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Cathy Jane brings songs of country life to Old State House concert

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For Cathy Jane, music was always a family affair.

“My mother and father had their own country band. And so they would go out and gig, and us siblings would kind of just hang out. So I’ve always been exposed to that. I didn’t actually play music or actually wasn’t even interested in doing that kind of thing as a young child. But I definitely grew up with it, always hearing the old songs — the old country songs, the old gospel songs — and so I’ve always been around music,” said the Ocean View resident.

Eventually, she came around to the music scene in her church, growing up in Scrubgrass Hollow, Pennsylvania (yes, that’s a real place) and into adult life. Although it was only three years ago, at age 58, she stepped out on her own and starting performing as a solo act.

She will bring her American folk and early-country style of music, which she combines with soothing vocals, raw guitar and a suitcase kick drum, to the Old State House on The Green in Dover on April 9 at 7:30 p.m., courtesy of the Delaware Friends of Folk.

It was in church where she found her voice.

“Years ago, I was in a church that needed people to volunteer to do backup singing for the worship band, and I just volunteered. And I just remember starting to sing like that, as an organized kind of way, and just falling in love with it, and I just knew that I wanted to just always do music,” she said.

When she and her husband moved to Delaware 30 years ago, she met a bunch of like-minded musicians, and she formed a couple of gospel bands.

“It was so much fun, and from there, that (first) band kind of just came and went. Some of the members went to do other things, and I and another girl who was in that band decided we would do a duet. So we started doing that, and we would actually travel to Third World countries and play music for people,” she said.

Her trips brought her to impoverished places in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

“To this day, I really can vividly remember the smiles on especially mothers with little children who are just so poor. They barely have anything, and they’re holding that little child, and you sit and talk with them, and then, you play them music, and they just light up,” Ms. Jane said.

“It’s just such a good feeling. Music really truly is the universal language. Most of the time, I didn’t speak their language, so we just kind of did charades and played music, and it was great.”

It was when she returned from those church missions in 2017 that she finally decided she would step out of the shadows into the spotlight of a solo act.

Her song, “Movin’ On,” reflects that desire to transition into another part of her music career, playing the folk and country music with which she grew up.

“It was really scary. It’s one thing to put yourself out there to play your music and sing your songs when you have somebody standing beside you or you are in the background. But now, I’m going to step out, and I’m going to be the person that everybody’s looking at and everybody’s listening to. So you better sound OK,” Ms. Jane said.

“I was really nervous about that, but I started going to open mics in Rehoboth, just to get the feel for it and try to get some confidence because I didn’t really feel equipped. I was scared.

“While I was at the open mics, people would say, ‘You should be doing this for a living. You’re really good. We like you,’ and then, somebody said, ‘Hey, we’d like you to come and play at the farmers market,’ and so it just kind of started like that.”

A five-song EP, called “Back Home,” followed in 2018. The photos for the album and videos for the songs were done back in her hometown of Scrubgrass Hollow, which is in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania.

“It’s so funny because when I was little, it was fine. It was cool. We were out in the country on a farm, just playing as a kid, (and) you didn’t care. Come to the teenage years, and you’re so embarrassed because you live in Scrubgrass Hollow. And now, I’m like, that’s so cool. That actually fits my music,” she said.

“A lot of my songs reflect that part of my life because there’s so much there. That’s where I grew up. And so many lines in my songs, they may not be about that place, but they are definitely inspired from growing up there.”

A forthcoming album had to be put on hold due to the pandemic, but she does have a single coming out, and once again, the video for it was shot in her hometown.

Like most musicians, this past year has taken her off the stage. She has learned more about producing and recording her own material and is still working on that album on her own. But she’s glad to get back up and perform for folks again. She can frequently be seen at 99 Sea Level in Bethany Beach, as well as Chesapeake & Maine and Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach.

A part of every show is her trusty suitcase kick drum. Going back to her background vocal days, she would use an egg shaker for percussion and said she fell in love with the beats. She wanted to keep that in her solo act.

