Jake Armerding performed around Massachusetts from an early age often with his father Taylor’s popular bluegrass band Northern Lights. Armerding has won both regional and national acclaim for his mix of bluegrass instrumentation with contemporary melodic songwriting.
His album Jake Armerding was released in the spring of 2003 on Compass Records. It combines Armerding’s fine instrumental skill on guitar fiddle and mandolin with an ingenious set of songs that draw from the traditional forms while staying firmly grounded on contemporary ground.
Wrong Highway Blues with Northern Lights (1994)
Living in the City with Northern Lights (1996)
Caged Bird (1999) Jake Armerding (Compass Records 2003)
Walking on the World (2007)
Songs in Stained Glass (2009) Her (Stick Shift Records 2009)
Cellar Sessions, with The Fretful Porcupine (2010)
C’mon!, with Barnstar! (2011)
Cosmos in the Chaos (Stick Shift Records, 2013)
Arthel L. “Doc” Watson was born in Deep Gap North Carolina in 1922 to a musical family. Blind since infancy Doc started playing harmonica and a homemade banjo as a child.
At 13, armed with a $12 Stella guitar, Doc learned both the traditional tunes passed down through his family as well as the new “pop” songs he heard on the radio and records. Yet it wasn’t until Doc was 30 that he started earning money for his music. Hooking up with a local piano player Doc played rockabilly and swing for pay and traditional tunes in his free time.
The 1960s folk revival brought Doc out of the mountains and into the spotlight. Since his “discovery,” Doc became a full time musical artist. He played concerts clubs colleges and festivals all over the country including the Newport Folk Festival the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall. His style included everything from Appalachian folk music roots to rockabilly, blues, country, gospel and bluegrass. Doc was acknowledged by fans and critics alike as one of the Unirted States’ most accomplished flat-pickers and his artistic influence cannot be overstated. Doc’s many accolades and honors included five Grammy Awards, two honorary degrees, The National Heritage Fellowship, and The National Medal of Arts.
Doc Watson was a disciple of the legendary guitarist Merle Travis. Together with Merle Travis and Chet Atkins he made up the top tier of country guitar. Doc was able to record with his hero before his death.
He recorded over 50 albums blending Appalachian folk music with bluegrass, country ,gospel and the blues. Virtuoso fiddle player Mark O’Connor believes Doc was “as progressive as anybody I’ve ever heard.” There is no skill on the guitar that Doc hadn’t mastered whether it be speed tone or feeling.
In 1985, Doc’s son, Merle, who was 36-years old, died in a tragic tractor accident a few miles from home. A festival in his honor, Merlefest, was started in North Carolina and has become the largest and most important bluegrass and American folk music festival in the United States.
A historical meeting between Chet Atkins and Doc Watson, two of the 20th century’s most influential American guitarists, was documented in 1980. Released on CD, Reflections has become an influential guitar album.
The Watson family musical tradition continues with yet another generation. An album called Third Generation Blues found Doc carrying the Watson legacy forward, this time with Merle’s son, Richard on 2nd guitar.
