Sierra Dawn Hull was born September 27, 1991 in Byrdstown, Tennessee. She began playing mandolin at age eight and quickly became noted on the national festival scene for her fluid inventive picking, winning several mandolin and guitar championships in the process.
She self-released an instrumental CD, Angel Mountain in 2002. She recorded Secrets (Rounder) at 15 and released it in 2008 at 16. Among the musicians and vocalists joining her on Secrets are Ron Block, Barry Bales, Dennis Crouch, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Clay Hess, Rob Ickes, Chris Jones, Jason Moore, Tony Rice, Dan Tyminski, Jim VanCleve, and the banjo phenom Cory Walker who was seventeen years old at the time and had already played alongside Sierra for several years.
“What I’ve seen in Sierra over the months of working on Secrets is a passion for music in general, and specifically for bluegrass,” said Secrets co-producer Ron Block. “She has an intense desire for excellence a love of good songs and an attention to detail that is not often found in someone so young; she’s only going to get better and better as time goes on. It’ll be intriguing to watch how her vision and creativity affect the future of bluegrass in the coming years.”
Sierra was a featured performer on the Great High Mountain Tour which included an all-star bluegrass lineup performing songs from the soundtracks of the hit movies O Brother Where Art Thou and Cold Mountain. A seasoned performer, she has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry radio and television shows and shared the stage with various bluegrass legends such as Alison Krauss, IIIrd Tyme Out, Sam Bush, Mountain Heart, and Ricky Skaggs.
An active member of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Sierra has been performing in that organization’s annual convention showcases of young bluegrass talent since she was ten. As co-host (with Ryan Holladay) of IBMA’s educational DVD release Discover Bluegrass: Exploring American Roots Music, Sierra played an integral part in their effort to introduce young audiences to this uniquely American genre.
Her third album Daybreak was produced by Union Station’s Barry Bales and features some of the best singers and pickers in the bluegrass scene.
Mike Marshall grew up in Central Florida, where he developed his career playing traditional American music. His interest in many musicals styles however eventually led him to the San Francisco Bay Area to join the original David Grisman Quintet in 1978 at age 19. This band toured and recorded with the legendary jazz violinist Stephan Grappelli, Mark O’Connor and guitarist Tony Rice. They performed on the popular American TV program Johnny Carson Show that same year and toured Europe and Japan and helped set a new standard for American stringband music.
Since then Mike has continued pushing the boundaries of acoustic music and can be heard on hundreds of recordings as a composer featured artist sideman and producer.
Mike is one of the most accomplished and versatile string instrumentalists in American music today. A master on mandolin, guitar, mandocello and violin he has created adventurous instrumental music for over 30 years.
As a teacher, Mike founded a one week mandolin camp for in 2002 with his colleague David Grisman. The Mandolin Symposium takes place the last week of June at U.C. Santa Cruz with over 15 mandolinists and some of of the greatest players/teachers in the world.
Gator Strut (Rounder 1987) Chiaroscuro with Darol Anger (Windham Hill 1990)
Brasil: Duets (Rhino 1996)
Midnight Clear (Acorn 1998)
Short Trip Home with Joshua Bell (Sony 1999)
Wine Country (Menus and Music 2001)
At Home and On the Range (Compass 2002)
Into the Cauldron with Chris Thile (Sugar Hill 2003)
Serenata (Adventure Music 2003)
Mike Marshall & Choro Famoso (Adventure Music 2004)
The Duo with Darol Anger (Rounder Select 2005)
Brazil Duets (Adventure Music 2005)
Live: Duets with Chris Thile (Sugar Hill 2006) New Words [Novas Palavras] (Adventure Music 2006)
Mike Marshall and Darol Anger with Vasen (Adventure Music 2007)
Woodshop with Darol Anger (Adventure Music 2007)
Mike Marshall’s Big Trio with Alex Hargreaves and Paul Kowert (Adventure Music 2009) Caterina Lichtenberg and Mike Marshall (Adventure Music 2010)
An Adventure 1999-2009 (Adventure Music 2010)
Mike Marshall & The Turtle Island Quartet (Adventure Music 2014)
Chris Thile was born in Santa Mónica (California) on February 2, 1981. He’s a renowned mandolin virtuoso who has performed since a very young age with some of the biggest names in contemporary bluegrass. Chris was a founding member of The Grass is Greener with Richard Greene and David Grier and also a member of Nickel Creek together with Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins.
Thile began playing the mandolin at the age of 5 and started performing at California bluegrass festivals. At the age of 12 he won the prestigious national mandolin championship at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas in 1993. That same year Thile began recording his first solo album with mostly self-penned songs.
