NEW CASTLE – The pandemic has prevented bluesman Rich Harper from performing normal concerts abroad in Thailand and Scandinavia.
But the North Sewickley Township native has found the joy of playing local gigs, especially as a regular headliner at The Confluence, a unique coffeeshop in New Castle.
“We started playing it several times a year in 2018, after I came back from Nashville,” Harper said. “This is the perfect place to host an acoustic show with my very good friends Sam Orrico (drums) and David Lucas (bass). Great layout. Great sound system with a great sound engineer John Ross. staff. Great food. No alcohol so you don’t have to deal with the complications that come with it. “
Well, there is a BYOB policy for Thursday concerts.
“And this is the most important: it’s an early concert – from 7 to 8:30 p.m., so all of us old folks can get home at a reasonable time to go to bed,” Harper says with a laugh. “It’s just a unique and fun place to play. Very special. We love to play it.”
With a full catalog of solo and Rich Harper Band albums, such as “Don’t Think, Just Play” and “Live in Scandinavia” in 2000, the guitarist-singer quit playing for a few years, mourning the death of his wife.
“After my wife passed away in 2015, I was in a very dark place, so I didn’t do anything for two years,” Harper said. “I didn’t even touch the guitar. When the pain got unbearable, I would go to Thailand or Sweden and visit two very special musician friends, Keith Nolan and Brian Kramer. They both helped me during this period more than they will ever know.
“They both had guitars waiting for me on stage and they were both like, ‘Play if you want. If you don’t, sit back and enjoy. “That’s when I realized that I still wanted to play, that I still love to play, but that I didn’t want to be a band leader anymore. So when I went back on tour in 2017 , I talked to my guys on “tour” who got it completely and that’s when we decided it was time to leave the Rich Harper Band. We did our last tour together. in 2019. I am now at this point a guitarist for hire. “
Harper feels blessed to have sung around the world.
“I got to see the world, play the music that I love and met so many amazing people from all walks of life. When people come to you after the show with a smile, telling you how much they have enjoyed your show and the music and how it touched their lives … at times it was overwhelming and humbling. I got to see the world because of them. They bought my music. They came to see me play. I will always cherish them and never forget them or around that time. It was a pretty amazing race for a guy from a small town like Ellwood City to experience it. “
You can see Harper on November 4 at The Confluence, a cafe and sandwich shop that is the social enterprise of Cray Youth and Family Services. Every dollar spent at The Confluence stays in the community and helps fund Cray’s children’s programming, which includes foster care, intervention and mentoring.
Harper’s 7pm show will feature songs from “Go With The Flow,” his 2020 swan song with the Rich Harper Band recorded in Los Angeles. Find it on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, and GooglePlay.
“The album was made possible by kind donations to GoFundMe from our friends and fans,” said Harper. “I love you all.”
The Confluence concert calendar also includes:
•Oct. 28: Davis & Henner, two-part harmony and complex guitar.
•Nov. 11: The Wait, covering blues, country, soul and rock.
•Dec. 11: Holiday Classics with Mark and Kassie McConnell. $ 10.
• January 8: Elijah Groves variety show. $ 5.
October 23 is a Halloween edition karaoke night with a costume contest and $ 5 blanket.
Located at 214 E Washington St. The Confluence is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and also includes a rotating art gallery featuring local artists hosted by the Hoyt Center for the Arts in New Castle, as well as a reading room and lending library run by volunteers.