On Saturday, May 30, Flying Cat Music brings rising young Canadian folk musician Hannah Shira Naiman to Phoenicia to perform at the Empire State Railway Museum located at 70 Lower High Street. The doors open at 7:00 p.m. with the show beginning at 7:30 prompt. Admission is $15 or $12 with RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 845-688-9453.
When music becomes classic, it is timeless. It feels old because it seems always to have been there and fresh because it’s not owned solely by the past. It remains vibrant in the present while temporary fads come and go. Music that is classic leaps generations and finds new homes in modern hearts. That’s how it is with the music of Hannah Shira Naiman, a young woman who grew up north of Toronto, Canada. She writes songs with roots dating back hundreds of years to the mountains of Appalachia and does so astonishingly well. Hannah is not a traditional folk singer, rather she’s a contemporary songwriter and performer who is heir to a magnificent tradition that she joyously upholds. Her pure gift is winning Hannah admirers of every age.
Hanah Shira Naiman’s November 2013 debut album, Tether My Heart, hit #6 on the US Folk DJ charts following its release, gaining it substantial air play plus praise such as this from Britain’s fRoots Magazine: “The songs, all original, could easily be taken as being traditional, such is her mastery of the genre… There is not a weak moment on this recording.”
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation says, “Hannah Shira’s songs are so rooted in tradition that they can be hard to tell apart from those you’d hear in an Appalachian back porch jam.” Or, as Mike Sadava at Penguin Eggs Magazine puts it; “It’s a long way from the hills and hollers of West Virginia to Toronto’s Queen Street but Appalachian music is carved deep in the genes of Hannah Shira Naiman.”
That’s not far from the truth. Hannah grew up with musical parents. Her father, Arnie Naiman, has been playing clawhammer banjo since the mid-1970s; while Hannah’s mother, Kathy Reid-Naiman, is well known throughout North America for her award-winning children’s music recordings. Both have been involved in various aspects of Toronto’s folk music scene for over thirty years and, as a result, have bequeathed their daughter with a substantial musical legacy.
One could say that Hannah Shira Naiman’s music is more or less similar to the broad genre of “Old Time Music,” but knowing that alone wouldn’t prepare you for the vitality of her songwriting which weaves traditional themes with contemporary realities. Her sound has been described by critics as recalling that of Gillian Welch and The Be Good Tanyas, and she was inspired by Ola Belle Reid and Hazel Dickens. While Hannah’s style is decidedly Appalachian folk, she’s also influenced by styles outside that genre such as English and Irish ballads, African spirituals and gospel music, as well as the pop and indie music that filled her younger days–Leslie Feist, Ani DiFranco, and other strong female songwriters.
In her youth, Hannah dabbled in folk-rock guitar and took a few fiddle lessons, but she focused her energy instead on contemporary dance and choreography. After graduating from Concordia University with a degree in Contemporary Dance, she moved to Boston to take up a career in choreography. It wasn’t until her mid-twenties that her hands fell upon a banjo and, soon after, Hannah felt drawn to pick up her old fiddle. It’s fortunate for us that she did. She now plays them both with genuine authority, but it’s her voice that captivates audiences immediately with a sweet, lovely lilt so well suited to her repertoire.
Hannah Shira Naiman will be joined for this show by guests Hoot and Holler with whom she is currently touring the Northeast. Hoot and Holler are Amy Alvey (fiddle, vocals) and Mark Kilianski (guitar, vocals). Based out of Boston, they share with Hannah a true love for traditional mountain music and have entertained audiences with that passion from Europe to California.