Special Guests
Saturday, May 11, 1996

Kate Mackenzie has been a favorite guest of A Prairie Home Companion since 1981. Until last summer, she was lead singer of Stoney Lonesome, with whom she recorded six bluegrass albums, toured Japan and North America, and was featured in the public television series, Showcase. With the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, MacKenzie has recorded a live album from Carnegie Hall, performed at folk festivals in Scotland and Denmark, and performed on PBS' Austin City Limits. Her work with A Prairie Home Companion has included coast-to-coast tours, farewell and reunion shows, 20 Disney Channel television broadcasts, the 1993 Book of Guys tour, and a recurring dramatic role as Sheila, the Christian Jungle girl (wild, yet pure). Her solo album, Let Them Talk (Red House Records), was on the National Bluegrass Charts for 10 months. MacKenzie's success was noted in The New York Times, which grouped MacKenzie in "the new wave of strong female voices." Recently, she began work on a new album.

Michael Cleveland is fifteen years old and has been playing the fiddle for a more than a decade. He began classical violin lessons when he entered kindergarten at the Kentucky School for the Blind in his hometown: Louisville, Kentucky. The classical music didn't appeal to him, but he liked the violin-so he incorporated the techniques that he learned in school as he played along with bluegrass music at home. Cleveland's grandparents had been taking him to bluegrass festivals since he was an infant, and some of the bluegrass pickers began to show him some of their techniques. By the time Cleveland turned 13, he had captured several fiddle championships. In 1990, he appeared at Bill Monroe's renowned Bean Blossom Festival. A few years later, Alison Krauss welcomed him onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Cleveland also is known for his expertise on the mandolin and guitar; he has recently begun to play the banjo. His most recent album is One for Mac, dedicated to Kentucky fiddler Mac McBane, who has encouraged and inspired Cleveland over the years.

Solas came together about a year ago to play a couple of festival performances. The five had known each other for some time and soon they became a band. The group's debut album, Solas, was just released on Shanachie Records. Solas is led by Seamus Egan, who-at age 27-is already counted as one of the premier Irish musicians in the world. Born in Philadelphia, he and his Irish family returned to the Old Country when he was three. He soon started music lessons, and by the time he was 14, he had won the prestigious All-Ireland competition on four separate instruments: flute, tin whistle, banjo, and mandolin. His music was widely heard last year on the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed film, The Brothers McMullen. His newest solo CD is When the Juniper Sleeps (Shanachie). The group's lead singer, Karan Casey, is originally from Waterford, Ireland. She is currently working on a solo album. John Doyle (guitar) was born in Dublin and has become the favored accompanist for many top Irish instrumentalists. Winifred Horan (fiddle) is an expert fiddler who was working with the band Cherish the Ladies when she began playing with Solas. Earlier this year, she toured with the Sharon Shannon Band. John Williams (button accordion) is a former All-Ireland champion on the concertina. A Chicago native, Williams is active in Chicago's strong Irish music circles.

Chris Thile, like Michael Cleveland, is from Kentucky and is 15 years old. The two of them met a few years ago and have occasionally played together. Thile is from Murray, Kentucky, and his parents started taking him along to weekly bluegrass concerts when he was only a year old. Thus, Thile was already quite familiar with the mandolin when he began taking lessons at the age of five. In fact, the lessons started when Thile offered a mandolinist his entire collection of quarters (ten) in exchange for a mandolin. Needless to say, the offer wasn't accepted, but the mandolinist instead offered to give lessons to Thile. Thile's mandolin playing has been heard at festivals for several years now. His virtuosity has earned him awards and championships at many festivals, including the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas. He's twice captured the Arizona State Mandolin Championship. Thile also plays fiddle, banjo, and guitar-in 1994, his guitar-playing won him the Arizona State Guitar Championship. He also writes much of his own material: his current CD, Leading Off (Sugar Hill), includes eight original songs. His album's title is an homage to his non-music life: Thile collects baseball cards and is an avid baseball fan and player.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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