Catie Curtis lauds creators of space for arts

Caffe Lena founder Lena Spencer was known for giving many of the country’s most well-known folk sing

Caffe Lena founder Lena Spencer has always fascinated singer-songwriter Catie Curtis.

Spencer, in her lifetime, was known for giving many of the country’s most well-known folk singers, such as Bob Dylan and Don McLean, a foot up in the music business. That’s something the Boston-based Curtis can relate to. If it weren’t for a similar benefactor, the artist Lynne Ramsdell, who gave Curtis her first guitar at age 15, she might not have gotten her start in music either.

“I recently was part of a research project about Caffe Lena,” Curtis said from a tour stop in New York City. “I was interviewed for the project, and it got me thinking even more about the character of Lena, who started the place. My career was started by a person who reminds me of Lena — a woman, an artist, who gave me a guitar, just because she recognized that I had the desire to play music. So she gave me her guitar and launched me, really, as a songwriter.”

Caretakers of artists

“I feel like people like that, who support the arts, are sort of caretakers of artists, who create a space where art can be made and performed.”

Catie Curtis

When: 7 tonight

Where: Caffe Lena, 47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs

How Much: $26 (doors); $24 (advance)

More Info: 583-0022,

The Boston-based folk rocker, known for her literate and humorous love songs that have found their way onto TV shows such as “Dawson’s Creek” and “Grey’s Anatomy” over the years, has been playing at Lena’s on and off for the past 15 years — most of her career (she self-released her first album in 1989). She returns tonight for a stop on her tour in support of her latest album, “Stretch Limousine on Fire,” released in August.

For this tour, which will run through November and hit venues throughout the Northeast, Midwest and South, Curtis will be joined by keyboardist Jenna Lindbo, who will also play an opening set. Together, the two create a sound that can stand up to the full-band arrangements found on Curtis’ 11 studio albums.

“I’m also playing a thumper thing, kind of like a kick drum at my feet, and my guitar playing is kind of percussive. The drummer [on ‘Stretch Limousine on Fire’] pretty much just followed my guitar, Jay Bellerose, who just finished a Bob Dylan record,” Curtis said. “Jenna plays keyboards and she also sings harmonies, so we cover a lot of it. And of course, we couldn’t fit the whole band on that stage at Caffe Lena.”

“Stretch Limousine on Fire” is something of a stripped-down record for Curtis anyway. She and her band, featuring Bellerose and bassist Jennifer Condos, recorded the basic tracks for the album live, creating a more immediate sound than such previous albums as 2008’s “Sweet Life.”

Part of this was due to the themes embodied within the album. Curtis, long an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, recently married and adopted two daughters. Much of “Stretch Limousine on Fire” focuses on the realities of day-to-day married life.

“ ‘Sweet Life’ was a very warm record about family life, the joy of having a young family,” Curtis said. “This one is a little edgier — it’s kind of critical of marriage. Though there is a sweet song about marriage on it called ‘I Do,’ right after it is a not-so-sweet song called ‘Wedding Band’ that is more about the real path of being married. And the title track, ‘Stretch Limousine on Fire,’ is about the experience of enjoying seeing that everybody has bad days — even people who seem more fortunate than you have bad days too.”

Believer in marriage

Despite this, Curtis still thinks highly of marriage, and is a firm believer in marriage as a “right of citizenship.” In 2010, Curtis was ordained to officiate at weddings. But the decision to do this was not so much a political move.

“It was really just — I find it to be a profound moment, when a person pledges vows of marriage,” Curtis said. “I like being a part of it. A lot of my songs are about sorting through all this relationship stuff, and I felt it was like a real high, to be the person who says, ‘By the power vested in me, dot-dot-dot.’ ”

Categories: Life and Arts

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