Three Penny Opry
In it's heyday from 1998-2003, Three Penny Opry drew crowds of five to as many as twenty people, playing original music from the country bluegrass side of folk-rock at New York City venues like The C-Note, Hank's Saloon, Freddy's Bar & Grill, Two Boots Brooklyn, The Pourhouse, Arlene's Grocery and The Charleston. Originally formed by music scene veterans Topper Rimel (bass, drums, guitar, vocals) and Jeremy Parzen (guitar, vocals) to bring their hard-country vision to the hospitals of NYC, the group played on an acoustical outpatient basis to muted accolades all over the city. Joined by friends Rob Roth (vocals), Michael 'Princey' Prince (drums) and Edoardo 'Edo' Ballerini (guitar vocals), they aspired to make the pie higher, visiting neighborhood drinking establishments and pizzerias all over the tri-borough area. With this momentum built, Rob took to playing mandolin, and Karl Lund joined on banjo and vocals, bringing the bare threads of the bluegrass sound to the fabric. Derek Cheever, after a particularly bitter departure from his last-chance-90s-hair-band, witnessed an especially inspired performace at Freddy's Bar & Grill and converted over to country on the spot, joining on bass and vocals. Shortly thereafter, Michael 'Princey' Prince took off for the West Coast, and old La Jolla friend Mike 'Kornberg' Kornberg stepped in on drums. The fans at Arlene's Grocery witnessed this lineup's pinnacle performance, captured on the now hard-to-find super-ultra-limited release, 'Live at Arlene's' (find Karl in CT and he can burn you a copy). Some in the band now aspired to make the pie higher, but the rigors of the road proved hard on the boys, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway being especially vindictive. Derek couldn't stop issuing variations beneath Jar's solos, Karl couldn't stop issuing apologies, and Jar couldn't figure out how to turn down his amp. Nobody could agree on how to split the bill for all the gumbo, pale ale and pizza. An acrimonious breakup ensued, with Topper, Jar and Kornberg leaving. Jar left only to bring his formidal guitar talents to the famously frenchified NYC pop outfit that is Les Sans Culottes. Topper left to ply his craft in the graphic arts trade (but now plays in the upcoming NYC band Senator). Kornberg returned to medical school, much to the chagrin of his parents. The remaining members reformed in the summer of 2000 as The Missing Lincolns. Carrying the torch for the country sound, a serious intent to perform, and brand new suspension on their van, they set out again along the BQE to continue their Tri-Borough pizzeria tour. Ben Shapiro joined on drums, providing a vital jolt to the rythm section. Rich Lobovsky joined on piano, bringing a decidedly honky-tonk flavor and his high lonesome vocals to the band. Finally, David 'Thunderdreamer' O'Donnell joined on guitar and vocals, reaching far across the Atlantic to bring in the rootsy sounds of a different country, South Africa. The band took up quarterly residence at the C-Note for some time, honing their songs and craft. But the cross-Atlantic tensions finally drove O'Donnell to leave, causing Karl to rediscover his nascent guitar talents. This leaner and meaner ensemble re-christened themselves Three Penny Opry, re-focused on the country-bluegrock sound and with regular gigs at Two Boots Brooklyn. More importanatly, they burned with an urge to document their newfound identity before further name or personnel changes ensued. Cooking up a home studio in Derek's house in Kensington, Brooklyn, they cut live tracks for 12 songs over 2 days in February of 2003. Sadly, only months further into the recording, it became clear that Rob would have to leave to Los Angeles, for both love and vocation. Karl had meanwhile moved upstate for an animation gig, and was stretching to make the rehearsals and sessions. However, overdubs and mixing were finished throughout 2003, and the farewell gigs at Two Boots Brooklyn in June and Dec of that year were clearly the best ever. It would take another year of engineering and administration to release the final, posthumously self-produced eponymous compact [sic] disc that now rests within reach of your mouse... Principal songwriters Rob Roth and Karl Lund drew much of their inspiration from their experiences and immediate surroundings in Brooklyn, Williamsburg and upstate New York for their songs 'Tuckahoe Road', 'East River Angel', '4th Avenue Station', and 'Slow it Down'. The band also presents several uniquely envisioned covers of 'Get Down River' (Henneman), 'Midnight Moonlight' (Rowan) and 'Chelsea Hotel #2' (Cohen). Derek brings a bit of moonshine honk-a-billy to the disk, with 'Whiskey Disposition', and Rich provides the escapist anthem, 'Close Your Eyes.' Karl's 'Refrigerator' adds a dash of humor, and Rob's masterpiece 'Leaves of Autumn' airs a Walt Whitmanesqe vision of changing seasons and leaving lovers, 'Stealing secrets from the moonlight...'