Before he died, Doc Watson was semi-retired. He died on Tuesday May 29, 2012 at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s Vol. 1 live (Folkways 1961)
Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s Vol. 2 live (Folkways 1963)
Doc Watson (1964)
Doc Watson & Son (1965) Southbound (Vanguard 1966)
Ballads From Deep Gap (Vanguard 1967)
Old-Timey Concert (with Clint Howard and Fred Price) (live) (Vanguard 1967)
Doc Watson in Nashville: Good Deal! (Vanguard 1968)
Doc Watson on Stage (Vanguard 1971)
The Elementary Doctor Watson! (Sugar Hill 1972)
Then and Now (Tomato 1973)
The Best of Doc Watson (1973)
Two Days in November (Poppy Records 1974) Memories (Sugar Hill 1975)
Doc and the Boys (United Artists Records 1976)
Lonesome Road (Beat Goes On 1977)
Look Away! (United Artists Records 1978)
Live and Pickin’ (United Artists Records 1979)
Reflections with Chet Atkins (Sugar Hill SH-3896 1980)Tellulive (Flying Fish 198)
Red Rocking Chair (Flying Fish 1981)
Doc and Merle Watson’s Guitar Album (Flying Fish 1983)
Down South (Sugar Hill 1984)
Pickin’ the Blues (Flying Fish 1985)
Riding the Midnight Train (Sugar Hill 1986)
Portrait (Sugar Hill 1987) On Praying Ground (Sugar Hill 1990)
Jean Ritchie and Doc Watson at Folk City (1990)
My Dear Old Southern Home (Sugar Hill 1991)
Remembering Merle (1992)
Live Recordings 1963-198: Off the Record Volume 2 (with Bill Monroe) (1993)
Original Folkways Recordings of Doc Watson and Clarence Ashley 196-1962 (1994)
Original Folkways Recordings: 196-1962 (1994)
Docabilly (Sugar Hill 1995)
The Vanguard Years (1995)
Watson Country (1996)
Doc & Dawg with David Grisman (Acoustic Disc 1997)
Elementary Doctor Watson! / Then and Now (1997)
Del Doc & Mac with Del McCoury and Mac Wiseman (Sugar Hill 1998)
Home Sweet Home (Sugar Hill 1998)
Third Generation Blues (Sugar Hill 1999)
The Best of Doc Watson: 1964-1968 (1999)
Foundation: Doc Watson Guitar Instrumental Collection 1964-1998 (2000)
Doc Watson at Gerdes Folk City (live) (2001)
Then and Now/Two Days in November (2002)
The Three Pickers with Earl Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs (2003) Trouble in Mind: Doc Watson Country Blues Collection (2003) Sittin’ Here Pickin’ the Blues (Rounder, 2004)
Black Mountain Rag (2006)
Vanguard Visionaries (2007)
Americana Master Series: Best of Doc Watson (2008) The Definitive Doc Watson (Sugar Hill Records 2013) Never the Same Way Once, 7 CD boxed set with live concerts by Doc & Merle Watson made in 1974 at The Boarding House in San Francisco (Owsley Stanley Foundation, 2017)
Doc’s Guitar. Fingerpicking and Flatpicking. 9 minute DVD includes tabbooklet. Produced by Smithsonian/Folkways and Homespun Video.
Flatpicking With Doc. 8-min. video Includes music + tab book. HomespunVideo.
Doc’s Guitar. 9 Min Video Includes Music and Tab. Produced by Smithsonian/Folkways and Homespun Video
Beth Nielsen Chapman was born on September 14, 1958 in Harlingen, Texas (USA). Her musical eclecticism found its roots in her childhood. The middle child of five in an Air Force family, she moved six times before she reached adolescence. At that time, she started playing guitar and piano and writing songs.
During her developmental years, Chapman was attracted by the compositional richness of greats like Hoagy Carmichael, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin. She memorized songs from Broadway musicals as well as soaking up the sounds of everything from Stevie Wonder, Sting and Joni Mitchell to Ella, Paul Simon and The Beatles and honed her skills as a performer in small clubs throughout Alabama and the South.
Beth Nielsen Chapman has become one of the leading singer-songwriters of her generation. Her music shows up regularly not only at the top of the charts, but on television (ER, Dawson’s Creek, Providence, Felicity) and in movie soundtracks, including The Prince of Egypt, Message In A Bottle, The Rookie, Where The Heart Is and Practical Magic.
Among her biggest successes as a writer is This Kiss, a huge international hit for Faith Hill and ASCAP’S 1999 Song Of The Year. The song was co-written by Beth with Annie Roboff and Robin Lerner. That same year Beth was chosen as Nashville NAMMY’S Songwriter of the Year and was inducted into The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame.
Beth’s songs have been covered by a wide selection of artists including Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ute Lempter and many more.
As an artist, Beth has released several albums, four of which were on Warner Brothers Records including her groundbreaking Sand and Water album, written and recorded following the death of her husband from cancer in 1994. This record is often used as a tool for healing through grief. As Beth toured during the release of Sand & Water she often taught workshops on creativity and working through grief.
Just as she was putting the finishing touches on her subsequent release Deeper Still (to which John Prine, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Kimmie Rhodes and Andy Bey all contributed background vocals) Beth was diagnosed with stage-two breast cancer. Successfully treated over the next twelve months, she went on to release the record and made it a point to speak about her experience and encourage women to be vigilant in caring for their health. Deeper Still was Beth’s first release for Sanctuary Records.
