The Stairwell Sisters (Lisa Berman, Evie Ladin, Martha Hawthorne, Stephanie Prausnitz and Sue Sandlin) formed over the bond of “string band music” in a flat overlooking the hills of San Francisco in early 2000.
On December 12, 2000 the band played their first show at the legendary and now defunct Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley, opening for Kathy Kallick. Ten years later, the band has 3 critically praised albums under their belt, an impressive touring history, and an East Bay Express’ “Best Stringband” award to boot, proving they’ve covered a lot of ground in that time.
The Stairwell Sisters are career women, organizers, activists and mamas. Their diverse experience is part of their 10-year plus success that has secured them appearances on stages from A Prairie Home Companion, Celtic Connections (UK), Lincoln Center (NY) Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (SF), Rockygrass (CO) and many other festivals; to the “V for Violins” spot on Elmo’s World and Howard Zinn’s Voices of a Peoples History concert.
In March 2009 the gals were asked to be musical guests on Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s Voices of a People’s History live performance in San Francisco, with a host of actors and activists including Josh Brolin, Benjamin Bratt, Boots Riley and Kerry Washington.
The Sisters, who are steeped in traditional Appalachian music but also play originals that blend in with their style, often with a social activism bent, were asked to choose songs from a list of those Howard felt best represented the cause. They chose Woody Guthrie’s Hard Travelin, and Bruce Springsteen’s Youngstown, which Evie found to be a killer banjo tune.
Appropriately reinterpreted through an Appalachian lens, the Stairwell Sisters lend three-part harmony and depth to Bruce’s poignant words. With Evie Ladin on clawhammer banjo, Stephanie Prausnitz on fiddle, Lisa Berman on Hawaiian slide, Sue Sandlin on guitar and Martha Hawthorne on bass, the Stairwell Sisters’ unique version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Youngstown” will be released as a single for this special concert.
The band has walked alongside some of their musical heroes, playing major festivals and concert halls, and they’ve also played a dermatologist’s office, a rare bird farm, a five star hotel, in a corner under stairs, square dances, and street corners.
On December 12th they’ll celebrate ten years to the date of their first show, with special musical guests from the gals’ other projects. Joining the five Stairwell Sisters will be Keith Terry, Pom Frytz, Knuckle Knockers Karen Celia Heil and Bill Foss, and Crooked Jades Jeff Kazor and Erik Pearson. They’ll be pulling material out of their back catalog.
Buy the albums:
- In North America: Stairwell Sisters, Get Off Your Money, Feet All Over the Floor
- In Europe: Stairwell Sisters, Get Off Your Money, Feet All Over the Floor
The Stairwell Sisters – 10th Anniversary Show
Freight & Salvage On December 12th
2020 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA (near downtown Berkeley BART)
$20.50 Adv, $21.50 at Door / Doors 7:00 PM, Show 8:00 PM / 510-644-2020
Author: World Music Central News Department
World music news from the editors at World Music Central