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Lucy Kaplansky ... almost

Last Thursday I went with friends to the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden for the final Summer Nights Concert, featuring New York-based folk singer Lucy Kaplansky. It was my first visit to the park, and I was eager to hear Kaplansky, largely because I had seen her name mentioned over the years alongside Eliza Gilkyson and Nanci Griffith.

Although it was overcast, it was a lovely evening with a light mist in the air. There were still comfortable places in the back, not too far from the entrance and near the area where The Roustabouts were sharing their hula hoop mastery with children of all ages. Shortly after we arrived, set up the now ubiquitous portable Scrabble board and prepared to eat our picnic dinner, the concert began.

People applauded enthusiastically, the stage area was ample and well lit, and I settled back for what promised to be a lovely evening. I think I can speak for my friends when I say that a lovely evening was indeed had by all with only one small exception; we couldn't hear the music. This is the first concert I've attended in decades where the sound board was actually run too low. There was no back-up band; Lucy switched between guitar and keyboard (the latter I could hear quite well), but the sound really needed to be several notches higher.

From the reaction of the first twenty rows of people, Lucy's performance must have been wonderful. When the wind shifted the right way and giggles from the hula hoopers temporarily subsided, we could catch snatches of what was going on; I recognised Gilkyson's 'Sanctuary' in the first set, and surmised that someone had googled Tom T Hall's 'I Love' on their tablet so that she could sing it. I even caught her surprised comment when she got to the lyric 'bourbon in a glass', exclaiming she didn't realise that was part of the lyrics. At one point she held up her mobile proudly displaying a photo of her daughter (I think) and inviting people to see it up close and personal during the interval. The spirit was willing, but I didn't attempt to navigate the sea of people and fight my way to the stage, where I assume she was also hawking recordings.

In the second set she did several requests, including 'Let it Be' by the Beatles and June Carter Cash's 'Ring of Fire' which got everyone singing along. Despite the frustration at not being able to hear the spoken bits, nor understanding the lyrics of unfamiliar songs, it was truly a magical evening. As twilight turned gently to dusk, a quartet of bats frolicked overhead; one persistently flew back and forth above me, low enough that I could appreciate the delicacy of her wings. Random people began passing out glow sticks which were quickly fashioned into bracelets, anklets, and spinning hoops of light. Rumour had it that these came from anonymous donors who often showed up to pass them out for the sheer joy of giving. I'd like to believe that's true (and yes, we all left with one).

We ate well, enjoyed the evening breeze, watched the children race through the oncoming night with nothing visible but their neon adornments, played Scrabble until the torch batteries began to fail, and caught up with one another's lives. The evening was nearly perfect; if only we could have heard Lucy.

The next day I ran to eMusic, hoping to find some of her albums; although she appears on 16 different albums, there were no solo efforts. I had better luck at Amazon, where there are half a dozen CDs available, but I'm lost as to where to begin. The latest album listed, Over the Hills from 2006, includes her cover of 'Ring of Fire' so perhaps that's where I'll begin my journey. I know that Ms Kaplansky has been to 'burque before, but this was my first opportunity to see her. If anyone reading this knows her, could you please relay this message for me? 'Lucy, please come back!'

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