Saturday, September 22, 2012

Clover Lane Coffee House Review

The Unitarian Church of Harrisburg puts on a Coffee House Night on the 3rd Friday of each month. They get some interesting and eclectic acts, some local and some from all around the US. From the UCH website:

Each month offers a different type of entertainment, including blues, folk, dance, and a few surprises. Admission is $10, and shows typically start at 7:30 pm.

Last night, Tim and I went to see folk singer Cary Cooper at Clover Lane Coffee House. Opening for Cary were her band mates Brad Yoder and Jason Rafalak.

This was Brad Yoder's second appearance at Clover Lane. His last performance was 6 or 7 or 8 years ago depending on who you asked last night. Brad was introduced as "the king of the Pittsburgh coffee house scene" and it was easy to see why. He and Jason are both very talented musicians. Between the two of them they played guitar, soprano saxophone, xylophone, mandolin, ukelele and guitar in the course of the evening. Brad also has a unique voice, both vocally and for songwriting. He performed a song titled Lite Brite, which was written for a songwriting contest where you had to talk about a toy you played with as as child (and got bonus points if you could work in monkeys). Another highlight of his set was WWJD? My favorite line from the song was "So if you wonder, “what would Jesus do?”/he’d probably mess it all up just like you/it’s just he’d do it with a lot more love…" My favorite song of Brad's was also what determined which of his CD's I decided to purchase, since it's the title track from that album. The song is called Excellent Trouble. My interpretation is that it's about being yourself regardless of what the world tries to make you be. If that gets you in trouble, then that's excellent trouble to be in.

Cary Cooper was delightful, she reminded me of all the great female artists I listened to in my college radio days. She has a sweet, breathy voice that reminded me of Lisa Loeb. She's a wonderful song writer, mixing clever phrases and also sharing real emotions and thoughts. The most memorable song of the evening for me is called "Suzanne." It's a story about a wife and a mother who runs off to join the circus for a year. What it's really about is the choices we make and the dreams we give up to have other dreams. "You can't have everything, everything, everything/no you can't, you can't have everything, everything, everything/can you Suzanne" I also liked the song Jimmy Stewart, as I identified with watching old romantic movies with family and getting some interesting ideas about how relationships work. Many of Cary's songs are upbeat and light-hearted, but the lyrics are actually saying something, usually "Be yourself and enjoy every minute of your life because it is a gift." When she sang songs she had written for her daughters, I don't think there was a mother or a daughter in the room who had dry eyes. Her song "Pretty Girls (Have Pretty Voices)" struck a very personal chord with me as it's about changing yourself to meet someone else's expectations.

Most of the songs Cary played were from her album Pink Umbrella. She also sang a song called Charlie Brown which she wrote for the Real Women Real Songs project she is participating in with many of her songwriting friends. I love this idea, as it's similar to what I'm trying to do for myself with this blog. It's like Jonathan Coulton's Thing A Week project, but with a lot more song writers, and all of them female.

Both Cary and Brad spoke easily and with humor to the small audience about their inspiration for different songs making the whole evening a relaxing and entertaining experience. I'd definitely go to see them again, either together or separately.

You can check out their websites here:
Brad Yoder
Cary Cooper

And you can check out the Real Women Real Songs project here:

Real Women Real Songs


  1. suzanne! thank you for such a thoughtful review! i would like to link it to my website if that's okay?? so nice to meet you! xoxo

    1. Hi Cary, you can absolutely link it on your website. Thanks again for coming to Central PA!

  2. Love the review--thanks so much!..
    I've created a shorter link:
    So, I'll spread that around a bit.
    Glad you could make it out (and I hope you've enjoyed "Excellent Trouble.")