His third solo album Not All Who Wander Are Lost featured guest appearances by Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks and Edgar Meyer. Later, Thile teamed with mandolin master Mike Marshall for an album of duets called Into the Cauldron that included jazz, world music and the music of Bach.
“When you grow up with something you can become so familiar with it that you start to take it for granted ” Chris Thile said about his 2006 album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground. “And especially when you grow up playing it at a time when quite frankly you have nothing to express it’s easy to ignore as a more mature musician the expressive possibilities of that particular musical aesthetic—and they are great they are many. So I came to see that bluegrass was something that I was unfairly dismissing about my musicianship.
“Part of it was getting divorced and realizing that I was singing bluegrass heartbreak songs. That’s what would really resonate with me; those were the songs I was singing—’Bury Me Beneath The Willow ‘ ‘More Pretty Girls Than One.’ And another part of it was living in New York because for me at least New York demands that you find what it is about you that’s unique. There are so many talented people—exceptional people—that to stand out you either have to be completely average or really really different. And having been trained in the ways of bluegrass as a kid I realized how much that meant to me. I felt you can’t fight yourself—any time you’re fighting yourself you might not lose but you just can’t win. And I realized I do that well because that’s what I grew up with. So it signifies a return of sorts; I’m realizing what a meaningful part of my life that music is.”
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground included young musicians with a great reputation in bluegrass music, including fiddler Gabe Witcher whom Thile had met at the Follows Camp festival; banjo virtuoso Noam Pikelny; guitarist and singer Chris “Critter” Eldridge; and bassist Greg Garrison.
In the following years, Chris Thile collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, guitarist Michael Daves, Stuart Duncan and many other musicians. He also started a new band called The Punch Brothers.
In late 2016, Chris Thile became the new host of A Prairie Home Companion, a popular radio theater show featuring music, humor and storytelling that is broadcast by public radio stations across the United States.
This is a wholly contemporary release. While material predates familiar Belgian musical influences like Jacques Brel, Django Reinhardt and Toots Thielmans, MANdolinMan’s approach certainly shares those legends’ “what the hell, let’s try this different thing and see what happens” approach. This is a Belgian quartet, after all, and Belgians have that attitude.
Belgium is, after all the nation that once tried to get cats to deliver mail. For a few months, in and around Liège, in 1879, mailmen attached waterproof message bags to peoples’ pet felines, expecting them to go home, much as carrier pigeons had been used for centuries. “Unless the criminal class of dogs undertakes to waylay and rob the mail-cats, the messages will be delivered with rapidity and safety,” The New York Times reported. The work ethic of cats made the service unreliable, and the experiment was called off after a few months, but the experiment did take place. In Belgium.
What the hell, let’s try this different thing and see what happens. What happens with “Unfolding the Roots” is an experiment that works. As with “Fertile Paradoxes,” another new ARC Music release by MANdolinMAN’s labelmates, Amine & Hamza, The Band Beyond Borders, this CD takes world music to a different level, giving listeners something at least as much FOR the world as FROM a specific spot on the globe.
This is musicians’ music, accessible to all and particularly rewarding to those seeking fusion and harmony, but most welcome to other players interested in seeing what will and can work. The listener is not pushed by the band’s delivery to categorize these 12 cuts as polkas, waltzes, mazurkas and contra dances, but to turn the volume up and invite friends over for a drink. They are the Flemish, mandolin instrumental equivalent of England’s famous folk rock act, Steeleye Span.
Multi-instrumentalist Matt Flinner was born March 14, 1969 in Pueblo, Colorado. He started out as a banjo prodigy who performed at bluegrass festivals before he entered his teens. Flinner later learned mandolin, won the banjo contest at Winfield, Kansas, in 1990, and received the mandolin award there the following year.
Flinner’s decision to focus on eight-stringed instruments, especially the mandolin, was fundamentaly a result of opportunity. He explains, “I was getting more work on the mandolin.” Sugarbeat, an eclectic quartet that also featured banjoist Tony Furtado, lead vocalist and guitarist Ben Demerath, and bassist Sally Truitt allowed him the opportunity to master the mandolin in a contemporary folk and bluegrass context.
Flinner is now generally considered one of the finest mandolin players on the American acoustic music scene. He tours regularly with the Matt Flinner Trio, as a member of the ‘new acoustic’ trio Phillips, Grier & Flinner, as a member of Darrell Scott’s band, and with guitarist Frank Vignola (David Grisman Quintet). Flinner also special guests on banjo with Leftover Salmon and in the fall of 2008 was a featured soloist with Trey Anastasio and Carlo Aonzo during Orchestra Nashville’s performance of “Concertino” (Don Hart). He also appeared on comedian Steve Martin’s recording The Crow and the Vignola Collectives’ March 2009 release, Gypsy Grass.
