Saturday, April 28, 2007
Norman and Nancy Blake
Norman and Nancy Blake's engaging brand of roots-based music has made them a favorite with fans worldwide and earned them multiple Grammy nominations and overwhelming critical acclaim. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and raised in the north Georgia town of Sulphur Springs, Norman Blake was only 16 when he left home to play in his first band, the Dixie Drifters. Over the past five decades, he has become one of the best traditional guitarists to ever wield a flatpick, not to mention his skill on mandolin, fiddle and dobro. As session player or sideman, Norman has worked with everyone from June Carter and Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Hartford and others. His first solo album, Home in Sulphur Springs, was released in 1972. Meanwhile, Missouri-born Nancy Blake began studying cello at age 12. After high school, she moved to Nashville and played for a season with the Nashville Youth Symphony. But she was developing a liking for traditional music. She and Norman met at Nashville's Exit/In her band was booked as his opening act. Soon after, their relationship (musical and otherwise) blossomed. In addition to cello, Nancy plays mandolin, fiddle, guitar, bass and single-row accordion. Between the two of them, Norman and Nancy have recorded some three dozen albums. Their latest CDs are 2005's Back Home in Sulphur Springs (Plectrafone Records) and Shacktown Road (Plectrafone Records), recorded with Tut Taylor and released earlier this year. Joining the Blakes are fiddler James Bryan and his daughter Rachel Bryan on guitar.
When blues guitarist Jake Fussell was growing up in Columbus, Georgia, he liked to tag along with his dad. Lucky for Jake his dad, Fred Fussell, is folklorist and documentary photographer who specializes in the study of the traditional culture of the American South. When Fred sought out musicians in the area, young Jake began to pick up the guitar styles of the lower Chattahoochee Valley of Georgia and Alabama and other areas of the rural Deep South. By the time he reached his teens, he had teamed up with a Columbus bluegrass band, but he continued to soak up blues technique from the likes of blueswoman Precious Bryant (with whom he has recorded and toured), Alabama guitarist Albert Macon and others. Now living in Oxford, Mississippi, Jake is enrolled in the Southern Studies program at University of Mississippi. In his spare time, he plays in various bands and does solo gigs around Oxford.
Singing the music they love-be it bluegrass, folk, old-time, or acoustic country#Robin and Linda Williams have carved out a three-decade career that has taken them from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. Their first album came out on a small Minnesota-based record label in 1975, the same year they debuted on public radio's A Prairie Home Companion. As half of The Hopeful Gospel Quartet, they have collaborated on several CDs, including Garrison Keillor & The Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Sony) and Climbing Up on the Rough Side (Highbridge Audio). They've have written dozens of terrific songs, ones that have been covered by Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Tim & Mollie O'Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, The Seldom Scene and others. Robin and Linda's latest CDs are Deeper Waters and The First Christmas Gift, both on Red House Records.
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).