Tag Archives: American folk music

Artist Profiles: Beth Nielsen Chapman

Beth Nielsen Chapman

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.

 

Beth Nielsen Chapman

 

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.

Discography:

Beth Nielsen Chapman (Warner Brothers Records, 199)

You Hold the Key (Warner Brothers Records, 1993)

Sand and Water (Warner Brothers Records, 1994)

Beth Nielsen Chapman – Greatest Hits (Warner Brothers Records, 1999)

Deeper Still (Sanctuary Records, 2002)

Look (Sanctuary Records, 2oo4)

Hymns (Sanctuary Records, 2005)

Prism (BNC Records, 2008)

Back to Love (BNC Records, 2010)

The Mighty Sky (BNC Records, 2012)

Uncovered (2014)

Liv On (2016)

website: bethnielsenchapman.com

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Artist Profiles: Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder

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.

 

Ry Cooder – Photo by Susan Titelman

 

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 – Photo by Susan Titelman

 

Ry Cooder has composed soundtracks for more than twenty films, including Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, and The End of Violence.

 

 

Discography

* Ry Cooder (Reprise, 1970)
* Performance, soundtrack (1970)
* Into the Purple Valley (Reprise, 1972)
* Boomer’s Story (Reprise, 1972)
* Paradise and Lunch (Reprise, 1974)
* Chicken Skin Music (Reprise, 1976)
* Showtime (Warner Brothers, 1977)
* Jazz (Reprise, 1978)
* Bop Till You Drop (Warner Brothers, 1979)
* Borderline (Warner Brothers, 1980)
* The Long Riders, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1980)
* The Border, soundtrack (1981)
* Southern Comfort, soundtrack (1981)
* The Slide Area (Warner Brothers, 1982)
* Paris, Texas, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1985)
* Music from Alamo Bay, soundtrack (1985)
* Blue City, soundtrack (1986)
* Crossroads, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1986)
* Why Don’t You Try Me Tonight, compilation (Warner Brothers, 1986)
* Get Rhythm (Warner Brothers, 1987)
* Pecos Bill (Windham Hill, 1988)
* Johnny Handsome, soundtrack (1989)
* Rising Sons, with Taj Mahal(recorded 1965/66, released 1992)
* A Meeting By The River, with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (Water Lily Acoustics, 1993)
* Trespass, soundtrack (Warner Brothers, 1993)
* Geronimo: An American Legend, soundtrack (Sony, 1993)
* River Rescue – The Very Best Of Ry Cooder (1994)
* Talking Timbuktu, with Ali Farka Touré (Hannibal, 1994)
* Music by Ry Cooder, film music (1Warner Brothers, 1995)
* Last Man Standing, soundtrack (Polygram Records, 1996)
* The End of Violence, soundtrack (Outpost Records, 1997)
* Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit/Nonesuch, 1997)
* Primary Colors, soundtrack (1998)
* Mambo Sinuendo, with Manuel Galbán (Nonesuch, 2003)
* Chávez Ravine (Nonesuch Records, 2005)
* My Name Is Buddy (Nonesuch Records, 2007)
* I, Flathead (Nonesuch Records,2008)
* The Ry Cooder Anthology: The UFO Has Landed (2008)
* San Patricio, with The Chieftains (2010)
* Live On Air (2010)
* Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down (Mobile Fidelity, 2011)
* Election Special (Nonesuch, 2012)
* Live in San Francisco, with Corridos Famosos (Nonesuch, 2013)

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Sarah Jarosz Wins Best Folk Album Grammy Award

Sarah Jarosz – Undercurrent

The album Undercurrent (Sugar Hill Records) by Sarah Jarosz is the winner of the Best Folk Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

The other finalists were:

Silver Skies Blue (Wildflower Records/Cleopatra Records) – Judy Collins & Ari Hest
Upland Stories (Bloodshot Records) – Robbie Fulks
Factory Girl (Nonesuch Records) – Rhiannon Giddens
Weighted Mind – Sierra Hull (Rounder Records)

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Artist Profiles: David Grisman

David Grisman

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.

