John O'Connor's CD Release show at ArtisTree Community Arts

Nat Williams join John O'Connor at ArtisTree
As a young man, one of John O'Connor's job was working in a factory in Waterloo, Iowa. The rhythm of the machines gave him a rhythm that would follow him through life as a folk singer. On Friday, Nov. 17, the ArtisTree Community Arts Center hosted a CD release party for O'Connor's latest album "Rare Songs." (The $15 performance admission included a copy of the CD.) Local guitarist, Nat Williams accompanied O'Connor at the show and has traveled with O'Connor to a few venues helping to promote this new CD.

The intimate audience was taken on a journey through song and spoken word, as O'Connor sang songs that he wrote chronicling his time spent as factory worker, a worker in a homeless shelter, hitchhiker crossing the United States, a labor organizer, and folk musician often singing with his band Shays Rebellion at labor strikes and political rallies.

His song "Pressroom", with it's repetitious rhythm, gives the listeners a hint of what it's like to work in factory, doing the same thing, to the same sounds all day long, every day. One of jobs in high school was working in a factory listening to this mind numbing rhythm all day. 

He followed "Pressroom" with "Carpal Tunnel." A song he wrote when his band, Shay's Rebellion, was asked to perform at a meat packers strike in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. O'Connor started researching the reasons for the strike. He found out the workers were getting carpal tunnel from the speed and repetitive motion of carving up the carcasses. So he wrote a song about it. He prefaced it by saying "This is the only song I know about carpal tunnel" which drew a laugh from the audience. The song was sung a cappella, and once the song started the laughter faded and the audience was silent, hanging on every word. O'Connor shows his understanding of the meat packers plight in the line as to why the workers are getting carpal tunnel-"The curse of the speed on the carcass line."

After spending some time in Seattle, Washington, O'Connor moved back east in order to "save my career as a folk singer, I know that's a contradiction in terms: folk singer-career. That was the plan anyway." While in Seattle O'Connor said just about everyone he met was from somewhere else, but when he moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts he found that most people were from right there in Greenfield. He was asked to write a song for the town. His research lead him to discovering that Greenfield was a tool and die factory town on the Green River where the United Electrical Workers organized their union. Dealing with unions, strikes and union busting in previous years, he felt right at home. The song "Greenfield" was written and has been recorded on his new CD "rare Songs."

Following a brief intermission, O'Connor returned to the stage and read a couple of poems from his book of poetry. When asked which he prefers creating poetry or music he responded "I think I've gotten more out of the poetry...I don't have to worry how many people will be in the audience on any given night. I send the stuff (poems) out and if someone wants to publish it, they'll publish it."

His collection of poems, "Half the Truth", won the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry in 2015 and is available from Snake Nation Press ( or the Yankee Bookshop on Central Street in Woodstock, Vt.

He started writing poetry when he quit touring and moved to New York City. "Going from musician to poet is not always the best career move" he noted before reading "Beans." After reading two poems, the music returned with O'Connor and Williams performing a Woody Guthrie song "Hard Traveling."

Guitarist Nat Williams met John when the O'Connors purchased a house in Pomfret. The two have been jamming and performing together for the past few months. The O'Connors spilt their time between Franklin, NY and Pomfret, Vt.. O'Connor's next live appearance is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2018 at the People’s Voice Cafe New York City. he new CD is available online through his website:

More photos from the show CLICK HERE

John O'Connor
Rare Songs CD Release Show
ArtisTree Community Arts Center
Pomfret, Vt, November 17, 2017
Copyright ©2017 Nancy Nutile-McMenemy
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