Jan Krist and Jim Bizer will bring their Midwest urban folk songs to Farmington tomorrow night.
The folk singer-songwriter duo will perform as part of the “Friday Night Live” concert series at the Farmington Civic Theater, 33332 Grand River Ave. in Farmington, at 8 p.m. Friday with special guest Mark Reitenga.
“I think we’ll pull from all of our experiences of working together and songs that we’ve written together, songs that we’ve done solo, songs that are cover tunes, songs that we’ve performed and recorded, and maybe have some new stuff, too,” said Krist, who’s recovering from a broken shoulder. “I have a couple of new songs that I’m hoping we’ll be able to play.”
Together, Krist and Bizer will perform as part of a fun, formidable duo where the sum is greater than the already substantial parts. Their performances mesh and interlock with lyrics and melodies that interweave in surprising and intriguing ways.
Originally hailing from Detroit, the duo has played together for more than 40 years and first crossed musical paths as teens during the burgeoning singer-songwriter movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Krist absorbed Joni Mitchell’s folk, rock, jazz and pop-inspired tunes while Bizer studied James Taylor’s catchy folk rock. They also developed an affinity for the Motown sound coming out of Detroit.
“Both of us had independent careers and achieved a bit of notoriety on our own, and then we decided it would be fun to tour together,” said Bizer, who started out playing cover songs in local bars and restaurants. “We’d perform as a duo and take turns performing each other’s songs. We got more and more developed into that kind of show, and we started writing together, and the songs became more crafted for a duo, which is where it really got fun.”
After a series of solo albums, Krist and Bizer teamed up to record two albums, “Influence” in 2009 and “Too” in 2013. Their folk-pop albums include a catalog of harmonizing, inspirational tracks that are buoyant, poignant and heartfelt. It’s comforting, beautiful music that welcomes listeners home wherever they rest their heads and share their hearts.
As a duo, they cut a wide stylish swath that reflects their eclectic musical backgrounds, yet maintain separate sounds that are distinctly their own. Krist and Bizer capture this creative songwriting spirit on “Slow Moving Train,” the exquisite Carly Simon-James Taylor-infused, folk-strumming tune that opens their “Too” album.
The duo wrote the track about a painfully slow train ride Krist took from Oregon to Seattle on a hot summer day while touring out west.
“Suddenly, one day, we realized, ‘Gosh, we’ve been in the folk community for so many years, and neither of us had written a train song.’ Both of us retreated to different corners of the room and scribbled in notepads for a while, and we came up with two different sets of lyrics for one song,” said Bizer, who also performs with Floyd King and the Bushwackers.
“We literally made it as two songs that happen simultaneously, and they tailored in such a way that all her lines make sense with hers and my lines all make sense with mine. We swapped scenes, she sings a line, my lines dovetail with hers and we wind up together. We were inspired and taken by it.”
Krist and Bizer also share their talents with The Yellow Room Gang, a folk music collective composed of David Barrett, Annie Capps, Kitty Donohoe, Michael Hough, David Tamulevich and Matt Watroba.
Formed in 2005, The Yellow Room Gang meets monthly to share, perform and critique new songs from each member. They’ve released four albums that include tracks from all the singer-songwriters in the collective.
For another project, Krist and Bizer perform with Annie Capps, Rod Capps and Krist’s husband Alan Finkbeiner as part of Diamonds in the Rust, a folk music group that sprouted from the rich musical history of all five members. The quintet performs regularly in Michigan and throughout the Midwest, but they haven’t recorded an album yet due to members’ current projects and touring schedules.
“We’re influenced by the writing and work that’s from where we live and by the people who have been making music in this area for years and years,” Krist said. “They were influenced by other Midwestern artists to Motown artists to Joni Mitchell and all these other great folk heroes who have been part of the Michigan experience.”
As for Krist and Bizer, they want to write and record a follow-up album to “Too,” but it’s dependent on Krist’s shoulder recovery as well as making trips to Krist’s home in Fort Wayne and Bizer’s home in metro Detroit.
“Jim’s wife once said to me that she’s seen Jim work with a lot of different people, and she thought I was a really good asset to him and his music,” Krist said. “I enhance his sound, and Jim enhances my sound. We work hard at listening to each other and try to blend our voices really well. Jim is just a master guitar player, he’s really taught me a lot.”
Royal Oak singer-songwriter Mark Reitenga will bring a dynamic blend of acoustic folk rock to “Friday Night Live” at the Farmington Civic Theater tomorrow night.
As the show’s opener, he will deliver an intimate set featuring smooth vocals and rhythmic guitar solos – the ideal way to break the musical ice on a cold February night.
“It’s such an intimate performance that it’s like singing to you and your friends in your living room with no microphone,” said Reitenga, who’s been nominated for a Detroit Music Award three out of the last four years. “I have a lot of vibrato in my voice, so it carries.”
A folk music aficionado, Reitenga developed a love for the art after listening to his parents’ record collection with his brother while growing up in Northville. Together, the two spun classics from The Beatles, Cat Stevens, Marvin Gaye and Simon & Garfunkel while they strummed their makeshift tennis racquet guitars.
Reitenga started playing the guitar in middle school and took lessons from Michigan’s Troubadour, folk musician Neil Woodward. He played regularly for friends and booked his first paying gig at the South Lyon Hotel at age 18.
“I found out from my friends that I could sing, I didn’t know that I could sing,” he said. “My friends encouraged me to sing to them out loud, and that’s how I knew I had some musical talent.”
Reitenga became a music cover specialist and has performed regularly at local restaurants, bars, clubs, coffee shops, wineries and farmers markets in metro Detroit for more than 30 years.
He started writing original songs for several EPs, including “You Can’t Go Home Again,” “Unsung” and “Road Hymns & Ghost Stories”, a few years ago and hopes to record a new album or EP later this year.
“I’m very serious now about the songwriting part of it, so that’s kind of how I’ve morphed, that’s where my focus and desire is now,” said Reitenga, who’s song, “Genivive,” will soon grace ReverbNation’s home page. “I’ve grown as an artist.”
Friday Night Live — Jan Krist and Jim Bizer with special guest Mark Reitenga
Friday, Feb. 8
Farmington Civic Theater, 33332 Grand River Ave. in Farmington
Doors: 7:30 p.m.
Show: 8 p.m.