Look, her second release for Sanctuary in 2004, marked a new turning point in a life touched by both great happiness and great sorrow, and just as sadness and love shape a soul as surely as sand and water shape the earth, we see this artist’s heart emerge strong, happy and still tender.
In 2005 Beth released Hymns, a fascinating side-project of a cappella hymns sung in Latin, produced by Beth and featuring beautiful harmonies, with her son Ernest singing the tenor parts and her father doing some of the bass parts.
Hymns is an important milestone in the journey of Beth as an artist. A project which has been her intention to complete for many years is finally going out into the world. Here is what Beth has to say about this amazing collection of songs:
“I was raised in a Catholic family and the beautiful melodies on Hymns, sung mostly in Latin, were the ‘hit parade’ for all of us born before Vatican II. I came to record this CD while I was in the midst of recording a different CD of World Hymns, each in a different language and from a different religion. During that process, I was having trouble making up my mind which Latin hymn I would choose to include.
When I searched for a collection of my favorite Latin hymns I couldn’t find one anywhere. That’s when I decided it might be a good idea to go deep into the roots of my own spiritual beginnings as part of the journey of recording all these other hymns from around the world. This detour has taken me the better part of a year, and has made my Mama very happy! Here, in these songs, are the roots of my spiritual journey. They center me, even while I have come to believe that faith is something beyond the boundaries of any one religion.
My belief has always been that God is light, and humanity, like a diamond. Imagine each spiritual perspective, or path of faith, as an angle cut into that diamond. The light shines through and reflects off of all these angles in so many directions. If you were standing on one face of the diamond, it might seem as if the light is only shining on you. But I’ve always believed that God shines through all of humanity, and just as the sun breaks up and flies in every direction when it’s light hits a diamond, every voice of praise, in every spiritual language comes from and goes back to the same source of light.
The stories and teachings of my childhood have certainly shaped my way of feeling connected to this light. But I feel that someone of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, or any other faith, has just as much a right to define and to celebrate, from each of their perspectives, the beauty and sureness of the love of God.
I have for a long time wanted to use my voice like a thread winding through all these languages and melodies. Some of these melodies are very old, some new with ancient text. I’ve tried to be conscious of choosing lyrics that speak of devotion and faith whose meanings do not seek to separate or condemn any other voice of devotion. World Hymns will be completed early in 25. Meanwhile I’m enclosing Hymns, a collection of the old favorites I grew up listening to, along with my deep wish for peace.”
Drawing influences from the fields of folk, country, pop and jazz, her songs address such timeless themes as loss, renewal, mortality, spirituality and grace under pressure.
Back To Love, released in 2010, generated two hits on BBC Radio 2, and in 2012 Beth released, The Mighty Sky, a collection of songs about the marvels of astronomy.
In 2014 she released Uncovered, a set of songs that have been covered by other artists, but she had never recorded herself. Many were Top 10 hits, seven of which topped the charts at #1. Uncovered was recorded in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and her own “Tree House” studio in Nashville. It features well-known American and Scottish musicians.
Ryland Peter Cooder (Ry Cooder) was born in Los Angeles, California, on March 15, 1947. He is a guitarist well-known for his slide guitar style.
Ry Cooder first attracted attention in the 1960s, playing with bluesman Taj Mahal in The Rising Sons, The Seeds, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band.
Cooder played a role in the new appreciation for traditional Cuban music thanks to his collaboration as producer in the Buena Vista Social Club (1997) recording that became a worldwide hit.
German filmmaker Wim Wenders directed a documentary film of the Cuban musicians involved, titled Buena Vista Social Club (1999) that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000. Cooder also produced Ibrahim Ferrer’s Buenos Hermanos, and Mambo Sinuendo, all Grammy winners.
Ry Cooder’s solo work has been an eclectic mix on american roots music, including dustbowl folk music, tex-mex, soul, gospel, rock and other genrese. He has collaborated with many influential musicians, including the Rolling Stones, Little Feat, the Chieftains, John Lee Hooker, Hawaiian master Gabby Pahinui, and the late Ali Farka Toure. Cooder also formed the Little Village supergroup with Nick Lowe, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner.