“What inspired me was I was at my parents’ house in western Pennsylvania, and I was going through the attic, and I found my dad’s suitcase. When I was little, he used to travel around as a door-to-door salesman, and he would sell kitchenware out of a suitcase,” she said.

“I had seen suitcase drums before, so I asked him if I could take it. He said, ‘Take it. It’s yours.’ So I took that, and I put a foot pedal in front of it and just started fooling around, and I really loved the sound. So I thought, ‘There you go. There’s my percussion.’”

She said many people are not familiar with the instrument.

“A lot of times, when I play the suitcase drum out, people have never seen that before, and they want to know what I’m doing. They want to see the back of it and how it works,” she said.

“People have been playing those for a long time, and probably one of the reasons I know about that is just where I grew up — the country, the backwoods kind of thing, where people are just making music from what they can get their hands on.”

For the April 9 show, she will be joined by banjo player Adam Clifton, who played on her EP. She is excited to perform for an audience, such as the one that will be at the Old State House.

“I love a good listening room. I love a stage where people are actually there to hear the music. I’ve played plenty of bars and restaurants, where it’s just everybody screaming and yelling, and that’s fine. That’s what that is. I’m still making music. I’m still talking to people. But what I truly want to do is, I just want people to hear me. So I love the listening rooms and the little stages. That’s why I’m so excited to play in Dover at the Old State House,” she said.

This is the seventh season in the Delaware Friends of Folk series, which is produced in cooperation with the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs and the First State Heritage Park and supported by a grant from the Kent County Fund for the Arts. The concert is free.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, seating will be by reservation only. Call 423-6052 to reserve a spot. Face masks are required.

‘Clock’ auditions

Want to see yourself on the big screen? Well, nantico, an independent film-production studio, is looking for children and adults to fill roles in its new project, “The Secret in the Old Clock,” shooting this spring in Sussex County. Video auditions are to be submitted virtually before Monday.

The story follows Judy Mae, an 11-year-old who must enlist the help of the town baker to master the ceremonial pie recipe or she’ll be expelled from her society. The filmmakers are searching for local talent to fill the following roles, as phrased by the studio:

• Judy Mae, female, age 9-12. A friend to all, Judy has always been eager to please those around her, particularly her parents, teachers and other community leaders. She is liked and often praised for her willful obedience and good behavior. Her parents are proud of her, and she finds comfort in the definitiveness of it all.

• Mother, female, age 35-40. The picture of a dutiful, working housewife, she is Judy’s mother and expects her to be of equal merit and character.

• Father, male, age 35-40. Practical and respected among his peers, he is Judy’s father and completely tolerable, averse to controversy and those who incite it.

• Miss Bleake, female, age 60-65. The soon-to-retire town baker, she has been silently shouldering a burden for too long that’s quickly becoming too heavy to bear.

• Friend, female, age 9-12. Bold and confident, she is Judy’s closest friend and classmate.

• Teacher, male, age 40-45. An aspiring member of the clergy, he is committed to molding his students into model citizens of their society.

• Leader, female, age 65-70. A stark legalist, she is the presiding elder of the community and fanatical about maintaining law and order.

For more information about the project and how to submit a virtual audition, visit here.

‘The Rock’ this weekend

As we told you last week, Cavalry Church’s next production, “The Rock,” the story about the Apostle Peter and his final days on Earth, will continue today and Saturday. The musical play is based on an ancient account of the soldiers who watched over Peter as he sat waiting for his death in prison.

Phil Frerichs, playing Peter, and Robert Rebeck, playing Martinian, are both longtime veterans of the theater.

“The Rock” has shows today and Saturday at 7 p.m. and a Saturday matinee at 2.

All seats are free, but due to the coronavirus, there will be limited seating compared to past years.

Reservations can be made at calvarydover.org or by calling 697-7776.

Calvary Church is at 1141 E. Lebanon Road, Dover.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is “Godzilla vs. Kong” and the horror film, “The Unholy.”