Discography

* The Even Dozen Jug Band (1964)
* Early Dawg (1966)
* Earth Opera (1968)
* The Great American Eagle Tragedy (1969)
* American Beauty (1970)
* A Potpourri of Bluegrass Jam (1972)
* Old and in the Way (1975)
* Eat My Dust (1976)
* The David Grisman Rounder Record – 1976)
* The David Grisman Quintet (Kaleidoscope, 1977)
* Hot Dawg (A&M, 1978)
* Quintet ’80 (Warner Brothers SK-3469, 1980)
* Mondo Mando (Zebra Records ZEAD-42248, 1981)
* Stephane Grappelli and David Grisman Live (1981)
* Here Today (Rounder CD-0169, 1982)
* David Grisman’s Acoustic Christmas (Rounder CD-0190, 1983)
* Dawg Jazz/Dawg Grass (Warner Brothers 9238041, 1983)
* David Grisman (Warner Brothers 1-23804, 1983)
* Mandolin Abstractions (Rounder 11540, 1983)
* Acousticity (MCA Records 6153, 1984)
* Svingin’ with Svend (Zebra Records ZEA-42108, 1987)
* Home Is Where the Heart Is (Rounder CD-0251/252, 1988)
* Dawg ’90 (1990)
* Garcia/Grisman (1991)
* Bluegrass Reunion (1992)
* Common Chord (1993)
* Not for Kids Only (Acoustic Disc, 1993)
* Dawgwood (Acoustic Disc 7, 1993)
* Muleskinner Live: Original Television Soundtrack (1994, recorded 1973)
* Tone Poems (Acoustic Disc 10, 1994)
* Dawganova (Acoustic Disc 17, 1995)
* Tone Poems II (Acoustic Disc 18, 1995)
* Songs of Our Fathers (1995)
* DGQ-20 (1996)
* Shady Grove (Acoustic Disc, 1996)
* That High Lonesome Sound 1996)
* Breakdown (1997)
* Doc & Dawg (1997)
* So What (1998)
* Retrograss (Acoustic Disc 37, 1999)
* Dawg Duos (Acoustic Disc 38, 1999)
* I’m Beginning To See The Light (Acoustic Disc, 1999)
* Tone Poems III: The Sounds of the Great Slide & Resophonic Instruments (Acoustic Disc 42, 2000)
* The Pizza Tapes (Acoustic Disc, 2000)
* Grateful Dawg (Acoustic Disc, 2001)
* New River (Acoustic Disc 45, 2001)
* Traversata (Acoustic Disc 47, 2001)
* Old and in the Gray (Acoustic Disc, 2002)
* Dawgnation (Acoustic Disc 49, 2002)
* Life of Sorrow (Acoustic Disc 53, 2003)
* Hold On, We’re Strummin’ (Acoustic Disc, 2003)
* Been All Around This World (Acoustic Disc, 2004)
* New Shabbos Waltz (Acoustic Disc 64, 2006)
* DGBX (Acoustic Disc 65, 2006)
* Dawg’s Groove (Acoustic Disc 66, 2006)
* The Living Room Sessions (Acoustic Disc, 2007)
* Satisfied (Acoustic Disc, 2007)

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Rhiannon Giddens to Release Freedom Highway

Rhiannon Giddens is set to release Freedom Highway

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.

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Dave Rawlings Machine to perform at Merlefest 2016

Dave Rawlings Machine
Dave Rawlings Machine

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.

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Artist Profiles: Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn
Abigail Washburn

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.

Discography:

She Waits for Night, with Uncle Earl (Rounder Records, 2005)

Song of the Traveling Daughter (Nettwerk Records, 2005)

The Sparrow Quartet EP (Nettwerk Records, 2006)

Waterloo, Tennessee, with Uncle Earl (Rounder Records, 2007)

Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet (Nettwerk Records, 2008)

Afterquake, with Shanghai Restoration Project (Afterquake Music, 2009)

City of Refuge (Rounder Records, 2011)

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records, 2014)

Banjo Banjo EP, with Béla Fleck (Rounder Records, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Abby Newton

Abby Newton
Abby Newton

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].

Discography:

Crossing to Scotland (Culburnie Records, 1997)
Ferintosh
Castles, Kirks, and Caves (Redwing Records, 2001)

website: http://www.abbynewton.com

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