It’s not surprising, if you know Brown personally—although certainly his music paints a very different portrait of the young artist. ...On record, the 21-year-old Brown is deeply confident and passionate, weaving complex tales of family friendships and self-discovery. In person however, Brown is soft-spoken and shy, avoiding eye contact, and glancing downwards at the table.
“When I’m performing live, I shake uncontrollably,” he admits. “And I don’t talk. Occasionally, I mutter things into the microphone.”
That is, of course, until he starts singing—and the nerves and fears simply melt away. “The motivation when you’re playing live for me to is, 1) to be true to that the moment, and what I’m singing, and 2) to get lost,” he explains. “So wherever we start, and wherever we end, I’m in a totally different place.”
Music has always been an escape for Brown, as well as a source of support. The name Our Griffins comes from his mother’s maiden name, Griffin, as was spurred by the passing of his grandmother in 2011. “When a person close to you dies, a lot of things go through your mind,” he says. Titling the project after this grandmother felt like a way to pay her tribute. He originally planned on calling the project simply “Griffins”—but added the “Our” later when “Griffins” was taken. Yet what began as a compromise, he says, has since come to represent a layer of intimacy which informs all his writing. “It’s funny how the ‘our,’ a mistake, came to signify something greater.” He smiles.
Family also informs Brown’s new record, Michael Boyd (out September 5), which teems with stories both personal and borrowed, and which was inspired by an old photograph of his uncle, named Michael Boyd, at age 6, found while rummaging through family memories. The photo was taken only weeks after the young boy lost his brother in a swimming accident on the Delaware River, and his expression is haunted and somber.
Still, uncovering the image proved particularly enlightening for Brown. “I was with my mom, and we were sitting down looking through some old family photos, and that picture came up,” he says. “And for some reason, it really resonated with me. And it made me think about a lot of things I hadn’t thought about. As in, things being connected. So… you don’t know who your ancestors are, and there’s really no way to find out. It made me think about that concept, and it made me end up writing around that concept.”
Michael Boyd encompasses both family stories and Brown’s own story of struggle and self-discovery. It was recorded by Todd Schied, with Eric Slick (Dr. Dog) on drums, and Brad Kunkle on bass, and was mixed by Brian McTear (Sharon Van Etten) at Miner Street Studios. McTear describes the experience as the start of something big.
“Our Griffins' music is powerful and spacious,” he says, “and Brown's penetrating voice reveals a kid who grew up struggling with his identity, a gentle introvert, much happier to observe the behavior of others, than to speak out loud about himself.” It’s also the debut full-length from an artist with a long musical history, who will continue to inspire for years to come.
A native of Easton/Nazareth PA, Brown first learned to play guitar at age 14, after taking lessons from a parents’ friend. Inspired by old blues guitarists, he took to it naturally and began gigging with a band of older musicians in 2008, after meeting up at a dive bar. The experience would spur life-long friendships. Through the group, DJ hooked up with producer/manager Todd Schied, who invited the band to his home-recording studio one weekend to lay down some tracks.
“It was a great experience,” Brown remembers. “We went out to Todd’s place to record six songs. But what ended up happening was we did three songs I had written. And they were like, the first three songs I wrote. And I was pissed off. I was shy. And I didn’t want to do it. But I did it anyway. In turn I learned a lot from it.”
This would be his first taste of recording, and enough to get him hooked. Shortly after the session, the band kicked him out—“I was only 16 at the time, and was younger than everyone else,” Brown explains. “And they had just gotten to college and were ready to play more seriously.”
Left alone with his thoughts, Brown began writing every day, suddenly overflowing with songs just pouring out of him. At the time, he wasn’t enrolled in high school (“I lasted three days in public school before I had a nervous breakdown…” he explains), so he’d spend his days working on home-school work, and writing.
A few months later, he received a call from Schied, asking if he wanted to continue working on music. At first he was nervous, but ultimately decided to jump back in. “So I had my folks drive me up there—because I didn’t drive back then—after being like, ‘can I go up to this guy’s house in the woods?’” He laughs. “So it was kinda a weird experience, but it was also great. Todd’s a great guy. He cares about people—he cares about me. So I would go up on Fridays, and we would just play. He’s a drummer, so he would play drums, and I would play guitar.”
