it is as true blue as
they come. This is a man in love with music and making music and it shows.

"Acoustic Minstrel" is as fine a folk CD as I have heard in quite a long time and fans
of both traditional and contemporary folk will all find lots to appreciate here.
- Muses Muse


"Review of "Scarecrow's Lament""

"I was highly impressed the first time I heard Russ Rentler a few years ago on the excellently titled Acoustic Minstrel. In 2006, I am even more highly impressed. Rentler has built upon the talent displayed on his debut.

As usual, he combines the whimsical, humorous and profound with a deft touch that leaves even the casual listener wanting more. If you give this album more than a casual listen, you will be rewarded a thousandfold. "
Nicky Rossiter Rambles 3/22/2006 - Rambles Culture Magazine


"Review Of Franklin County Library Show"

"Thank you for performing at the library. As folks exited, they commented that they enjoyed your music and stories, as well as singing and laughing along with you. Your rapport with audiences is wonderful and we'd love for you to return." - Christine Arena, Program Director


Discography

Just Yulin' Around 1997(Yuletide instrumentals)

My Old Uncle Martin 2000 (Vintage Martin guitars and mandolin instrumentals)

Acoustic Minstrel 2004


Scarecrow's Lament 2006


John Gorka's A Gypsy Life Live DVD (mandolin accompaniment) 2007


Way To Emmaus 2009

Escaped The Tide 2017

Still Yulin' Around 2017

Photos

Bio

Russ started playing stringed instruments with his first ukulele in 5th grade purchased with S+H Green stamps in Dover, NJ. After a brief stint in hard rock bands in his early high school years, he discovered bluegrass which led to a life-long love of acoustic music. At his first night at Moravian College, he met John Gorka where they were both playing at an open mic. They soon formed the now legendary Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band and were joined the following year by Rich Shindell on lead guitar. Throughout all four years of college, they played in the Lehigh Valley centering on Godfrey Daniel's and the south side of Bethlehem, PA.
After college, Russ went to medical school and John and Rich went on to well-deserved fame and glory in the folk music world. During his medical training, Russ continued to pursue his passion of acoustic music and picked up hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle, Dobro, autoharp and bouzouki. He also started building hammer dulcimers and uses his own instrument on stage.


      While continuing to practice medicine, Russ has performed at bookstores, coffee houses, schools, churches, and music festivals in eastern Pennsylvania, NJ and NY. He has accompanied John Gorka on several of his return performances to the Valley and has opened for Patty Larkin, Bill Staines, Rich Shindell and shared the stage with John Gorka, Susan Werner, Michael Manring and Amelia K. Spicer. Russ gave several performances at Bethlehem's MUSIKFEST and was honored to have the Martin Guitar Company ask him to play their new resonator guitar at the Martin Showcase. His song "Nazareth Pike" is being used on their phone call waiting system at the Nazareth guitar factory and his hammered dulcimer piece "Planxty Fluharty" won first prize in the 2004 Mid-Atlantic Songwriter's Contest instrumental category.
His CD "Acoustic Minstrel" made it into the list of top CD's played in April 2004 on folk radio stations and has garnered positive reviews including one in Sing Out! Magazine. The title track of his newest release, "Scarecrow's Lament" has won honorable mention in the 2005 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and finalist status in the Unisong International Song Contest and Susquehanna Folk Festival Song Contest. NPR's Car Talk just featured "New Car Smell," another track from this CD and Scarecrow's Lament has made it on the list for top airplays for March and April 2006 Folk Radio. WLVT/ PBS 39 in Allentown has filmed a feature on Russ and his music that aired in late March 2004 and he has appeared on "Horses Sing None of It" , an award-winning folk music cable TV show broadcast nationally.
His performances are a mix of original folk, Celtic and blues-inspired tunes with multiple instrument changes interspersed with great stories about the songs and instruments.

  In November of 2016, Russ left the practice of medicine to devote more time to writing, recording, teaching and performing. In Spring of 2017, he released his fifth CD, "Escaped the Tide" that charted in the top 100 albums for April and May in Folk Radio.
    

Band Members