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.
Juan José Robles – “Tiempo de espera” (self-release, 2016)
Juan José Robles is a Spanish composer and multi-instrumentalist who specializes in Spanish string instruments. He hails from Alhama de Murcia, a town in southeastern Spain, in a region called Murcia. While other Spanish regions export a considerable amount of music, there’s relatively little production coming out of Murcia and specifically the Alhama area.
“Tiempo de espera” is Roble’s first solo album and features a mix of original contemporary folk music pieces composed by Juan José Robles and traditional tunes re-arranged by Robles. His main inspiration is the folk music of his region, although he also incorporates elements from flamenco and other traditions.
For guitar and string players interested in less common Spanish string instruments, “Tiempo de espera” will be a great opportunity to “discover” some of them. On “Tiempo de espera”, Robles uses the familiar mandolin and Spanish guitar, but he also uses the less frequent bandurria, a 12-string lute that’s normally used to accompany other instruments although Robles uses it as a solo instrument. Another instrument used by Robles is the guitarro, a small guitar that is normally used to accompany Murcian cuadrillas (traditional folk groups). Robles also elevates this instrument to soloist status. And then there’s also the octavilla, another small guitar with 12 strings that has a great potential as a solo instrument.
Juan José Robles enriches his instrumentals and songs with instruments from other regions and traditions, such as the pandero cuadrado (square frame drum from western Spain), flamenco palmas (handclap percussion), flamenco guitar, flamenco cajón, zanfona (hurdy gurdy), kalimba and electric bass.
The álbum lineup includes Juan José Robles on mandolin, Spanish guitar, laúd (Spanish lute), octavilla, bandurria and guitarro; Óscar Esteban on panderetas (tambourines); Pablo Orenes on acoustic and electric bass; Constantino López on acoustic guitar and mandola; Jero Galián on Spanish guitar; Pepe Ludeña on fiddle; José Antonio Aarnoutse on flamenco guitar; Dani Valera on palmas; Carlos Beceiro on zanfona; Roberto Cubero on mandolin; Carmen María Martínez Salazar and Jaime Lafuente vocals.
Juan José Robles has played with a wide range of traditional groups, contemporary folk music bands and singer-songwriters, including Malvariche, Mujeres con Raíz, Villa de Alhama, Orquesta Camerata Aguilar, Manuel Luna’s cuadrilla Maquilera, La banda del Pepo, and la Ronda de Motilleja.
“Tiempo de espera” was worth the wait. It’s a beautifully-crafted album rooted in Murcian tradition by the talented Juan José Robles.
The 2016 edition of the Iberoamerican Music Expo (EXIB) opened May 4th in Evora, Portugal. Evora is a beautiful walled city, a UNESCO world heritage site that includes numerous monuments spanning centuries. Evora is located in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It’s part of Portugal’s heartland and is defined by its rural nature. For the EXIB opening, organizers treated the audience to a mix of southern Portuguese traditional and contemporary folk music.
The concert at the Teatro Garcia de Resende started with the Grupo Coral e Etnográfico Cantares de Évora, marching through the center aisle towards the stage. This group of talented male and female singers, perform dressed in various costumes reflecting various social strata and professions from the mid-20th century, including traditional farmer, cowboy, and shepherd attire.
They perform traditional cante alentejano, an a cappella style that celebrates rural life. Grupo Coral e Etnográfico Cantares de Évora perform “old style”, without any modern arrangements to the traditional music poems.
A series of short videos were screened, in between performances, highlighting Evora, farm life, the enthralling sheep bell makers and other aspects of the local culture.
One of the great artists from the region, accordionist and vocalist Celina Da Piedade appeared next, accompanying herself on accordion. She was later joined by Há Lobos sem ser na Serra musicians, who accompanied Celina on guitar, drums and vocals.
Celina is a conservatory-trained musician and specializes in music from the Alentejo region. In addition to her talent as a passionate singer, she is also a virtuoso accordionist, playing beautiful melodies inspired by the Alentejo region. She participates and leads numerous workshops and has performed abroad. She leads weekly gatherings of Cante Alentejano in Casa do Alentejo, Lisbon. Celina has participated in over 50 recordings as well as soundtracks for film, theater and dance. She is currently part of the celebrated collective TaisQuais that includes some of the biggest names in Portuguese music: Vitorino, Tim, Sebastião, Serafim, Jorge Palma, Paulo Ribeiro and João Gil. They released a critically acclaimed album titled “Os fabulosos Tais Quais”.