Under Schied’s direction, Brown released his first EP, Conversations, in 2011, and since then has continued to grow both musically and personally.
These days, Our Griffins is a set band, consisting of Brown, Travis Hobbie, Luming Hao, Alex Luquet, and John Kimock on drums. And while the name “Our Griffins” was originally chosen to represent his family, Brown says that anymore, the band is a family onto itself.
“It’s the little things that are great with this band—hanging out together, making jokes, gaining friendships,” he says.
The band has gigged extensively around the Philadelphia area, performing at Johnny Brenda’s, World Café Live, The North Star Bar, and more, and has been featured on WXPN. And while Brown has been busier than ever as a result, he still finds time to write and record new songs.
“Sometimes it gets to the point where you just have to do it,” he explains. “You’ll be sitting down reading something, or watching a movie, or hanging out with friends—and suddenly, you have to leave, and write… something. You don’t know what it is, but you gotta do it. It’s as if it's falling off your bones.”
Skyflight Productions presents an evening with Audrey Auld on Saturday March 8, 2014 at The Renaissance Theater in Kingsport, TN. Devils are not the only thing to come from Tasmania. Singer-songwriter Audrey Auld's heart is in Country/Folk music, with a presence as big as The Outback. Her songs are the wry and poignant observations of an Aussie troubadour touring the States since 2003. Recorded in Nashville, Auld's 2013 release Tonk is a breath of fresh country air, right out of a Saturday night honky tonk....
"Right from the outset, this latest release from the Nashville residing Aussie sets out to be a blueprint of how traditional country music can be made relevant in the 21st Century and Audrey succeeds in this mission." ~ Three Chords and the Truth, UK
Ever the fearlessly independent woman, she runs her own label Reckless Records and enjoys great success as a songwriter. Auld's songs are recorded by Nashville stars and Carter Family descendants, are heard on the Grand Ole Opry, TV shows (Justified, The Good Guys, Longmire) and within the walls of San Quentin Prison where she has hosted songwriting workshops since 2006.
"The only problem with Auld is trying to decide if she's more remarkable as a singer or a songwriter, which isn't the worst problem an artist can have."
~ John Conquest, 3rd Coast Music, Austin, TX, April 2012
An honest and witty writer and a spontaneous comedienne, Auld is never afraid to venture into the dark places of life and shine a humorous light upon them. It's in her live show that you'll really meet her. She's entertaining, funny, heartfelt and dry. You'll laugh and cry. She's wickedly witty with a country sound that harks back to the days of a tight frock and a promise. But don’t be fooled – she’s Australian after all….
William Borg Schmitt will open the show for Audrey Auld. Inspired as much by Thoreau as Guthrie, William Borg Schmitt is a talented young music artist based in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina. His songs exude a passion for life expressed through autobiographical reflection and nature based metaphor.
Born and raised in Southwest Iowa, Will's journey into music began in 1998 when he bought a guitar with his first paycheck. One year later, he fulfilled a longtime dream by forming a rock band with a few of his closest friends. Being from Iowa, they decided to name the group after a particularly high yielding hybrid of corn called Funks G. Over the course of the next decade, the band released several albums and performed over 200 concerts across the USA.
Inspired by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Iowa's own Greg Brown, Dave Moore, and William Elliott Whitmore, Will spent the Summer of 2010 rambling across the United States as a traveling minstrel. During the course of his music inspired travels, he performed at music festivals, coffee shops, concert halls, and folks' homes all over the country, living out of a 20 year old Chevy Sportvan named Gina.
He then spent most of 2011 in the woods of Vermont, working as a counselor at a therapeutic wilderness camp for troubled youth. It was a transformative experience.
Now based out of Asheville, North Carolina, he enjoys contributing to the vibrant local music community and hiking the beautiful mountains in the area.
