Singer, songwriter and instrumentalist Joel Mabus returns to Fish Creek to open the 30th season of winter folk concerts at the White Gull Inn on Wednesday, November 13. Tickets for the 8 pm concert are $16.
Mabus’s music defies any easy pigeonhole. Moving seamlessly from genre to genre, he will pick a mountain banjo on an ancient ballad, sing a witty song about modern life, or pick an Irish melody or hot jazz number on the guitar. Just when audiences feel they know what’s coming next, he tops it all with a fiddle tune or an old Carter family song. As one fan says, “it’s music from the heart that hits you right between the eyes.”
A mainstay on the folk circuit the last 30 years, Mabus, who last performed at the Inn in 2008, has 18 albums to his credit. The latest are Retold, new recordings of his early hits, and the Joel Mabus Omnibus, a reissue of two early albums. He has performed in concert with John Prine, Joan Baez and Tom Paxton and has been featured at the Philadelphia folk Festival and Vancouver Folk Festival.
“It’s hard to imagine another artist on the folk scene who combines the same concise, deceptively understated, lyrical insight and sometimes devastating wit with such world-class instrumental prowess,” reviewer Chris Rietz wrote in Musichound Folk.
“It’s not just a wealth of musical styles or his smooth and expressive voice that have made Mabus such a fine artist. His songs, which range from thoughtful to silly to poetic, show that he knows his way around the English language and American culture just as well as he knows his way around a fret board,” wrote Jeff Farrity in the Capital Times.
An optional pre-concert fixed price dinner will be served at 6 pm, featuring Pork and Pumpkin stew served over mashed root vegetables, kale salad with apples, cranberries, pecans and apple cider vinaigrette. The featured dessert is caramelized pear upside-down gingerbread.
The White Gull Inn folk concert series debuted in 1984, with six monthly concerts, November through April, on Wednesday evenings. The White Gull had begun staying open for the whole winter the year before, and the concerts were a method of filling the slow week nights with entertainment for locals, according to Innkeeper Andy Coulson. “Not only were our dining rooms empty and available, but there was a scarcity of live music during the winter,” recalls Coulson. “The challenge was finding artists willing to make the long trip to Door County for what might be a pretty small turnout. We offered receipts from the door plus room and board.
“It took a while, but the artists who came the first few years liked being here in winter and spread the word,” Coulson says. “It wasn’t long until we had sold out concerts for some of the bigger names in folk music, like Tom Paxton.”
Besides Mabus in November, future concerts this season will feature Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore on December 11, Johnsmith on January 22, Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line on February 19, Rita Hosking on March 12 and Red Molly on April 9.
Tickets and more information on the concerts and the optional dinners can be obtained by calling the White Gull Inn at 920.868.3517 or toll free 800.624.1987, or accessing the inn’s Website, www.WhiteGullInn.com. If still available, concert tickets can be purchased at the door, although many concerts sell out, so advance ticket purchase and reservations for the pre-concert dinners are recommended.