An Eclectic Mix
Jo Serrapere and the Hot Tail Section

December 15, 2001
By Russ Ringsak
Hard to find either a niche or an adjective for a group with this much stylistic range, from Appalachia to New Orleans, to New York and Paris, but considering their collective background it's not that surprising: a guitarist with rock and roll roots and classical training; a bassist who used to hang out with Wolfman Jack; a drummer who teaches English at the University of Detroit; and a singer with a background in clinical psychology.

So it's natural that their interests would run to everything from the 1930's jazz of the Hot Club of France to mountain folk songs and acoustic blues, taking influences from Mississippi John Hurt, Louie Prima, Bessie Smith, Nat King Cole and Tom Waits. They are reputed to occasionally slip into alternative rock, a category so vague nobody has ever successfully defined it; a country cynic's example of it might be a bar band experiencing a train wreck, but it doesn't sound like that when these folks do it.

Jo has been busy lately, so busy that last February she was involved in five different CD projects at once: a live album with the Hot Tail Section, a solo album in a Rock/Experimental vein, an acoustic album with bluegrass songwriter K.C. Groves, called She Went Upstairs, a solo old-time blues album with a little guitar help, and a then-secret project with Lisa Hunter and others, referred to at the time as "disturbed individuals."

She and the band have played numerous festivals in the past three years: the Finger Lakes Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg, NY, the Grape Jam Festival in Erie, PA, the South Florida Folk Festival in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Farmfest in Johannesburg, MI and the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, CT. All this and the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, plus a whole lot of club dates, touring the eastern half of the country from Florida to Texas, Michigan to Massachusetts.

She was naed as an official showcase artist at the 1998 North American Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, Tennessee and won the songwriting competition at the 1999 South Florida Folk Festival for "Best Ballad" with her song Dream My Girl; and she won 'Best Vocalist" in the acoustic music category at the 1999 Detroit Music Awards.

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A writer and truck driver, Russ Ringsak has been with A Prairie Home Companion since 1974.

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