They soon after caught the attention of Spoon drummer Jim Eno, who would become their longtime producer, collaborator and comrade. With Eno’s help behind the board, Via Audio rel...eased their first full-length, "Say Something", in 2007 on California-based indie label Sidecho Records, as well as Kurofune Records in Japan. Pitchfork Media described "Say Something" as having “such a beautiful gloss over everything that it sticks, hurts, and feels delicious” and the album received accolades from Spin, Nylon, Under the Radar, Alternative Press, theTripwire, and Stereogum, among others. The band has since toured the U.S. and Japan alongside the likes of Spoon, White Rabbits, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Ha Ha Tonka, Jukebox the Ghost, Elizabeth & the Catapult, and Modern Skirts, making appearances at the South By Southwest, Monolith, and CMJ festivals.
After the departure of a key band member, Via Audio shut themselves up again in Eno’s Austin, Texas home studio in 2009, tackling their next songbook as Eno carefully and artfully crafted different sonic palettes for each unique song on "Animalore". The result is an album that "plays like a pop-up book for adults, bursting with vivid colors and secret corridors at the turn of every page." (FILTER Magazine)
Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, they were able to record their newest effort "NATURAL LANGUAGE", produced by their original drummer Dan Molad (Lucius) in his Brooklyn home studio Sounds Like A Fire. After 2 years of searching for the help of a label and the departure of yet another member, the new record will be self-released in early 2014, a decade after their first self-titled EP.
The Steel Wheels is an amalgamation of hard work and easy rapport. The band is renowned for their raw energy and chemistry on stage, where they often cluster tightly around a single microphone to adorn Trent Wagler’s unmistakable tenor with bell-clear four-part harmonies inspired by their shared Mennonite heritage. Add to this Eric Brubaker’s lively and evocative fiddle, Brian Dickel’s grounded yet buoyant upright bass, and Jay Lapp’s signature mandolin style, and it’s no surprise that The Steel Wheels have enthralled the contemporary Americana scene.
Their breakout album, Red Wing, garnered critical praise and enjoyed tremendous success on the radio. It spent 13 weeks on the Americana Music Association’s Top 40 Chart, where it reached the number 15 slot, and cracked the Euro Americana Chart top 10. Red Wing ranked 70th out of the top 100 Americana albums of 2010 and second out of all independent releases (Americana Music Association). The Steel Wheels were nominated for five Independent Music Awards in 2010, with “Nothing You Can’t Lose” taking top honors as Best Country Song. The Steel Wheels continue to take the Americana scene by storm with their latest album, Lay Down, Lay Low, which lingered for 10 weeks on the AMA’s Top 40 Chart. NPR named “Rain in the Valley” their Song of the Day, marveling that the “heavy hymn […] is sparse and dense all at once.” Already celebrated as the darlings of Merlefest 2012, the band looks forward to further accolades during a phenomenal festival line-up.
As the band thrives, so do their partnerships with local businesses, artisans, and charitable organizations. The values portrayed in their music—devotion to roots, community, and family—are a way of life for The Steel Wheels, and this is reflected in everything from production process and booking agency to merchandise and touring. For the past three years, they have performed an annual SpokeSongs bicycle music tour, during which band members tow their instruments, equipment, and merchandise from one gig to another via bicycle and blog about their adventures. Last year’s tour spanned 11 days, 550 miles, and 10 shows. This year’s tour included multiple charity rides, such as Lose The Training Wheels, Charity Ride for Kids, and Wheels Up for Cory.
The band’s merchandise represents a host of grassroots connections to people and businesses. Lucas Roasting Company, located just outside of Harrisonburg, created “Halfway to Heaven” dark roast coffee in honor of their friends The Steel Wheels. Blue Mountain Brewery, located on Afton Mountain in Virginia, hosted the band when they were just getting started and now sells a “Steel Wheels ESB.” The Livery’s master brewer rode with the band on their second bike tour and, soon after, created their “Steel Wheels Stout.” The band’s T-shirts are made in downtown Harrisonburg, and a potter who is a childhood friend of Jay’s makes their mugs. Each business is local for the band, and each product is intimately woven into their narrative. The Steel Wheels are proof that music remains a viable and sustaining force for connection in our world.
