SEDONA – Gary Simpkins and Loose Change is a four piece folk/rock ensemble focused on the eclectic and nuanced songs of Gary Simpkins, a performer/singer/songwriter with plenty to say and plenty to sing about. And sing he does, surrounded by the rich sounds of the band. With smooth voice and unique guitar style, Simpkins pulls you into his songs and holds you there throughout the evening.
Gary’s choice of songs is wonderfully eclectic. He includes a mix of cover songs and original tunes, from a soulful performance of Jimmie Webb’s Wichita Lineman, and a truly silly and entertaining version of the ’50s tune Little Darling by the Diamonds, to deep tracks by Ian Tyson and Travis Edmundson, to innovative originals like “Stay Low, Move Fast,” about people wanting to take your stuff.
The band Loose Change is a solid and dynamic group of performers that have played a number of shows together in the Verde Valley. They include Cottonwood’s Sonja Whisman, singer and fiddler/violinist extraordinaire, visiting Winnipeg Canadian Chris Baldwin, bassist and singer for this ensemble and a wonderful singer/songwriter in his own right, and Clarkdale’s Matt Fabritz, long time percussionist for many rock, country and church bands in the Verde Valley. Together their harmonies, leads, and rhythm section provide a powerful yet pleasingly full sound that will raise you up and take you on a musical magic carpet ride.
Gary has been around the folk/rock, singer/songwriter scene since the ’60s, cutting his teeth on the Open Mic scene in his college days in New Haven. He’s played gigs all over the Northeast, notably at the Bitter End in New York City, Club 47 (Now Club Passim’s) in Cambridge, the Exit in New Haven, and Salt in Newport (where he opened for Maria Muldaur).
“No time in history did music make as much of a difference than in the ’60s,” reflected Simpkins. “Many of the songs I do, including songs by Dave Mallett, John Phillips, and, of course, Bob Dylan, are more than just protest songs. They are a mirror into everything ‘60s - the war, politics, social justice, free love - everything.”
In impromptu jam sessions Gary seems to know just about every tune written and performed during that period. And he always has a great rendition of these songs to pull out. From Ian Tyson’s “Someday Soon” and “Me and My Uncle” by John Phillips, to Bob Dylan’s “This Wheel’s on Fire,” Simpkins is just comfortable with the times. The band members share a similar set of musical sensibilities, and when they play it seems like they’ve been playing together for years.
Gary moved to Arizona in the ’80s and for the past 25 years has been playing folk festivals and shows throughout the region in and around the Verde Valley. He has also almost continuously run open mikes since the ’60s, and is dedicated to giving new musicians the same mentoring that he had when he started out in New Haven. Gary Simpkins and Loose Change will play at The Hub Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. Admission is $10.