Vineyard Playhouse Coffeehouse


This weekend the Vineyard Playhouse will play host to a couple of very talented and engaging female singer/songwriters, one — an import from Boston — on the forefront of the folk rock circuit and the other, an Island girl who is poised to make her mark on the scene with the release of a powerful debut CD.

On Friday night, Boston-based musician Sarah Blacker, who inaugurated the coffeehouse venture last fall, returns to give her local fans another chance to catch her pleasing mix of jazzy folk rock delivered in a voice that’s been called “a cross between Joni Mitchell and Ella Fitzgerald.” Vineyarders will also be treated to an opening set by the countrified rock of Girls, Guns and Glory. Last November Ms. Blacker, her reputation preceding her, played a two-hour set before a good-sized enthusiastic crowd and her return to the Vineyard has been a much-anticipated event.

On Saturday night, Vineyard born and raised Meghan La Roque (who coincidentally made her stage debut as the star of the Vineyard Playhouse’s production of “Annie” almost 20 years ago) celebrates the release of her first fully produced CD, “Carry Me Home.”

Ms. La Roque has only performed a few times at benefits since she returned from a career-launching journey out west four years ago. The singer has devoted her time to the CD since moving back to the project, which includes songs she began in her last year in Los Angeles and those that she wrote since returning home. The aptly titled “Carry Me Home” chronicles the emotional journey which corresponded to Ms. LaRoque’s odyssey out west and back.

About half the tunes on the CD were written during the end of the seven years Ms. La Roque spent in L.A. and San Diego pursuing her musical dreams. During the few months prior to her return, Ms. La Roque took nightly walks through the streets of L.A. — feeling relieved to be alone with her thoughts. She compares those song origins to musical journal entries and notes, “I wasn’t thinking of making a CD out of it. I was really trying to work through some of my inner monologues.”

Ms. La Roque describes the L.A.-composed portion of the CD as “edgy with a punkish sentimentality.”

“You can hear those nuances in the percussiveness and the melodies of the songs.”

Ms. La Roque was prepared to give up on the music industry when moved back to the Vineyard. However, upon her return she connected with producer Jimmy Parr and the two were able to create a sound that conveyed the myriad emotions that Ms. La Roque was working through in those rocky years in L.A.

Newly influenced by the Island and the joy brought to her life by her homecoming, the songwriter also began a new series of songs.

“There’s a whirlwind of ocean that happens to us creative folk on Martha’s Vineyard,” she says.

Fortunately for her fans, that whirlwind has produced an amazing body of songs in which, while they reflect joy and a sense of redemption, the validating scars are still very much in evidence. Ms. La Roque sings with a conviction and honesty that can’t help but draw you into her world. A bit of grit and gruffness has led to comparisons to Chrissie Hynde, and Ms. La Roque certainly does not rely on vocal tricks or airy prettiness for effect.

While the singer’s voice is strong and distinctive, there’s something especially pleasing in hearing an honesty in vocals that matches the highly confessional nature of the lyrics.

Spoon in the Moon Coffeehouse 7 pm, Friday and Saturday, May 28, 29, Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. Fri.: Sarah Blacker; Girls, Guns, and Glory; Ward Hayden. Sat.: Meghan La Roque. Free coffee, tea. $15; $10 seniors.

Gwyn McAllister is a frequent contributor to The Times.