Hannah Aldridge will open for The Steel Wheels. Americana is the perfect concoction of American roots music that comprises our musical ethos as we know it today. It is something so engrained in our history, folklore, tradition, and mythology that it is not as simple as just "becoming" Americana, but rather, it is something that you are born into. It's that old cast-iron Coca-Cola sign that's been in your neighbor's shed for 50 years, a banjo and a Fender telecaster playing together, a 1955 Chevy with a modern stereo.
There are few artists that can truly encapsulate the essence and true range of Americana like Muscle Shoals artist Hannah Aldridge, whose musical pedigree precedes her and speaks for itself.
Hannah Aldridge is the daughter of Alabama Music Hall of Famer Walt Aldridge, who is one of the most prolific songwriters of the modern musical era. Twice named by Billboard magazine as one of the Top Country Songwriters of the year, ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, and countless Number One and Top Ten hits recorded by the likes of Lou Reed, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, Earl Thomas Conley, Ricky Van Shelton, Ronnie Milsap, and Conway Twitty.
With sounds ranging from blues in the Mississippi Delta to the dusty, dixieland jazz sounds from New Orleans, the musical stylings of Muscle Shoals on up to the primitive roots of American Country music, Hannah Aldridge leaves no inspiration or influence untapped.
Elliott always believed he’d be an artist. He spent his youthful years drawing, painting and sculpting, but the more he picked on those six-strings, the more he found familiar ground with his words and the imagery he strived to achieve on canvas. Songwriting became painting with his words and performing on stage became his new exhibition.
Averaging over 150 shows per year, Elliott has been on the road for more than a decade performing a blend of Americana, roots and country music. Along the way he’s collected more than a few interesting stories, many of which end up crafted into lyrics. Perhaps the most surreal moment in his career happened in 2009 while he was portraying Buddy Holly for the Surf Ballroom on the 50th anniversary of the fateful plane crash which took the rock legend’s life. He was asked to sing “Oh Boy” with Buddy’s widow Maria Elena Holly. She whispered in Elliott’s ear after the song faded, “You’re my Buddy.”
He has also shared the music stage with greats such as: Eric Church, Lonestar, Counting Crows, Brantley Gilbert, R.L. Burnside, Odetta, Tom Paxton and Loudon Wainwright III, among others.
Elliott has released 18 full-length albums since he began his songwriting career. In 2009, he released “Redemption Man.” Elliott worked with producer and guitarist Bo Ramsey (Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown) on this album to achieve it’s distinctive electrified roots sound. It also features Pieta Brown on the song, “Same, Old Way,” which was the 2009 Woody Guthrie Festival song contest winner as well as a 3rd place winner in the 2009 International Songwriting Contest for the Americana category. Two other songs on this album, “Redemption Man,” and “Illinois,” won Elliott a new folk finalist spot in the 2008 Grassy Hill Kerrville Folk Festival.
Elliott’s latest album, “So Sang the Crow” was released in March of 2013. Chad visited Basecamp Recording Studio in Montana to lay the tracks. Basecamp Recording is run by Chris Cunningham of the folk-duo Storyhill. Cunningham produced the album, adding his meticulous attention to detail to the well-crafted project. “So Sang the Crow” speaks to the souls of those “fighting the good fight” in a life of challenge.
The guitar first came to Max Doyle while he was living in San Fransisco for a long, elated summer. He was hit by a car skateboarding down one of the steep hills SF is known for. A true blessing it was. As a friend came to visit, they sat with a guitar across each other’s lap, him with the neck playing chords and Max, with a background in percussion, had the strings learning to pick. He traded his wheels in for some strings and sat for the rest of the summer with the guitar under his broken wing.
After leaving art school in Philadelphia, he lived in his studio across from the foundry he worked at. Some days would go on for twelve hours and crawling back to his studio at 10 or 11, Max would sit down with a guitar, blink, and hours would pass. Realizing this need to escape from the city, soon enough he found himself on a bus with 5 other musicians and artists heading across the country. And as the classic story goes, he was “passing through” Asheville and never left.
