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Rock of Sages at St. James Church

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - The American Gothic walls of the historic St. James Episcopal Church rocked on Saturday when, in lieu of the usual choir or organ recital, the music was provided by North Salem resident, Eric Pooley & Friends.

Pooley is an award-winning journalist, editor and author of The Climate War , who describes his “day job” as senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund. On Saturday, though, he stashed his laptop to take on an acoustic guitar for the first half of the session. Together with long-time friends, Stephen Dahlquist (bass), Curtis Kendrick (keyboards) and Jeff Parry (harmonica), Pooley strummed and sang classics like Amazing Grace, Across the Great Divide, Dylan’s It Takes a Lot to Laugh and more.

For the second set, the quartet went electric and jammed to songs like Woody Guthrie’s Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad, Eric Clapton’s After Midnight and a few tunes by "the greatest band of all time," The Grateful Dead.

“Eric loves to jam,” said Pam Pooley, his wife. “He loves singing and he’s very soulful. I think he must have been a sharecropper in a previous life.”

“I was 30 when I started playing guitar,” Pooley said. “In college it already seemed too late. But my wife gave me one for my birthday, so I tried.”

Now he does more than jam and practice. He collects guitars -- many guitars. “At the beginning, I was resistant,” said his wife. “But now I’m looking forward to building an extension on the house.”

“I’ve known Curtis and Jeff since college,” Pooley said. “We have a lot of fun. We practice on my back porch or in Curtis’s basement. It’s cheaper than therapy.”

Saturday’s concert was one in a series sponsored by the Friends of St. James to benefit A-Home , an organization devoted to providing homes to older adults, disabled individuals and single parent families who cannot afford market rates. The goal is to promote independent living with community support. A-Home has built or renovated 17 houses for the purpose in northern Westchester.

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