Saturday, June 11, 2005
Hopeful Gospel QuartetRobin & Linda Williams, Mollie O'Brien, Garrison Keillor
The Hopefuls describe themselves simply: "The Hopeful Gospel Quartet began its career backstage at Prairie Home shows, when we stood waiting for the balloon to go up and sang to pass the time and found out that we all like gospel songs and that they sound wonderful in a stairwell. And at heart we are still a stairwell quartet, searching for the sound. Radio City had a great booming stairway, the Fox Theatre in St. Louis had a good one, and also the Flynn in Burlington, Vermont. Somewhere in backstage America, we feel, the Spirit had a stairway for us, with the exact perfect landing with the right plaster walls and just the right angles. When you sing in a great stairwell, it doesn't feel as if the music comes out of you as much as it comes through you, and that is the true gospel vision: to be an instrument. We're still looking, and we remain hopeful." Having always sung gospel music, in the late 1980s Robin & Linda Williams teamed up with their old friend Garrison Keillor to form The Hopeful Gospel Quartet. Rounding out the ensemble is Mollie O'Brien who has performed at every major acoustic music festival and venue in the United States. Together they have released two albums: Climbing Up on the Rough Side, (1998, HighBridge) and Garrison Keillor & the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (1992, Sony Music Entertainment) and toured the USA, British Isles and Europe. For three decades now, Robin & Linda Williams have made it their mission to perform the music that they love, "a robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country that combines wryly observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism." Mollie O'Brien grew up in Wheeling, WV, sowed some oats in New York, NY, and has spent most of her adult life in Denver, CO. These three different places are mirrored in her repertoire and tonal palette.
Elana FremermanShe is from Prairie Village, Kansas, and grew up playing violin from the age of five; her parents were violinists in the Kansas City Symphony. She studied classical music in New York City and a style of North Indian music for a while, in India, and worked in Kathmandu, Nepal; returned to the U.S. and worked as a horse wrangler in Colorado and played in a cowboy band. It wasn't until 1994 that she discovered Western Swing; she and guitarist Whit Smith formed the Hot Club of Cowtown in San Diego in 1996, originally a duo playing traditional swing and originals; they moved to Austin, Texas, added a bass player and recorded their first album Swingin' Stampede! in 1998. They toured for seven years, culminating in a gig as the opening act for Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan's "Field of Dreams" tour in the summer of 2004, where they played the minor league baseball stadiums of 22 cities. Dylan hired her for his Spring 2005 tour; she has energized the band and generated enthusiasm from music critics all across the country.
Cindy CashdollarShe was born and raised in Woodstock, NY, and has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1992. She was a member of Asleep at the Wheel for eight years, during which time they won five Grammys; in 2003 she was named the Academy of Western Artists' Instrumentalist of the Year and inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame. She has toured, jammed and recorded with the legends: Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Leon Redbone, Rosie Flores, Graham Parker, BeauSoleil, Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Levon Helm, Sonny Landreth, Marcia Ball; and lately with the Guy's All Star Shoe Band. She has played on forty-one albums; her debut solo CD, released on Silver Shot Records in 2003, is called Slide Show.
Tonic Sol-FaShaun Johnson, lead; Greg Bannwarth, tenor; Mark McGowan, baritone; Jared Dove, bass
This a cappella quartet hailing from Minnesota, have been riding on a wave of successful appearances across the US since their performance on A Prairie Home Companion at the Minnesota State Fair last year. The group has been together for ten years and of that Greg, Shaun, Mark and Jared have been together for six. As for the name, Tonic Sol-Fa, Jared jokes that "It can only be blamed on heavy drinking." To promote their soon-to-be nationally released cd, Boston To Beijing, (Vivaton Records) Tonic Sol-Fa are encouraging their fans to host listening parties, similar to the old "Tupperware Party." A portion of every CD purchased in pre-release will be donated to breast cancer research, a cause the guys passionately wish to support.
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).