Meet two of the Best Street Musicians in NYC: Coyote and Crow

Coyote_and_Crow_playing in Washington Square Park

Walk through Washington Square Park on a beautiful spring day and you’ll be met with a cacophony of sound: Children laughing, dogs barking, the splash of the water fountain, the ever-present rumble of passing vehicles, and the tangled sounds of some of the best street musicians the city has to offer.

The park is a ten-acre physical manifestation of New York’s creative soul. A frenetic buzz fueled by talent, ambition, eccentricity, and imagination. Every time I return—which should be more than I do—there’s always something (or someone) that delights.

Coyote and Crow

On my last visit, it was no different. Sitting west of the fountain, I heard Coyote & Crow (a.k.a Thomas and Jaime Kopie) long before I saw them. Thomas’ voice had an aggressive, James Hetfield-esque growl that immediately caught my attention. (Yes, I’m a Metallica fan.) Later he would tell me it sounded a little “Kermitty” in the beginning until a bad cold turned it into the gravelly texture it is today. Jaime sang back up.

Sartorially, the two were a hipster / Appalachia mix. He had the prerequisite beard and man bun (hidden under a black hat), and wore a paisley shirt with skinny jeans cuffed above his suede boots. She donned a long floral prairie dress with flat, embroidered Mary Janes, and wore her chestnut, waist-length hair loose à la Crystal Gale.

Coyote_and_Crow_playing in Washington Square Park

Thomas, banjo in hand, sang sitting on a handmade suitcase he fashioned into a foot-operated snare drum. (He made all their instruments.) With his left foot, he controlled the beater. With his right, he stomped on a tambourine. Jaime, playing a stand-up bass that looked like Thomas’ banjo but five times the size, stood next to him.

As soon as they started to sing, people gathered two to three people deep to enjoy the show. An angelic little boy, perhaps five years old, wearing turquoise sneakers and a shy smile had a grand time dancing his heart out. I’m also pretty sure he fancied Jaime.

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Technically, Coyote and Crow sing Americana, a blend of bluegrass, ragtime, folk, and mountain music, but the duo doesn’t feel the term quite fits. Their songs switch between original compositions and covers of classic rock-n-roll tunes from the ’60s and ’70s, all performed with a hillbilly flair they’ve coined “Old Time Rock n’ Soul,” inspired by “nature, folk tales, love, and life experiences.”

The little boy just broke out dancing. You can see a little of it in the video below. He’s SO cute.

Jaime confessed to being a novice musician, but Thomas has played most of his life, teaching himself the guitar and later the banjo. He taught Jaime to play the bass. In his youth, music was an integral part of his “hanging out” as a full-time skateboarder which he did until his body finally said enough.

Life as Two of the City’s Best Street Musicians

The pair have been together 10 years, married almost four. They met, prophetically, on the way to a music festival in Tennessee. Today, they busk full-time in various parks in the city, and in the subways when it gets too cold. They also play a handful of small venues and private gigs.

Coyote_and_Crow_playing in Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park is their favorite spot. They enjoy playing for the diverse crowds, meeting new people, and the sense of camaraderie that exists among performers there. “Overall, we have each others’ back,” says Jaime.

They say they love their life (“It’s better than the crappy retail jobs we had upstate”), and I could see the sentiment wasn’t betrayed by even a hint of irony. They play a few hours a day, 5-6 days a week, and enjoy the rest in Brooklyn with their dog Paisley.

Best Street Musicans Coyote and Crow

Watching Coyote & Crow, I remembered how much I enjoy Americana, folk, or whatever the hell it is, but I rarely play it at home. I use to put “Man of Constant Sorrow” by the Soggy Bottom Boys, on repeat along with the rest of the cuts from O Brother, Where Art Thou, years ago, but that was the extent of my listening habits.

Inspired by the couple, I started to pick up a CD, and then remembered that I didn’t own a player anymore, having given in to iTunes long ago. Lucky for me, their website sells the full album and single track downloads. My favorites are “Old Time Rock’N’Soul (This Ol’ Banjo)”, “Things Aren’t the Same”, “Witch’s Kitchen”, and “Mountain Rivers”.

If you’re in Washington Square Park, look up Coyote & Crow, and if you see them, say hi for me. But more importantly, take a few moments to relax and sit a spell.

It’ll be time well spent.

P.S. I put together a short teaser below of Coyote & Crow’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun” with a bonus: that little boy I told you about getting down to the music.  He totally slew me. (Also, continuity Nazis, I know this video is a bit of a mess but I didn’t originally intend to put an edited video together. Note to self: Plan better.)

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108 thoughts on “Meet two of the Best Street Musicians in NYC: Coyote and Crow

  1. clauzis says:

    I just stumbled across your blog as I’m moving mine from blogger to wordpress at the moment 🙂 I’ll keep on reading your posts!

  2. ChattyPhotography says:

    Cheers for putting the video at the end, as a were just about to head over to You tube for a gander. They sound great, really good stuff. Well written post as well, good inspiration.

  3. taiwanmemoirist says:

    Love this post, love those people, love New York City! I lived there (very, very briefly) in my early 20s, and it was such a memorable experience. The madness, the beauty, the originality – everything you could ever want out of life was there. Love the raw, mad beauty of that city and it’s people.

    This post brought back those memories for me, and for that, I want to thank you! Love your writing and photos, as well.

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      I am so glad. I couldn’t ask for more than being able to inspire such a wonderful reaction. Thank you so much for letting me know and welcome to the blog. I hope you return. 🙂

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Hi Carla! You’re most welcome. It’s fun down there. I really need to go more. I tend to fall into the lazy New Yorker thing where anything outside of a few city blocks might as well be in Australia. I have to work on that. lol

  4. Sue says:

    Awesome! I love that shot of the boy between the two performers, as well as the one of them belting out their songs. Great street photography!

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Thanks, Sue! That little boy is just adorable-right? Love the expression he has on his face looking at Jaime. Thanks for the lovely compliment. So glad you liked the piece. 🙂

  5. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez says:

    That is an interesting instrument. I knew banjos all my life but the stand-up bass was a surprise. Like they say, New York has everything.

    Thanks for this post. 🙂

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