Since being in Asheville, his music has evolved into a series of stories that weave parallel lives throughout time; ancient mythology reflected through modern metaphor from a place of personal experience. His songs paint the environment and emotions for the music to carry you through. He describes his writing process as an extraction of old stories from the mountains; the truths older than time that were lost and forgotten and without language, yet. The Dead Truth is not only an insistence on the truth but also that which binds us to this life in the ways words know no place.
He just finished putting together an album of one such tale, “SATYAGRAHA”, under the guise, The Dead Truth, as a proclamation to resurface the light within the cold, dark stones.
It's a special treat when Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, who normally tour separately and solo, get to share the stage together. If the chemistry seems especially sparkful, they come by it honestly, as they are a rare breed: a romantic partnership in real life, not just musical life. And the two together on stage makes for a classic case of the whole being great...er than the sum of its parts.
Danny Schmidt is best known for his riveting poetic lyrics, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt for their depth and complexity. And gypsy spirit Carrie Elkin is best known for her incredibly soulful and dynamic vocals, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Patty Griffin at her most powerful, and Nanci Griffith at her most intimate.
Together, the respective strengths they each bring, individually, merge into a much greater whole . . . a performance of great energy and spirit . . . and one that audiences seem to be able to connect with on a multitude of levels, at once: Emotionally, Spiritually, and Intellectually.
Named to the Chicago Tribune's 50 Most Significant Songwriters in the Last 50 Years, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt has been rapidly ascending from underground cult hero status to being broadly recognized as an artist of generational significance. Danny is considered a preeminent writer, an artist whose earthy poetry manages to somehow conjure magic from the mundane, leading Sing Out Magazine to tag him: "Perhaps the best new songwriter we've heard in the last 15 years."
With her Red House Records release, Call it my Garden, Carrie Elkin has emerged as one of the defining new voices in the world of Texas singer-songwriters, being celebrated by Texas Music Magazine as one of their artists of the year. The voice, the stories, the images, the grace, it's the complete package. But it's the power of her live performances that really have been creating an incredible buzz around this young artist. Maverick Magazine said it best, after a recent festival performance: "I have never seen a performer so in love with the act of singing. That's the gospel truth. Onstage, Elkin was simply a force of nature."
Don't miss these two great artists in a rare split-bill performance, sharing songs back and forth, lending their voices to each other's tunes, in harmony. And lending commentary to each other's tunes, in the form of smart-ass between-song banter.
In 2011 Hardy released Nowhere (Magnolia Recording Co). This album is his most organic release to date, with siren-like harmonies on tracks like “Nowhere” (featuring Brianna Lane) and “Yesterday” with Chris Cunningham (Storyhill); as well as double bass, fiddle, accordion, and more on most tracks. The first six songs were written, recorded, and selected for this album with care, every word soaked with meaning and intimacy paralleled by very few artists. The seventh track, a live cover of Richard Thompson’s 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, was added after production and is a perfect complement to the bare-bones nature of the rest of the album.
“I wanted to record something acoustic and honest; without frills or pretension and with minimal production. , says Harty of Nowhere. Harty is set to release a new duo album, "12 August", recorded with his friend John Statz coming out this month. And will be in the studio in April recording a new solo album.
Music fans and critics across the globe are recognizing Josh’s technical skill as well, which he has gained through nearly three decades on guitar (he started playing in nursing homes with his father at age five and was first featured on two albums shortly thereafter).
The Atlanta Music Guide described Harty as having “fingers that seem to catch fire,”
which is validated throughout Nowhere, especially on the last track.