Cooder’s 1978 album Bop Till You Drop was the first popular music album to be recorded digitally.
Ry Cooder’s Chávez Ravine, released in 2005 is a tribute to the long-gone Los Angeles Mexican-American enclave known as Chávez Ravine. Using real and imagined historical characters, Cooder and friends created an album that recollects various aspects of the poor but vibrant hillside Chicano community that was razed by developers in the 1950s in the interest of “progress.” The Dodgers Stadium (The Dodgers are a famous American professional baseball team) eventually was built on the spot. Cooder said at the time, “Here is some music for a place you don’t know, up a road you don’t go. Chávez Ravine, where the sidewalk ends.”
Chávez Ravine features various musical genres found in Los Angeles, including conjunto, corrido, R&B, Latin pop, and jazz. The 15-track album is sung in Spanish and English/ Cooder is joined by East Los Angeles legends like Chicano music patriarch Lalo Guerrero, Pachuco boogie king Don Tosti, Thee Midniters front man Little Willie G., and Ersi Arvizu of The Sisters and El Chicano.
“Los Angeles was paved over, malled up, high-rised, and urban-renewed, as fortunes were made, power was concentrated, and everything got faster and bigger,” explained Cooder. “But there is a lot I miss now. The texture of certain older neighborhoods, like Bunker Hill, a rural feel in urban places, like Chávez Ravine and the timbre of life there, and just peace and quiet,” he said.
Chavez Ravine was the first recording of a California trilogy. The second volume was 2007’s My Name Is Buddy.
The last recording of the California trilogy is I, Flathead, an album of music by the fictional musician Kash Buk and his band the Klowns, characters in Cooder’s 95-page tale. The album and novella were released together on June 24, 2008, by Nonesuch / Perro Verde Records.
The novella tells the story of Kash Buk and his friend Shakey the alien, together with various friends, lovers, enemies, and associates in a long-gone California filled with deserts, salt-flat racing, Native Americans, seedy dance halls, amusement parks, and sinister plots. The album includes fourteen songs by Buk, a hard-edged salt flat racer and roadhouse musician. With the story and the music, Cooder creates a world where “strange people are the norm,” inspired by country western music, Popular Mechanics magazines, and science fiction movies.
Flathead reflects change and disruption in a young, post-war, do-it-yourself culture of outsiders obsessed with racing cars fashioned from military surplus parts and flathead engines. As Kash Buk explains, “You got your hard times, your good times, a dog story for you animal lovers, and a forbidden-race love song, which every record ought to have at least one of.”
Cooder produced I, Flathead and wrote or co-wrote all the songs. He sings and plays mandolin, guitar, and bass on the album, alongside Mariachi Los Camperos; Joachim Cooder, and Jim Keltner on drums; Rene Camacho on bass; Francisco Torres on trombone; Ron Blake and Jon Hassell on trumpet; Anthony Gil on bass sax; Flaco Jiménez on accordion, Gil Bernal on tenor sax; Jared Smith on keyboards; Martin Pradler on electric piano and drums; and Juliette Commagere on vocals.
Ry Cooder has composed soundtracks for more than twenty films, including Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, and The End of Violence.
David Grisman was born March 23, 1945 in Hackensack, New Jersey. For more than 40 years, the mandolinist and has been busy creating ‘dawg’ music, a blend of many stylistic influences (including swing, bluegrass, Latin, jazz and gypsy) so unique he gave it its own name. In doing so, David has inspired a whole new genre of acoustic string instrumental music with style and virtuosity while creating a unique niche for himself in the world of contemporary music.
Grisman was already playing the piano, saxophone and mandolin by the time he was a teenager, taking up the latter at age 16. In 1963 Grisman made his first recordings as an artist (the Even Dozen Jug Band-Elektra) and producer (Red Allen, Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians – Folkways). David’s interests spread to jazz in 1967, while playing in the folk-rock ensemble, Earth Opera.
A failed attempt at learning to play the alto saxophone turned him into a student of jazz musicianship and theory. In the meantime, his burgeoning career as a session musician gave him experience playing other types of music and opportunities to stretch the boundaries of the mandolin. Today, his extensive discography includes recordings with Bela Fleck , the Grateful Dead, Stephane Grappelli, Emmylou Harris, Chris Isaak, Dolly Parton, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt , Earl Scruggs, Dan Fogelberg, Maria Muldaur, and James Taylor.
