Special Guests
Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nick Curry

Cellist Nick Curry is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion. He joined the faculty in 2004. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Nick earned a bachelor's degree in music from Vanderbilt University. He went on to study at Northwestern University, where he earned his master's degree and a Ph.D., writing his dissertation on the similarities between playing an instrument and playing sports—both the mental and physical aspects. In addition to teaching, Nick plays in the Rawlins Piano Trio, an ensemble specializing in American music from the Romantic period. The Trio has recorded three CDs. The most recent is titled American Romance (Albany Records). Nick's accompanist on piano is Susan Keith Gray, Associate Professor of Music and member of the Rawlins Piano Trio. A member of the faculty at the University of South Dakota since 1995, Susan holds degrees in Piano Performance from Converse College and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Doctor of Musical Arts in Chamber Music and Accompanying from The University of Michigan. She is the 2005 recipient of the university's prestigious Belbas-Larson Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The Del McCoury Band

When Del McCoury was growing up in York County, Pennsylvania, he learned music from his mother, Hazel, a church organist who also played guitar, piano and harmonica. And he never missed a chance to tune in to the Grand Ole Opry. But when his older brother bought a 78-rpm record of Flatt and Scruggs, that was it. Del started playing bluegrass and, a half-century later, has never looked back. In 1963, Bill Monroe asked McCoury to play in his band, The Blue Grass Boys. He played guitar and sang lead vocals with Monroe and traveled with him for a year before quitting the band and getting married. After a brief stint in California with the Golden State Boys, McCoury ended up back in Pennsylvania, working at a sawmill and playing music on weekends. As his boys got older, they began playing with their dad in his band, the Dixie Pals. Ronnie joined the band in 1981 and Rob followed in 1988. The Del McCoury Band formed in the early 1990s. The group has won numerous honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA), including being named Entertainer of the Year eight times (nine, if you include Del's solo win). This year, after six nominations since 1983, the Del McCoury Band won a Grammy Award for their 2005 album The Company We Keep (McCoury Music). A new, all-gospel album, The Promised Land, will be released later this year. The band: Del McCoury, guitar; Ronnie McCoury, mandolin; Rob McCoury, banjo; Jason Carter, fiddle; Alan Bartram, bass.

The Hopeful Gospel Quartet

As the Hopeful Gospel Quartet (Garrison Keillor, Robin and Linda Williams, and Carol Elizabeth Jones) explains it, the group "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." Now, countless gigs (and a couple of personnel changes) later, they are still finding great four-part harmonies in stairwells and on stages across the country.

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. They've have written dozens of terrific songs, ones that have been covered by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, Tim & Mollie O'Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, and The Seldom Scene. Robin and Linda's latest CDs are Deeper Waters and The First Christmas Gift, both on Red House Records.

Carol Elizabeth Jones hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She has made her mark as a singer of traditional mountain music and as a writer of new songs in the old tradition. She has recorded several acclaimed albums of original material. Ridin' Along (Yodel-Ay-Hee Records), released this year, is a collection of classic country and bluegrass duets with Laurel Bliss.

Becky Schlegel

Becky Schlegel took piano lessons all through her childhood. She sang in choir and, while still in junior high, she joined her mother's professional country band, The Country Benders. But when a college friend gave Becky Schlegel three Reno and Smiley albums, the die was cast: She became addicted to bluegrass music. She left South Dakota, her home state, and moved to Minnesota. That was a dozen years ago, and since then, Becky has become a big favorite in the Upper Midwest's bluegrass, country and acoustic rock scenes. Becky formed the band True Blue in March 1997. The following year, they released their debut CD, This Lonesome Song, which was nominated for 1998 Bluegrass Recording of the Year by the Minnesota Music Academy, and they did win the Bluegrass Band of the Year award for 2000. Becky's second CD, Red Leaf, came out in 2001. That year, Becky was awarded Bluegrass/Old-Time Artist of the Year at the Minnesota Music Awards. She repeated the honor in 2002, 2003 and 2004. She was selected to showcase at the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass in 1999 and at the 2005 IBMA Songwriters' Showcase. Becky's most recent CD is Drifter Like Me, released last year. It was included on the 2005 Top-10 lists of a number of Twin Cities reviewers. Brian Fesler is Becky's accompanist.

Chuck Suchy

Chuck Suchy is a folksinger, songwriter and storyteller. He's also a working farmer on the land along the Missouri River south of Mandan, North Dakota, where he was born and raised. Back in 1982, an acquaintance gave him a tape of Canadian troubadour Stan Rogers singing his classic "Field Behind the Plow." Suchy says, "It was at that moment that I realized that the life I was immersed in was worthy of song." That was the start of his songwriting career, and he continues write and perform his compositions celebrating the Great Plains region and lifestyle. As Acoustic Guitar Magazine wrote, "This is country music with its fingers in the soil and its heart heading down the highway on an Indian motorcycle." The most recent of Chuck's five CDs is titled Evening In Paris (Little Bluestem Records).

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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