Skyflight Productions presents an evening with Wild Ponies at The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room in Johnson City, TN on Friday May 30, 2014. Wild Ponies - The dead right, honest songwriting of Doug and Telisha Williams blended with a kick-ass band. Touring in support of their brand new release on Ditch Dog Records, "Things That Used To Shine", Wild Ponies - Doug, Telisha and drummer Jake Winebrenner - bring energy and charisma along as they perform brilliant new songs as well as some of the old Doug & Telisha favorites. Written during a busy year on the road, "Things That Used To Shine" is an album about leaving some things behind ... and meeting others head-on. Released by the newly formed independent label, DitchDog Records, the album finds Telisha opening up about the skeletons that have haunted her closet for years. Grammy-winning producer Ray Kennedy (Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams) recorded the 12 songs in three days, running the band's harmonies through the same pre-amps once used by the Beatles. "It's a terrific, raw, robust sound these guys have going on" said Kim Ruelhl in "No Depression".
Our parents Mark and Sherry Taylor were told they were having one baby. That was good news to them and our four-year old brother at the time M...ark Jr. A week later the news changed quite a bit after the doctor saw one more baby in the ultrasound. Now, instead of one there were two. Another week passed by, and our parents made another visit to the doctor. After performing an ultrasound, they saw a big difference in what they had seen before, three babies! Around seven months later, three very-healthy triplet girls were born.
Having Christian parents first helped develop our Red Roots. It seemed that we were always in church, and my parents instilled in us Christian morals and principles. At church we were introduced to music, so we were involved in the children’s choir. Around the age of four and five, we began our singing debut in a choir musical singing “Be Near Me Lord Jesus.” At that same time, we began asking our parents to play instruments. Nika started first on the guitar after challenging our brother Mark Jr. to a “Yankee Doodle” duel. It was her favorite song and only song she knew, so my brother didn’t stand a chance. Natalie’s piano lessons soon followed at the age of nine. Her friends were also taking, so she was accused of taking lessons because of them. Maybe a year later, Nicole started asking my parents for drum lessons. My mom said that she tried to discourage her by saying that only boys played the drums. Negative comments were also spoken to her by the band director when he said she had no rhythm. If either of them actually did discourage her, we couldn’t tell. My mom caved in for local drum lessons, but the teacher didn’t have a spot. Long story made short, mom prayed for God to open the door if it was His will, and a spot became available at the exact time she wanted. Our band was formed. We all three would set up in our playroom and attempt to play the same song together. It was a lot harder than we thought, especially since we started out playing “Shout to the Lord.” Unknowingly to us, my mom was praying, “Anoint them to sing for your glory, Lord.” This prayer marked the beginning of our Red Roots.
God opened many doors for us as we first started out. Our pastor Bro. Bill Barton had started an alcohol rehabilitation center called the Home of Grace, so he asked us to play there monthly. We were paired with a former addict named Rodney Williams who would preach after we sang. The men always would scream and clap no matter how many clunkers Natalie hit on the keyboard, beats Nicole would be off on the drums, or chords missed on the guitar by Nika. They truly worshipped God there and encouraged us each month we came. Bro. Rodney and we made a great team because both of us were just starting out. He would also invite us to play at schools and churches where he would give his testimony, which he later wrote in a book titled, Club Meth to Christ. We both shared the common message of the Red Roots of Christ.
We eventually started playing other instruments. At thirteen years old, Nicole played the drums, banjo, and bass. Nika added playing the mandolin along with the guitar. Natalie picked up the violin, bass, and accordion to go along with her keyboard. Our style of music at the time consisted of a mixture of Christian contemporary and bluegrass. Little by little, we would get calls from churches and others wanting us to play. This was so important to us because it gave us a reason and a desire to keep practicing. My parents said that if we were invited to play three places in a month then we could get a trailer to haul our equipment in. No more than a month passed by, and we had our trailer. Now all we needed was a group name. One day, our aunt called my mom saying that we should name our group “Red Roots.” We had a few to choose from, but this suited us best. After all, we did have red hair. As we grew older, our eyes and hearts were opened. As teenagers, God revealed to us that being involved in church or in a Christian band would not save us. We felt a need for His forgiveness and His presence in our lives. Even though we had a Christian band before, it became personal from that point on. God put a deep desire in our hearts to serve Him through music. He showed us that all of our circumstances were not coincidental. God had a purpose for us in our lives, and He began to give us a passion for His purpose. Now we truly did have Red Roots, not only on the outside, but also on inside.