American roots music sensation Rhiannon Giddens is set to release Freedom Highway in February 2017. This will be her follow-up to her critically acclaimed solo debut album, Tomorrow Is My Turn.
Freedom Highway includes nine original songs written or co-written by Giddens; a traditional tune; and two civil rights-era songs, “Birmingham Sunday” and the Staple Singers’ “Freedom Highway.”
Giddens co-produced the album along with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell in his Louisiana studio, with the majority of the recording made in wooden rooms built prior to the Civil War, over an eight-day period.
String band Dave Rawlings Machine has added MerleFest to its “Nashville Obsolete” tour. The new album, the second full-length release for Dave Rawlings Machine, highlights the outstanding musicianship of Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch on lead vocals and guitar, Paul Kowert (Punch Brothers) on bass, Willie Watson on vocals and guitar, and guest appearances from Brittany Haas (fiddle) and Jordan Tice (mandolin).
MerleFest 2016 is scheduled for April 28 – May 1, 2016 and will take place on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Tickets for MerleFest 2016 may be purchased at MerleFest or by calling 1-800-343-7857.
Abigail Washburn’s soulful singing was one of the signature sounds of Uncle Earl since she joined in May 2003. Signed to Nettwerk Records as a solo recording artist, her album Song of the Traveling Daughter was released in August, 2005. The album features original songs in English and Mandarin Chinese, which she speaks. Actually, Abby was headed down a career path in Sino-American relations when she heard an LP of Doc Watson and decided to take up old-time banjo.
She met KC Groves at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in Louisville, Kentucky and joined the band that summer. Combining her love of traditional American music, Chinese language and classical Chinese poetry, she began writing songs, some of which happen to be in Chinese. Her writing earned her a second place award in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2004.
In 2012, after attending Doc Watson’s funeral, Abigail began performing “And Am I Born to Die,” a sacred harp piece recorded by Watson. “Doc is one of the main reasons I play the banjo and sing American old-time music,” says Washburn.
Along with 24 innovative and creative thinkers from across the world, Abigail Washburn was named a TED Fellow and presented at the 2012 Ted Convention about building United States-China relations through music. Her efforts to share American music in China, and Chinese music in the Unied States exist within a hope that cultural understanding and the communal experience of music will lead the way to a richer existence.
In 2014, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn released their eponymous debut album October 7th on Rounder Records. Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn is a front porch banjo and vocal album of new music, Appalachian murder ballads, gospel, chamber and blues; the culmination of a yearlong tour as a duo in 2013, following the birth of their son, Juno.
American musician Abby Newton first brought her cello into the folk music scene in the mid 1970’s as a member of The Putnam County String Band, with Jay Ungar, John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers and Lyn Hardy. Her partnership with Scottish singer Jean Redpath introduced her to the music of the British Isles, and they toured the US and Scotland, and made 16 albums together.
Abby’s first solo recording of new and traditional Scottish and Irish music, Crossing to Scotland, brought the cello front and center and included a stellar group of supporting musicians. Her second recording, Castles, Kirks, and Caves, featured 18th Century Scottish traditional and Baroque music, recorded on location in the ancient spaces in Scotland where the music has its roots.
A new trio, Ferintosh, evolved out of those recording sessions, and features Abby, fiddler David Greenberg, and Celtic harper Kim Robertson. Their first CD, Ferintosh, presented a unique sound, described by some as chamber-folk. Abby was the featured artist in an hour-long interview by Fiona Richie on National Public Radio’s The Thistle and Shamrock, and she has also made several appearances on A Prairie Home Companion.
In addition to many workshops conducted in Scotland promoting the use of the cello as both a melodic and rhythmic instrument in traditional music, Abby has also taught at Gaelic Roots, Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, National Strings Workshop and Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle School. Abby has been featured on over a hundred recordings by a variety of folk artists including Jean Redpath, Priscilla Herdman, Bonnie Rideout, Al Petteway, David Greenberg and Puirt a Baroque, and the Jay Ungar/Molly Mason duo.
[Biographical information courtesy of the Swannanoa Gathering].