Saturday, May 28, 2016

Shining On with Seth and May

Anita and I attended a special event at the Ark, the nationally-known acoustic and folk music venue located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, several years ago. If memory serves, it was a League of Conservation Voters (LCV) tribute honoring then-Congressman John Dingell, the “Dean” of the U.S. House of Representatives – having served for almost five decades – who was chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored or worked on several pro-environment bills and proposals, and earned a 100% rating from LCV. (Google Congressman Dingell; he’s one of my favorites.)

There are two reasons why I distinctly remember this night. One is because it was one of Anita’s and my first dates. The other is because Daisy May Erlewine and Seth Bernard, two unbelievably talented musicians, were the featured entertainment.

Photo courtesy Bill Chesney
The Ark’s ambience is intimate – the room with the stage seats just 400 and feels even smaller – so when Seth and May, who have since married, took the stage and she opened her mouth, I was captivated. Enthralled. Moved and impressed. Her voice was so pure and powerful and their performance was truly outstanding. As I’ve written before, I’ve been lucky enough to attend more concerts than I can count; I remember few of them but I’ll never forget this one.

Anita and I happened to encounter them years later playing at the East Lansing Art Festival. I was so excited that I was content to stand behind a tree and listen – I was too late to snag a good spot – and became frustrated that the thousands of festival attendees had the nerve to continue strolling and viewing art while these two top-notch artists were there, performing in person, for free, for a long time. I still don’t know the names of all of their songs but it doesn’t really matter because May could sing the proverbial phone book and I’d be mesmerized.

The song that I play over and over again – at least once a month, is called “Shine On.” I stumbled upon it while visiting the Facebook page of Bonnie Bucqueroux, a mutual friend who passed away last October. Bonnie had videotaped May and Seth performing at the Creole Gallery, a local favorite here in Lansing. Here, for your listening and viewing pleasure – is that performance:

A YouTube commenter suggested that May sounds like Natalie Merchant. I hear the similarity and yet I think May is unique. Special. One of a kind. Their music is a mixture of folk and bluegrass but even if you don’t like that genre, you’d like hearing them.

Somehow I was able to friend May in Facebook. We’ve never actually spoken or met but I was nonetheless tickled pink when she accepted my request and she hasn’t unfriended me yet. (This might be because I periodically leave fawning messages and comments on her wall.) I hope she doesn’t get perturbed by the fact that I lifted this fantastic photo of her with her daughter, Iris:

Seth and May are affiliated with Earthworks Music - as is Joshua Davis, the Michigan native who appeared on season eight of NBC’s “The Voice” – which is “a group of independent artists who share resources and talents to raise community and self-awareness, along with facilitating and encouraging original music in Michigan.” Founded by Seth, a compelling artist in his own right, it’s “a means to form a viable alternative path to the conventional music industry.”

See? They’re not only talented musicians; they’re visionaries who are committed to using their art to make their industry and the world better. Visit the website, buy their music and tell ‘em “What’s the Diehl?” sent you.

For a detailed profile of the couple, click here. And for the full episode of PBS’s "Backstage Pass" featuring them, click here.

Sources: Earthworks Music,,

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