During our senior year, we bought our mom tickets to an Isaacs’s concert for her birthday. We noticed, while purchasing the tickets, there was also a talent contest that night. Winning the contest was exciting, but playing with the Isaacs was even more exciting! Later, Ben Isaacs became the producer of our first single. This caught the attention of Rick Schweinsberg of Daywind Recording Studios, and we were signed to their Red Hen Label. Rick Schweinsberg produced the rest of the songs on our album and currently develops our group. Our mom wasn’t the only one who got a present that night!
The Red Roots CD was finally released on Jan. 24th, 2011. The CD features our first radio single "Red Roots." Yes. Red Roots is also our group name. Both our group name and song represent the core message and focus of our group that we are rooted in the blood of Christ. His sacrifice on the cross gave our lives meaning and hope. The song “Red Roots” tells a story of a dad and his daughter going on a hunting trip looking for Sassafras trees. They need the red roots of the Sassafras trees to make red tea with. The dad uses the hunting trip to show his daughter how the red roots of the sassafras tree compare to the red roots of Jesus Christ.
Dolly Parton credits Claire with "one of the sweetest, purest and best lead voices in the music business today." Claire's harmonies have graced the recordings of many stellar musicians. Equally gifted as a songwriter, her songs have been recorded by The Seldom Scene, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Cherryholmes, The Whites and others.
Blazing her own trail in the mid 70's when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Claire Lynch made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, which evolved in the 80’s and 90’s into “one of the sharpest and most exciting post-modern bluegrass bands on the circuit.” She formed her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005 and has since consistently been a top pick of prestigious publications, critics and audiences across the U.S. and beyond.
Claire grew up in Kingston, N.Y. until the age of 12, when the family moved to Huntsville, Alabama. There she began her education in country music and got caught up in the bluegrass revival of the 1970's, joining a band called Hickory Wind. Later, the band changed its name to the Front Porch String Band with Claire’s vocals as its centerpiece.
In 1981, after their first nationally-released recording, the group retired from the road, and Claire pursued dual careers in addition to raising a family. As a songwriter, her tunes have been recorded by such luminaries as Patty Loveless, The Seldom Scene, Cherryholmes, Kathy Mattea, The Whites and Stephanie Davis. At the same time, she became a much sought-after session vocalist.
In 1991, the Front Porch String Band was resurrected with the album, “Lines and Traces”, a move that ultimately led to the launching of Claire’s solo career in earnest. Friends for a Lifetime was released in 1993 followed by Moonlighter in 1995 (Claire’s first GRAMMY nomination) and Silver and Gold in 1997 (also nominated for GRAMMY glory). She was named the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1997 and enjoyed many chart successes. The band wrapped up the 20th century with the album “Love Light,” in 2000. At that time Claire took what she thought would be a full-fledged break from music, stepping away from the grind of daily touring. She wasn't sure when–or if–she would return. “I hadn’t planned to come back. Then one day I opened my catalog of songs and realized that I'd written my life,” she said.
Little by little, the lure of music worked its way back. She sang harmony on “The Grass is Blue” and “Little Sparrow” which led to promotional touring as backup vocalist for Dolly Parton. She graced albums by other artists with her background vocals including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Pam Tillis, Alison Brown, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea and Ralph Stanley. Today, the impressive list of other guest appearances continues including spots on albums by Donna the Buffalo, Sara Watkins, the Gibson Brothers, Jonathan Edwards and Jesse Winchester.
In 2005, Lynch struck out on her own, forming the Claire Lynch Band and releasing the aptly named “New Day” CD. It was a hit on the bluegrass charts and earned her IBMA nominations for “Song of the Year” and “Female Vocalist of the Year.” In 2007, Rounder Records featured a brilliant catalog of music from her previous five albums on their label and titled the anthology collection, “Crowd Favorites”. More IBMA nominations followed as well as an induction into the Alabama Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
“Whatcha Gonna Do,” Claire’s next release (2009), was called “a stripped-down production with sumptuous acoustic atmospheres” showcasing…the instrumental brilliance of her four-piece band “ After a busy touring schedule in 2010, she received three IBMA nominations including “Song of the Year” and “Recorded Event of the Year,” winning the 2010 trophy for Female Vocalist of the Year.
