Catch them soon before they hit Taylor Swift status. The magnitude of talented, accomplished musicians in this region—including Decora above—is far too great to cover, but here are a handful of the most exciting, creative and up-and-coming artists we’re lucky to call neighbors.
By Sean McAlindin
Keyboardist Marco Benevento moved just outside of Woodstock from Brooklyn in 2011. He spends much of the year touring with jam bands including Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and putting on festivals such as Follow the Arrow in Accord. “There’s a little compass that points musicians up to this area,” he says. “Being in the open air is like a big reset button for me. I feel clearer. After going on the road, I come home to paradise. It’s like a supercharging station.”
Benevento is inspired by the vast recording studio scene in the area including Dreamland Recording Studios in Hurley, Clubhouse in Rhinebeck, Applehead Recording & Production in Saugerties, Allaire Studios in Woodstock and Long Pond Studio in Hudson Valley where Taylor Swift recorded a live version of her last record-breaking album, Folklore, as well as her follow-up album, Evermore, with Aaron Dessner of The National. “It’s a small little scene, but there’s almost not enough venues for the number of musicians that are here,” he says. “Everyone is crazy knowledgeable.” Photo by Seth Olenick
Daniel Villegas and Decora
Hip-hop artist Daniel Villegas was born in Cali, Colombia where his grandmother taught him traditional folklore and drumming. He moved to New York City at age eight and, by 15, he was writing hip-hop lyrics in Spanish and English. He was on his way to SUNY-Orange when he saw a guy walking alone down the road. He decided to pick him up. It turned out to be a rapper named Decora. “We freestyled all the way to the college,” says Villegas. “We just connected.”
This summer, they’re hosting Dream Valley, a series of curated concerts at unexpected venues including roller rinks, bowling alleys and pool parties featuring an ethnic mix of house music, hip-hop, jungle, afrobeat, Latin and reggaeton. “When it comes to small towns, because of resources or lack of knowledge, there’s a lot of homogenies,” says Decora. “Having cultural variety, and offering it in a way that’s genuine, is super important to me. We want to make people feel like they’ve gone someplace, but they were just in their own backyard. People are thirsting for it.” Decora Photo by Matt Petricone; Daniel Villegas Photo by Chandler M. Stanley
Lee Falco grew up in Marlboro where his father Tony Falco founded The Falcon restaurant and theater. He took over the iconic venue after his father passed away in 2021. Among his many admired traits, the elder Falco was known for always giving musicians 100 percent of proceeds.
“It’s been really fulfilling for me,” says Lee about carrying on his family legacy. “His mission was supporting artists and community, so it’s been beautiful to keep it going and feel the support of everyone wanting to do it with me.”
Falco is also an in-demand drummer who’s toured with The Lemonheads. He’s played in The Restless Age and his most recent project is a honky-tonk band, The New Original Locals (yes, it’s a joke) with Connor Kennedy on guitar, Will Bryant on keys and Brandon Morrison on bass. They’ve become somewhat of a house band around Woodstock.
With the pandemic behind us, Falco sees a growing regional music market ripe for expansion. “It’s kind of like Nashville in the 200-mile radius,” he says. “It’s got a music economy like a big city, but it’s all spread out.”
After a decade on the road, Upstate (above) members Mary Webster, Melanie Glenn, Harry D’Agostino and Dylan McKinstry took a long, unexpected pause while navigating the pandemic and some of life’s big milestone moments. They have since released their third LP, You Only Get A Few, this March. Recorded at The Building in Marlboro, it’s a deeply honest album filled with beautiful songs blossoming with ambiguity. It’s speckled with field recordings made by the band, including the sound of spring rain and a summer night. Photo by Bridget Badore
For singer-songwriter Al Olender, facing her fear of the truth has been a cleansing, often cathartic, experience. On her debut LP, Easy Crier, written after the sudden loss of her older brother, she asks: what happens if we vow to never tell a lie again? Staring demons in the face, Olender shares her most vulnerable moments to remind us of the power of really getting to know yourself. The album was recorded by James Felice of The Felice Brothers at The Church in Harlemville.
Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams
After seven years of playing in Levon Helm’s band, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams released their critically acclaimed eponymous 2015 debut Americana folk rock album. With Campbell composing and playing several stringed instruments, and Williams on lead vocals and guitar, the duo has become a beloved staple in Upstate and beyond. The musical power couple’s latest album Live at Levon’s captures their fiery energy at their old friend’s Woodstock home.
Percussionist, composer and producer Jeff Haynes moved from Brooklyn to Beacon 15 years ago to raise a family. His wife had bumped into folk legend Pete Seeger while walking down Main Street. It started a long musical relationship that won Haynes and Seeger a Grammy for Tomorrow’s Children in 2010 and encouraged him to volunteer in the local schools.
“When I moved to the Hudson Valley, I thought musicians wouldn’t come up from the city to play with me, but that’s far from the truth,” says Haynes. “This is where I live, and I love paying it forward.”
The Felice Brothers
The Felice Brothers got their start playing in New York City subway trains. Their 2021 album, From Dreams To Dust, was recorded in an 1873 one-room church near Hawthorne Valley in Harlemville, NY where they continue to produce up-and-coming artists.