Guitarist Gorka
Works His Magic

February 03, 2007
Hartfort Courant

John Gorka's folk music finds common ground between the serious and tongue-in-cheek to produce amusing nuggets of wisdom. His skillful blending shone at his solo show Thursday night for a nearly full house of about 100 at the Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton.

Gorka opened with ``When She Kisses Me,'' a straightforward tune that showed off a sturdy acoustic guitar pulse through the bouncy ode to love. His penchant for wry diversion showed as he put his roomy baritone to work in ``I'm From New Jersey.

''His manner was as graceful and sure-handed within tunes as it was pleasantly scattered between them. Each audience request was greeted with a humorously fidgety response, from which he easily segued into the earthy warmth of ``The Gypsy Life'' or the thoughtful ``Land of the Bottom Line.'' He shifted gears into the ruminations of ``If Not Now,'' his manner serious without sounding grave.

His facility for skewed storytelling turned wistful nostalgia on its ear in the lyrics of ``I Saw a Stranger with Your Hair,'' but the earnest way in which he issued the song was evocative and effective. His ability to embrace the absurd with matter-of-factness served him well as he told the story of an escaped gas station icon in ``Flying Red Horse.''

Several of his songs sported sharper edges, whether Gorka was framing his politics and beliefs within the soldier's story of ``Writing in the Margins'' or musing softly on hard realities in ``Road of Good Intentions.'' The reflective, grounded fable ``Zuly'' was supple and easy on the ears, but contained serious observations within its breezy passages.

Gorka's guitar playing ranged from the pretty melody of his elegant take on Stan Rogers' ``The Lockkeeper'' to the hearty strumming that propelled the robust ``Good Noise.'' His percussive approach to a rendition of Bob Marley's ``Three Little Birds'' closed his second of two sets with an infectious, rootsy flourish. He returned to the homey, knotted pumpkin pine-paneled room's small stage and gave one last humorously furtive glance at the snake cages behind him before closing with a simmering encore of ``Love is Our Cross to Bear.'' .