Ms. Lynch’s USA Walker Fellowship Award ($50,000.) was one of 50 salutes given from United States Artists (USA) for 2012. The USA Fellows represent the most innovative and influential artists in their fields - including cutting-edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts, and visual arts.
In January 2013, after a long, successful stint with Rounder Records, Claire signed a new recording deal with esteemed Nashville roots label Compass Records, called by Billboard Magazine, “...one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade.” With their co-founder Garry West producing, she released the ninth solo recording of her career titled “Dear Sister”. By Summer, the album had reached the #1 position on the Roots Music Reports Top 50 Bluegrass Chart seven times and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2013 IBMA Awards.
The current Claire Lynch Band is a powerful juggernaut, a quartet that has the innate ability to perfectly interpret the beauty, subtlety, and genre-defying sophistication of Claire’s music. The Claire Lynch Band features like-minded musicians blending tradition and innovation - two-time IBMA-winning bassist-clawhammer banjo player-dancer-percussionist Mark Schatz, soulful mandolinist-guitarist Matt Wingate young string wizard Bryan McDowell, who at 18, won an unprecedented triple win at the Winfield, Kansas National Flatpicking Championship.
Touring behind Dear Sister provides the band the opportunity to present fresh, timeless material, including the title track – a tear-inducing masterpiece co-written by Claire with Southerner Louisa Branscomb. It’s an intimate farewell letter shared between a brother and sister, their lives ravaged by the destruction of the Civil War and delivered with all the tenderness Lynch is known for.
As one observer writes, “Listening to Claire Lynch sing is not something to be undertaken casually. Her songs and stage presence demand the listener’s rapt attention. She’s an intensely soulful singer, whose distinctive voice resonates with power and strength, yet retains an engaging innocence and crystalline purity. She’s also a songwriter of extraordinary ability who can bring listeners to their feet with her buoyant rhythms or to their knees with her sometimes almost unbearably poignant and insightful lyrics.” (Dave Higgs-WPLN Nashville, -WAMU Washington DC)
The sparseness and beauty of the Dewdrops’ playing is matched by the integrity of their songwriting. Take for example “One Kind Word” the first track off Silver Lining which like all great songs is both specific and general and powerful enough to be both: “My head is cold like my hands and feet / I’m looking around for something to eat / I’ve got time got nowhere to go / Broke down here close to the bone / I don’t want everything I see / I just want the little bit you promised me.” Earnestness is the chief quality of the Dewdrops’ songwriting. In “One Kind Word” we are thrust into the shoes of someone inhabiting the edge of comfortable life with no direction home. Where is the Promised Land here? Where is the abundance that could overwhelm the dust storm? It has all gone to “promissory notes and worthless things.” And yet he must endure and his endurance is founded upon a realization we all struggle our whole lives to ascertain: “I don’t want for what I need / A heart that beats and lungs to breathe / Ear to the ground all the time / For one kind word that’s mine all mine.” This incredible duo has their ear to the ground and if we are lucky we get to listen along with them.
Step into any coffeehouse like Eddie’s Attic in Decatur or Club Passim in Boston to main stages as far away as Seattle and Winnipeg, and you will hear the work the Dewdrops have undertaken over the past few years to achieve the raw simplicity of their art. Using a handful of acoustic instruments and two voices, Laura and Kagey strive for clarity over effects and ornamentation. It’s what you have left when you strip everything back down to zero. It rocks, it reels, and then it consoles you when you come back down.
The past year has seen a flurry of tours, workshops, house concerts, and festivals for the duo and the momentum has become a way of life. The accolades keep coming in but like real artists, they will never truly define them. For Kagey and Laura it is wherever they hang their hat that is home. The art of the road for them is about making every stop count, never leaving, always arriving.