Há Lobos sem ser na Serra played next. They represent a new generation of cante alentejano musicians. Their sound is rooted in tradition although the arrangements take the music into exciting new directions. While the band plays, a graphic artists paints desings on a video screen.
Há Lobos sem ser na Serra use the 8-shaped guitar called viola campaniça. It’s a rare guitar from Alentejo with a peculiar mouth that nearly disappeared in the 1960s. It has unusual tunings and the band extracts unexpected sounds and some jazz elements. Band members include António Bexiga on viola campaniça; Bernardo ‘Buba’ Espinho on vocals and drum; and David Pereira on viola campaniça and vocals.
One of Portugal’s most cherished singer-songwriters, João Afonso, performed accompanied by various guitars. João Afonso plays contemporary folk music and pop inspired by various Portuguese traditions. We have a João Afonso artist profile that you can read for additional information.
Two string masters participated in the event, accompanying João Afonso, playing solos and mesmerizing interplay. Luis Peixoto is a multi-instrumentalist who plays various string instruments and also mixes folk music with electronics. For this occasion he used the tiny cavaquinho, which is one of the ancestors of the ukulele.
Juan José Robles, from southeastern Spain, was one of the two international guests. He’s also multi-instrumentalist specialized in string instruments and the folk music from the Murcia region. He used the mandolina (mandolin), octavilla (a guitar from La Mancha) and a guitarro valenciano.
Carlos Malta’s flute sounds entered the theater down the center aisle. The Brazilian wind instrument master brought the sounds of South America and joined the rest of the musicians for several beautiful songs that were very familiar to the Portuguese members of the audience, who sang along.
The EXIB 2016 opening concert was a superb introduction to the music of Alentejo.
American mandolinist Chris Thile will replace author and storyteller Garrison Keillor as the new host of A Prairie Home Companion. Starting October 15, 2016, Thile will host a new 30-week season with 13 new, live broadcasts, produced shows and repeats on public radio stations throughout the United States.
The only live music and variety show currently aired in the United States, A Prairie Home Companion is a popular Saturday night radio presentation. The show includes musical performances and comedy.
A Prairie Home Companion will continue to be broadcast live on Saturday nights from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as from theaters across the United States. Each of the new live shows will contain a mix of well-known and up-and-coming musicians, humor with sketch comedy and spoken word, plus an original “Song of the Week” composed by Thile.
Multi-instrumentalist, chef and singer-songwriter Frank Solivan dedicates his solo album Family, Friends & Heroes to his family. The album features a wonderful mix of original songs, covers and traditional pieces arranged by Solivan.
Throughout Family, Friends & Heroes, Solivan showcases his talent as a vocalist as well as a skilled instrumentalist on the mandolin, fiddle and guitar. Although Family, Friends & Heroes is rooted in bluegrass, Solivan incorporates jazz improvisation, American folk, Celtic music, blues and rock influences.
In the liner notes, Frank Solivan explains that he had planned to record a full album with his mother, Lorene Solivan. She passed away in 2014 so the project will never become a reality. However, Solivan was fortunate to record Lorene Solivan on one song, an exquisitely moving version of the popular traditional song “Wayfaring Stranger.”
Frank Solivan includes other members of his gifted family on Family, Friends & Heroes, such as his father Frank Solivan Sr. and cousins Megan McCormick (vocals, guitar), Teresa Michel (vocals), John Cruz (low harmony vocals) and Ernie Cruz, Jr. (high harmony vocals).
The impressive list of special guests featured in the recording include members of Dirty Kitchen (banjo master Mike Munford and guitarist Chris Luquette) together with Sam Bush (mandolin), John Cowan (Vocals), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Rob Ickes (dobro), Del McCoury (vocals), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Danny Booth (bass), Leon Alexander (percussion), Mike Bub (bass), and Jim Hurst (guitar).
Family, Friends & Heroes features exceptionally expressive vocals by a extraordinary cast of singers as well as dazzling acoustic interplay by some of the finest contemporary bluegrass musicians.
Album Release Tour
March 11 — Me & Thee Coffeehouse – Marblehead, MA
March 12 — Caffe Lena – Saratoga Springs, NY
March 13 — Riverfolk Concerts – Honesdale, PA
March 19 — The Hamilton: CD Release Celebration (with Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley & others) – Washington D.C.
March 26 — Anodyne Coffee Roasting – Milwaukee, WI
March 31 — Isis Music Hall – Asheville, NC
April 1 — The Station Inn – Nashville, TN
April 23 — Birthplace of Country Music Museum – Bristol, VA
May 1 — Black Rock Arts Center – Germantown, MD
May 20 — Nelson Odeon – Cazenovia, NY
May 21 — Nelson Odeon – Cazenovia, NY