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Functional folk club

Danzig and Woolley play historic Lawrenceville venue

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With the recent popularity of dysfunctional families such as TV's Osbournes, abnormal behavior is, for better or worse, becoming a desired trend. In the defiant spirit of Ozzy and his brood, pop culture and community-minded music lovers should enjoy the often-hilarious theatrical performances of the wacky husband-and-wife folk duo known as Danzig and Woolley.

Billed as "dysfunctional folk" artists, nomadic multi-instrumentalists Kevin Danzig and Cat Woolley live the life of strolling minstrels, albeit in a comfortable and modern style, as they travel the country in a well-equipped motor home. The may not argue and swear in public like the dysfunctional heavy metal clan, but the two have been known to tell a ribald story or two.

The duo will play June 14 as part of the Gwinnett History Museum's Grounds 'N' Sounds series. The pleasing aroma of brewing coffee and a large portrait of Button Gwinnett welcome music lovers who venture through the massive door of the museum in downtown Lawrenceville.

Since their marriage in '94, Danzig and Woolley have been traveling the country while playing every folk, rock and comedy club and acoustic festival imaginable. The couple blends elements of both British and American folk -- two very different takes on the troubadour style of storytelling -- into one enjoyable hybrid. Spinning tall tales in original and traditional songs, the couple offers a refreshingly uplifting listening experience.

"They are so great," enthuses Decatur folk maven Caroline Aiken. "I've seen them many times and every show is different, and Kevin is hilarious. One minute, he's like Ian Anderson [Jethro Tull's charismatic leader] and the next, he's crooning like Cat Stevens. Cat Woolley is a charming and old-timey kind of artist. It's almost like they both stepped off an old 78 rpm record."

Heritage programmer and local preservation supervisor Sara Arnold books the coffeehouse events at the venue, the former home to the Lawrenceville Female Seminary. A true one-room schoolhouse, the building was built in 1838.

The original slate blackboard still hangs on one wall of the painstakingly preserved building. In the former schoolroom, small tables are set, tea lights and hurricane lamps are lit and the former drafty learning center is transformed into an intimate folk club. Desserts and coffee are available and reasonably priced. Grounds 'N' Sounds shows are held on the second Friday of each month, January through October.

Arnold works in association with the Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation Division of Gwinnett County and serves on the Historical Restoration and Preservation Board. "This building is older than the courthouse on the square here in Lawrenceville," she notes. "The acoustics are great here and a lot of the artists enjoy playing without amplification for the natural echo."

The building was restored in 1974 and saved from being purchased by a fast-food chain, Arnold says. Upstairs, a museum houses Gwinnett artifacts including some music displays that detail events of the county's role in Georgia music history. Also, there are even a few displays of items left over from the building's school days, including slate pencils, books and even a paddle.

"The atmosphere is a big draw," Arnold says. "We've tried to retain as much of the historic fabric of the building as possible. It's perfect for folk music, because it's very traditional."

The History Museum also hosts Coffee Ceilis (pronounced "kay-lee," an Irish term meaning "social gathering") on the fourth Friday of each month featuring local and touring Celtic performers. Informal jam sessions follow each Coffee Ceili, and all ages are welcome to participate and attend.

Danzig and Woolley play Fri., June 14, at Gwinnett History Museum's Grounds 'N' Sounds showcase. 455 S. Perry St., Lawrenceville. 8 p.m. $4 per person. 770-822-5178.

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