OKEMAH – When Louise Goldberg and Mary Reynolds take the stage, they become Miss Brown to You.
And it’s more than a band name inspired by a beloved Billie Holiday song. It’s a state of mind, with the attitude and the talent to go with it.
“My dad, he had great albums so I always chose his records. I learned a few tunes from Billie Holiday and one of them was called ‘Miss Brown to You’,” Goldberg recalls. .
“The most famous Oklahoman on the planet”:Woody Guthrie Folk Festival returns to Okemah
As often happens with the Oklahoma City duo, a shared memory leads to a quick musical interlude, with them singing together the opening verses of their longtime band’s namesake song: “Who do you think is coming to town?” never guess who / adorable adorable Emily Brown / Miss Brown for you. ”
“It was January 1990, and we were getting together to say we were going to have a project.… Then we both had the idea at the same time, maybe we should make our name out of it,” he said. said Reynolds.
“And we love it because it’s sassy,” Goldberg added.
Neither gall nor talent goes unnoticed, whether Miss Brown to You performs one of their regular concerts at UCO Jazz Lab and Full Circle Bookstore or makes one of their annual pilgrimages to Okemah for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, where they ably supported fellow Oklahoma musician Robert Williams before receiving a standing ovation for their own two-woman play Thursday at the historic Crystal Theater.
“Miss Brown to You is a beacon of light and wisdom, and they are so inspiring to women,” said Jaimee Harris, another frequent festival artist, as she watched the duo warm up. “For young women, seeing these women who have put in the time to their writing and their sense of music is really important. They are revolutionary and amazing. They are beautiful and show team spirit. And that is. is an incredible combination in such talented musicians. “
Affectionately known as Woodyfest, the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival brings together singer-songwriters, music lovers and parents of Guthrie in the hometown of the late great folk troubadour around his birth date of July 14.
After the event went virtual in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 24th Woodyfest runs through July 18 and ends with the Hoot for Huntington’s All-Star Jam from noon to 2 p.m. at the Crystal Theater. Festival finale benefits Huntington’s Disease Society of Oklahoma; Guthrie died on October 3, 1967, at the age of 55 due to complications from a neurological disorder.
“I might be superstitious – and I believe in supernatural things – but I feel a connection with this man. And every time I’ve done something that talks about Woody, there’s been a weird feeling and thrill. Then meeting the people, all of a sudden it seems like time stands still, ”said Reynolds, as her eyes filled with tears.
Timeless Guthrie songs like “I Ain’t Got No Home” and “This Land Is Your Land” resonate deeply with her.
“So it means a lot to me to be here. … Ever since I first played (here) in 1999 Okemah has been an amazing place to visit: the people here, what they’ve done, how things have changed. Things can change, ”Reynolds said.
“For the best too,” Goldberg added.
After three decades of making music together – as well as more than 20 years as a couple – Goldberg, who turns 70 on July 18, and Reynolds, who turns 65 on August 16 – frequently finish one of the lines. ‘other and seem to fall easily into musical harmony.
Living with the person you work with and working with the person you live with hasn’t always been this easy, even when you marry your best friend, they said.
“It really has been a powerful learning experience to know who does what and how we solve problems when we think we should be doing something one way or another,” said Goldberg, who has two sons. adults from a previous marriage and now a 2 1/2 year old granddaughter.
“Years ago, we used to cry a lot when we had rehearsals, and we don’t do that anymore. You learn things about your ego and there is growth. So, it’s pretty amazing.”
The singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, who married in 2015, often perform sets that combine “jazz, folk country, and the bluesest blues and the greenest greens.” The last track references the ballad “Bluer Blues” by Bob Childers, the bard of Oklahoma Red Dirt, who they turned into a tender audience favorite during their shows.
“We choose things that we like – and really, in all these years, there might have been a thing or two that I could say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to do that anymore.’ It’s so rare. We have two notebooks that thick, just things that we’ve explored, “said Goldberg, spreading her thumb and forefinger wide open.” Mary is an absolute master of interpretation, and I write songs that I can’t sing because they are too hard and she can sing them. So that’s a good combination. “
“We write our own material. But we like to take other people’s material and make it our own and do something that transforms it,” Reynolds added. “What touches me are the lyrics. Of course, if I don’t like music, it’s a tough obstacle to overcome. But I learned whole songs … because a line to me had. And when I’m in front of my people, I want them to get it too. ”
Pair of fun
When Miss Brown to You took the Woodyfest stage on Thursday afternoon, the pair were clearly playing for their people. They opened up their eclectic and audience-loved ensemble by mirroring sunglasses and strumming two guitars to a playful “Cool” song they wrote for their granddaughter.
“Now we’re going to, like we do, change channels completely.… We just play all kinds of music, so here’s a little Latin jazz thing that we made up; it’s called ‘When It Happens’,” a Goldberg told the audience, sitting down to play his keyboard as Reynolds began to sing in Spanish.
After hearing Miss Brown to You close their set with a series of songs by Joni Mitchell, Oklahoma singer-songwriter Susan Herndon recalled what late Red Dirt musician Tom Skinner told her. once about the duo.
“He used to say, ‘When Mary sings, the angels stop to listen,” Herndon said. “It’s just perfection.… They take you to a place you’ve never been before, and that’s heaven.”
Woody Guthrie Folk Festival
When: Until July 18.
Or: Several locations in Okemah.
Tickets and information: https://www.woodyfest.com.