When married-duo Harry and Nancy Mestyanek launched Folding Mr. Lincoln in 2006, the plan was a gentle country-roots ensemble.
“Though we continue to evolve as a band and to develop musically,” says Harry, “I feel that our music is based in the folk genre. Not traditional folk but contemporary folk, played in true ensemble fashion.”
With Harry on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and bouzouki and Nancy on vocals, drums, and percussion, the two play mostly originals, though Nancy notes, “We do throw in some special covers. Special to us, anyway. We choose them because they evoke a feeling, express a certain tone, or contain a message.”
Both say they’re fortunate to have survived long enough to bring their music to local stages such as Rebecca’s in South Park, where they have a monthly residency. Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer the day before Thanksgiving, 1998, while Harry (who doubles in the daytime as ceramic artist Harry the Potter) was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma in December, 1993. Both fully recovered.
“I was lucky, as my tumor was on the small side, as these tumors go,” says Harry, who underwent radiostatic neurosurgery in June 1994. “I lost the ability to hear in my right ear and suffer from a bit of balance damage as a result of that surgery.”
Folding Mr. Lincoln performs at Rebecca’s Coffee House on Sunday, April 1, at 10 a.m.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1) Shawn Colvin, Steady On. “I love singing along with her while I’m driving.”
2) Veronica Guerin, Original Soundtrack. “Great music by a collection of terrific Irish artists.”
3) Billie Holiday, Greatest Hits. “I enjoy her style of singing.”
4) Keb’ Mo’, Just Like You. “Just plain great songs.”
5) John Hiatt, Perfectly Good Guitar. “Perfectly good album. He’s an amazing songwriter.”
1) Blaze Foley, Live at the Austin Outhouse. “Before he was shot and killed, Blaze was nicknamed the Duct Tape Messiah. His songs have been covered by John Prine, Lyle Lovett, and Merle Haggard.”
2) David Francey, Torn Screen Door. “David is a Canadian singer and an excellent storyteller.”
3) Sonia Dada, Lay Down and Love It Live. “A great rock band out of Chicago.”
4) The Freddy Jones Band, self-titled. “Another great rock band out of Chicago.”
5) Wilco, The Whole Love. “Chicago has a lot of great rock bands.”
ANYTHING EMBARRASSING IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
Harry: “‘Run, Run, Rudolph,’ by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, from the Muppets.”
Nancy: “Joni Mitchell in 1974 at the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. She is one of my music heroines.”
Harry: “Neil Young in 1971 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Young had just released Harvest. I was 16, it was my first concert, and I got a serious contact high on that arena floor.”
WHAT SONG BEST DESCRIBES YOUR LIFE?
Nancy: “‘Vertigo,’ by Antje Duvekot. ‘You’re on a high-wire, and I’m climbing out/ And I feel the danger as I steal a kiss from your mouth/ And I will try to hold steady, wanna make you believe/ That the height of this tightrope is just second nature to me.”
Harry: “‘Climb On (A Back That’s Strong),’ by Shawn Colvin. This song really captures the essence of my life together with Nancy and the way we support each other. ‘Sometimes we don’t know what to do/ We work so hard being tough on our own/ But now it’s me and you/ Let’s give it up, sad bones.”
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THE YOUNGER YOU?
Nancy: “Believe in myself more.”
Harry: “Be more patient.”
SOMETHING YOU NEVER RUN OUT OF?
Nancy: “Ice cream and Jameson Irish whiskey. But not mixed.”
Harry: “Pico Pica hot sauce.”
Harry: “I want to attend one of Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles in Upstate New York.”
WHERE DO YOU TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS?
Nancy: “I take them for a pint at the Field Irish Pub in the Gaslamp and then Balboa Park.”
BRUSH WITH FAME?
Harry: “I met Dr. Demento at a college party in 1974. He, two of my friends, and I drank Bud from cans and discussed old blues recordings for a couple of hours. He was extremely knowledgeable and a cool guy.”
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE OTHER WE DON’T KNOW?
Nancy: “Harry has three grandchildren and a fourth on the way.”
Harry: “Nancy was a prize-winning Irish step dancer back in the day.” ■