Singer and songwriter Marc Cohn says he's happy with his new album and the live shows. - marccohn.net

Marc Cohn reconnects with his muse

It's been almost 10 years since composer and pianist Marc Cohn released an album. Now, on the road with his newest recording, "Join the Parade" on the Decca label, Cohn says he is enjoying this tour more than any.

"That's saying a lot because I like being on the road," Cohn says.

Cohn and his band, including guitarist and vocalist Amy Correia, will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at Main 1 Center for the Arts, 821 N. Riverside Ave., Medford. Correia will open the show and then join Cohn and his band for their performance.

It was 1991 when Cohn's breakout hit "Walking in Memphis" from his self-titled debut album earned him a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Music critic Dave Marsh (Newsday, The Village Voice and Rolling Stone) wrote that the song's "perfectly written narrative takes into account the whole history of American music, from where it begins in ... church gospel ... to where it shoots out into Elvis and Al Green and, at the climactic moment, Marc Cohn himself."

Cohn would release "The Rainy Season," an album with guest appearances by David Crosby, Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt, in 1993 and "Burning the Daze" in 1998. He also compiled and released an album of live performances in 2005.

During Cohn's hiatus from the recording studio, he continued to tour and perform, but he struggled with writer's block, he says, until August 2005.

That was when a bullet became lodged near his left temple during an attempted carjacking after a concert in Denver. Cohn walked out of the hospital the next day, but, while recovering at his home in New York three weeks later, he watched Hurricane Katrina devastate New Orleans.

The events reawakened the songwriter in Cohn and lead him to write the songs for "Join the Parade," he says.

"I've waited 10 years to write the songs for this album," Cohn says. "I guess I was just looking for a certain quality of songwriting."

Cohn says he's very proud of the work on the album and the shows on the tour so far.

"I've gotten some nice press from publications such as Rolling Stone and Performing Songwriter, and some of the best reviews I've had since my first album," he says. "If there were another Grammy in it, I'd be thrilled. But who can say?"

Cohn and album co-producer Charlie Sexton enlisted a supporting cast of musicians that includes members of Cohn's road band, including guitarist Shane Fontayne who has played with Cohn for many years and drummer Jay Bellerose, along with drummers Jim Keltner and Charley Drayton and guitarist Danny Kortchmar and guests such as Tom Petty, Benmont Tench and vocalists Shelby Lynne, N'Dea Davenport and the Holmes Brothers for "Join the Parade."

One of the album's songs, "Dance Back From the Grave," was inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg's article on post-Katrina New Orleans and features a track that evokes the music of John Lee Hooker. "Listening to Levon" is an homage to Levon Helm of The Band and "Let Me Be your Witness" is a gospel ballad that Cohn describes as "the centerpiece of the record." In the song "Live out the String," Cohn writes about his own brush with death.

Tickets to the show at Main 1 Center for the Arts cost $35 in advance or $ at the door. Call 774-3900 or see vibesmain1.com.

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