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Singer Gerson brings edgy sound to campus tonight

Nov. 19, 1999

By DAVID IRVIN

Entertainment Writer

Ruth Gerson, an up-and-coming star and international celebrity, will be playing at 10 p.m. today at Common Grounds. The performance is in a series with some other Texas concerts this month.

'I played in San Angelo, Dallas and after I play in Waco, I get to go home,' Gerson said. Being homeward bound is a relief for Gerson, who is playing 100 living-room concerts each year, as well as various music festivals. A living-room concert is when fans hold a party for the artist to come play in their house.

Raised in New York, Gerson attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. There she cultured her musical ideas and abilities into the passionate expression now found on her albums. Though she takes on serious topics in a raw and honest way, her songs don't take on explicit lyrics.

'She takes on very serious topics in a very thoughtful way, but her stuff is real clean,' said Stephanie Chaiken, Gerson's agent. 'Her stuff is pretty 1990s in that she has a rawness, a kind of brash honesty. It is a really good commentary on things.'

Gerson primarily describes what she does as pop music.

'The new record [Wish] is coming more toward contemporary rock,' Gerson said.

Much of the acclaim Gerson has received in the United States is because of her wide popularity on college campuses. Her album Fools and Kings has been played on 200 different college radio stations. The album also put Gerson on two movie soundtracks and on tour with some big-named stars.

'Two of the songs from that record were put on independent films,' Chaiken said. 'She toured with Gloria Gaynor; Gloria was kind of a disco queen from the '70s.'

Gerson has also opened for Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews Band, Lisa Loeb and Huey Lewis.

'I opened for Dave Matthews at a club called The Wetlands in New York City,' Gerson said. 'I also played with Hootie and the Blowfish there.'

She played alongside the Indigo Girls and Randy Newman at the Newport Folk Festival.

'She has played the New Orleans Jazz and

Heritage Festival, the Artscape Summer Festival in Baltimore, the South by Southwest in Austin,' Chaiken said. 'She has played 150 shows in Italy, and she has toured through Germany, Israel and Austria.'

Gerson has been very well received overseas.

'I got my initial gig in Italy because another artist backed out of a tour right before it started,' Gerson said. 'The promoter still wanted to fill the dates, so I went along. Italy is a nice place to be big. It's about the size of Florida, so you don't have to go very far from big city to big city.'

The Italian music magazine, Buscadero, named Gerson the second best female artist of the year in a 1997 readers' poll. The magazine named Patti Smith as the best female artist and Sheryl Crow as the third. Also, Leesa Chalk of Elle Magazine proclaimed Ruth 'the new poet of rock.'

Ruth has released several albums, both independently and on a record label.

'She got signed to a development deal to Epic Records. That is where the company funds the artist to be growing and writing,' Chaiken said. 'A pretty famous producer named Don Dixon advised her to get out of it after she got bogged down in the deal.'

The employees of Common Grounds are excited to have Ruth playing this weekend.

'Ruth is great. I think it will be a real treat to hear her here,' said Jill Mashburn, owner of Common Grounds. 'She has a real soulful edge to hear. She is an innovative artist that definitely has a sound that comes from the New York folk scene.'

Gerson is now looking forward to an appearance on the Conan O'Brien show on Jan. 4. She got on the show through great persistence and luck.

'That was one of those stories of patience and persistence,' Gerson said. 'I sent packages to the show for a long time, and I randomly met the booker of the show.'