Appalachian dulcimer player David Massengill gave a little history lesson prior to playing "The Great American Dream," a beautiful gem that he says was "born at 4 o'clock outside the Bitter End" when a stranger came up to him and said, "Excuse me sir, I am a foreigner. Where is this place Green Witch?"
Martha Redbone, who said she was "grateful to share stage with so many bucket list folks," performed "On Anothers Sorrow," a bluesy roots song inspired by the poetry of William Blake that demonstrated the rich depth of her voice. Redbone has Cherokee and Choctaw roots, but it was Nashville singer-songwriter Diana Jones who most explicitly spoke to the Native American plight with her deeply affecting song "Pony," sung from the perspective of a young girl grappling with assimilation.
Country blues exponent Rory Block stunned with "Lovin' Whiskey," a composition she penned inspired by a breakup letter to an alcoholic ex. Unlike plenty of sobering folk tunes, that one had a happy ending: the letter ended up inspiring the man to clean up, and the two remain friends.
After a surprise appearance from Eric Franzen (who taught Oscar Isaac finger-picking for the Greenwich-set Coen Brothers film Inside Llewyn Davis), the evening wrapped with two sing-alongs of enduring standards: Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" and Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene." The former included the oft-excised verse about trespassing on private property, and for the latter, Amram riffed an improv verse that shouted out Village Trip founder Liz Thomson, a British journalist and Joan Baez fanatic who conceived of the festival as a means of spotlighting the history and enduring appeal of the neighborhood.
And as six ace folkies traded the spotlight on Thursday night for a packed house at the Bitter End, it might as well have been 1962; not a cell phone was in sight, just an enraptured audience hanging on every lyric and sound from a guitar, piano or dulcimer.
The Village Trip continues through Sept. 29.