BY CHERYL SLAVIN
If life is like a river, then music would the sailboat with which Suffern resident Ed Packer has navigated it. Born and raised in Tarrytown, he is a singer/guitarist who has performed throughout the Hudson River Valley, even while devoting 33 years of his professional life to IBM. Now retired, he is ready to spend 100 percent of his time pursuing his musical career.
Ed’s most recent project has been the recording and release of a new song, “The River’s Journey,” an ode to the Hudson River written by Garrison resident Catherine Portman-Laux and her husband, Burton Laux, set to music by Jimmy Conlin. According to Portman-Laux, the song is an “ode to the Hudson River, extolling its virtues and celebrating the good fortune that New York State has to claim such a magnificent river.” She drew her inspiration from her love of rivers in general and her belief that the Hudson River was in need of some good press and a song of its own a la “Old Man River.”
After writing the song, Portman-Laux gathered together a band of four musicians to record it. Ed Packer learned about the project from fellow musician Ann Dillon, with whom he had performed numerous times at Irish “seisiuns” in Cold Spring. The resulting band, “The River Rovers,” recorded the song at Applehead Recording in Saugerties, a studio also used by such well known musicians as John Mayer, Blondie, Coheed & Cambria, among others. “The River’s Journey” is now available on Amazon.com and CDbaby.com.
Packer’s musical career does not end there, however. He is a member of the Foggy Dew Band, with whom he has played Irish music all around the Hudson Valley region and Northern New Jersey for more than 25 years. Foggy Dew has released its own complete CD. Additionally, he’s recently joined a second band, Shebeen Spirits, which will be performing its mix of Irish-country-folk music for the first time in February. Ed also makes numerous appearances as a solo artist, performing songs that range from traditional to contemporary roots music.
The recording and release of “The River’s Journey” is Portman-Laux first foray into the world of music production; she is actually a humorous poetry writer by trade. She used her greeting card company, Windfield Arts Production, to produce and promote her song. According to Packer, there are no immediate plans to reunite the River Rovers in the near future, although Portman-Laux did state that she would like to ultimately release a CD entirely devoted to river music. Should that happen, Packer would definitely be on board.
“I love the Hudson River,” he states simply. “I’ve lived near it all my life; I’m a part of this community.”
Meanwhile, he remains dedicated to sharing his music throughout Rockland and the lower Hudson Valley. In the near future music lovers can catch solo him at the Torne Valley Vineyards in Hillburn in February 1, at Rhode’s North Tavern in Sloatsburg on February 2, and at The Grille in Mahwah on February 20. The Foggy Dew Band’s next gig will be at Brady’s at the Station in Ramsey on St. Patrick’s Day, and the Shebeen Spirits will make their debut on February 9 at Mahoney’s Pub in Poughkeepsie. Packer also has plans to start writing and recording his own original music.
Ed’s role models include Bob Dylan, Kenny Rankin and Scottish musician Tony Cuffe. But Packer himself could also be viewed as a role model for the next generation of musicians who are just starting out and may question the viability of pursuing their dreams.
“Persevere,” Packer advises them. “Do it, stick with it, don’t be discouraged. There are so many different outlets for your music.” Clearly, he is an artist who has demonstrated perseverance his entire life, and we are all the better for it.