Saturday, October 22, 2005
The Wailin' JennysWhen three solo performers with powerful voices joined forces for a one-time gig in 2002, everything changed. The collaboration was a huge success, surprising everyone including themselves. Dubbed The Wailin' Jennys, the three went on tour and within a few weeks the word was out: people were calling them "a bona fide Canadian sensation." The group's current members are soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta, and alto (and newest Jenny) Annabelle Chvostek. The Wailin' Jennys' critically acclaimed CD 40 Days won a 2005 Juno Award.
Bill Hinkley and Judy LarsonGarrison Keillor first heard Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson playing in the lobby of a south Minneapolis theater in 1972. The couple's association with A Prairie Home Companion dates back to July 6, 1974, the first show. Bill plays numerous instruments and his friends swear there isn't a song - any style, any period - he doesn't know. Judy's vocals and guitar accompaniment are truly irresistible. Together they dabble in blues, old-time, vintage jazz, Nordic folk, Latin and Irish music, and a jug band tune every now and then. In 1999 Bill was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and in 2000 he and Judy received a lifetime achievement award from the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association. Their CD, Out in Our Meadow, is on Red House Records.
Mila Vocal EnsembleThe Twin Cities-based Mila Vocal Ensemble embraces the traditions of more than 30 countries and a dozen distinct vocal styles. While grounded in the harmonic traditions of Eastern Europe, their repertoire also includes music from Central and Western Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The group's members all hail from unique musical backgrounds and have studied with renowned vocalists from Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia, Spain, and Ukraine. Among them, the singers of Mila speak nearly a dozen languages. The Mila Vocal Ensemble's latest CD, V Gradinata (To the Garden), is due out next month. Mila is: Carol Bauer, Andrea Christy, Anne Lies, Natalie Nowytski, Kathryn Ream, Alana Rogers, Jana Stow, Gabriela Sweet, and Aleksandra Veriga.
Prudence JohnsonHer 25-year career in music has taken her from nightclubs and honky-tonks to Carnegie Hall, from the theater stage to the Silver Screen (Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It), from the Midwest to the Middle East. She is a regularly featured guest on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, heard across the country on public radio stations. Her ten album releases include Little Dreamer, a collection of international lullabies, Moon Country, which features the music of Hoagy Carmichael, and S'Gershwin, a collaboration with pianist Dan Chouinard. She recently collaborated with four Minnesota composers to create A Girl Named Vincent, a presentation of the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay set to music, to be released on CD this year. She is a 2001 recipient of the McKnight Artists Fellowship for Performing Musicians and enjoys a steady schedule of concert appearances across the country.
John NiemannHe got started in music at the right time and place, and for the right reasons; he was in high school and there were girls there. He began with Leo Fender's gift to the world, the electric bass, and started a rock and roll band. In college he discovered acoustic music on the West Bank in Minneapolis and learned the guitar, fiddle and mandolin, eventually finding himself playing a 1920s Gibson mandocello in Peter Ostroushko's band, the Mando Boys. He played kick-butt fiddle for seven years in the Stoney Lonesome bluegrass band, did a number of guitar gigs with various honkytonk bands around the cities, and for three years was in "the house band at a place called Billy Bob's, or something," at Riverplace. After years spent as a road musician and working in construction, he has settled into the relatively quiet St. Paul life of a finish carpenter. He keeps his music honed with jam sessions in the basement.
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).