Willy Porter & Small Potatoes come to Charlotte’s Web

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Three special performers heat up the winter weekend in two Charlotte’s Web shows. Both events are at Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, 415 N. Church St., Rockford.

Willy Porter

At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 22, spend an evening with Willy Porter and experience a rare communion between artist and audience. His first live album, High Wire Live, showcased his quietly spellbinding majesty and improvisation, and we can expect to hear some of the variety of styles that make up his distinct musical persona.

Originally from Milwaukee, Wis., Porter is a seasoned solo performer who honed his songs and his chops traveling across America and Europe playing to captive audiences everywhere. His songs are equal parts muscle and intimacy, and reveal a rarely achieved relationship between an artist and his craft. Porter has long been known for his innovative and expressive guitar playing which the press have called everything from “startling” to “dazzling” to “killer.” The Boston Globe compares his playing to speed picker Leo Kottke, but his songs have been getting more attention lately. Porter is a master songwriter who paints poignant songs with a wide emotional palette, from electric rockers to moving ballads, both aggressive and tender. In a popular culture that celebrates musical dreck, Porter is a delightful and encouraging surprise–an artist who actually has something to say!

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.

Small Potatoes

Fans who’ve heard them aren’t fooled by the name–there’s nothing small about the talent! At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 22, Small Potatoes returns to thrill Charlotte’s Web audiences. The nationally acclaimed, Chicago-based duo of Jacquie Manning and Rich Prezioso are back with their quirky wit, superb musicianship and showmanship, award-winning songwriting, and a strong sense of tradition to be, as Dirty Linen magazine said, “one of the most polished, inventive, and entertaining shows on the circuit.”

Can you follow a tender Irish ballad with a cowboy yodeling song? They mix and match, and somehow it all comes out sounding great. Since they couldn’t decide to specialize in one area, they cover the spectrum. They both sing, they yodel, they do interesting instrumental things with guitars, mandolin, bodhran, flutes, whistles, shakers and stuff. They sing serious songs, silly songs, sing-along songs. Traditional or non-traditional, they’re doing something right, because audiences have been clamoring for more.

The seed was planted in 1988 when Jacquie and Rich met while working at the same restaurant. He needed a female vocalist, and Jacquie was agreeable. Though their personal relationship continued to blossom and grow, the music didn’t catch on right away because they couldn’t settle on a single style—until finally they decided to play all the parts. Each learned the other’s style, they combined their talents, adding some new ingredients to the musical stew, and the rest is history.

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Tickets are available at Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center, 964-9713; Rockford Area Arts Council, 713 E. State St., 963-6765; The Postal Shoppe, Edgebrook Center, 397-7301; and Tin Whistle, N. Main & Auburn, 963-0270; or by mail with check and SASE, 10928 N. Main, Rockton, IL 61072. For Web information, call 964-2238.

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