Special Guests
Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mike Dowling

Mike Dowling was raised in central Wisconsin and began his professional musical career in high school. He had spent a lot of time playing along with his parents' records; he recruited a couple of friends into an electric guitar band, never expecting that it would lead someday to playing with the likes of Joe Venuti and Vassar Clements.

He worked at it, ultimately moving to Nashville and becoming a sideman, a session player, band leader, a solo act and a composer. He had a string of song-writing successes in his ten years in the Music City, tunes recorded by Emmy Lou Harris, the Nashville Bluegrass Band, Tim O'Brien, Kathy Mattea, Claire Lynch and Del McCoury; he and his wife Jan wrote a #1 hit for Canadian country artist George Fox. And he's recorded three instructional videos on the Homespun label. His fourth CD album, String Crazy, was released in 2000.

The Dowlings moved to DuBois, Wyoming, in the fall of 1996, where he set up Wind River Guitar in their home, a school for master instruction in fingerstyle, flatpicking and slide guitar. He is still composing music and still touring; he'll be in England for most of the month of April.

He has received high praise from a lot of places: Vassar Clements said "Mike's one of the finest guitar players there is, anywhere," and Jethro Burns said: "I don't play guitar when Mike's in the band. You don't take the game warden fishing."

Greg Brown

Greg Brown’s mother played electric guitar, his grandfather played banjo, and his father was a Holy Roller preacher in the Hacklebarney section of Iowa, where the Gospel and music are a way of life. Brown’s first professional singing job came at age 18 in New York City, running hootenannies (folksinger get-togethers) at the legendary Gerdes Folk City. After a year, Brown moved west to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where he was a ghostwriter for Buck Ram, founder of the Platters. Tired of the fast-paced life, Brown traveled with a band for a few years, and even quit playing for a while before he moved back to Iowa and began writing songs and playing in midwestern clubs and coffeehouses. Brown’s songwriting has been lauded by many, and his songs have been performed by Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, Michael Johnson, Shawn Colvin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. He has also recorded more than a dozen albums, including his 1986 release, Songs of Innocence and of Experience, when he put aside his own songwriting to set poems of William Blake to music. One Big Town, recorded in 1989, earned Brown three and a half stars in Rolling Stone, chart-topping status in AAA and The Gavin Report’s Americana rankings and Brown’s first Indie Award from NAIRD (National Association of Independent Record Distributors). The Poet Game, his 1994 CD, received another Indie award from NAIRD. His critically acclaimed 1996 release, Further In, was a finalist for the same award. Rolling Stone’s four-star review of Further In called Brown “a wickedly sharp observer of the human condition.” 1997’s Slant 6 Mind (Red House Records) earned Brown his second Grammy nomination. Brown’s two most recent recordings are Covenant (Red House) and Over and Under (Trailer Records). Brown also recently added author to his resumé. His new book, The Watsonville Sonata, was introduced to the public at a reading on October 16.

The Nashville Bluegrass Band

Since making their debut in 1985, The Nashville Bluegrass Band has become one of the most popular and widely respected bluegrass bands working today. They have appeared in a variety of U.S. venues, including a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall and a series of performances from Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. The group was the first of its genre to play in mainland China, and they continue to appear before international audiences in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Asia. They have performed with Lyle Lovett and Mary Chapin Carpenter, recently recorded with both Bernadette Peters and Clint Black, provided the entertainment at Wynonna’s wedding reception, and sang back-up for Johnny Cash on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. The group was also involved in the making of the Coen brothers’ new movie, Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? They have appeared on NBC’s The Today Show and TNN’s Music City Tonight. Their latest CD, American Beauty (Sugar Hill), is the long-awaited follow-up to their 1995 Grammy Award-winning recording, Unleashed (Sugar Hill) and features Bob Dylan’s “Livin’ the Blues” and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ “Red Clay Halo.” The band’s other albums include Waitin’ for the Hard Times To Go, The Boys Are Back In Town, and Home Of The Blues (all on Sugar Hill). Members of the band are: Alan O’Bryant (banjo), Pat Enright (guitar), Roland White (mandolin), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Gene Libbea (acoustic bass).

Hopeful Gospel Quartet

The Hopeful Gospel Quartet was formed when four friends discovered their shared interest in gospel music; they were standing around backstage, waiting for one of the Prairie Home Companion shows to begin ,and one of them began to sing. The others joined in, and since then the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, or the Hopefuls, have toured with Chet Atkins and performed at Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, The Universal Amphitheatre, and at The Great Prairie Home Hymn-Sing Festival in Moorhead, Minnesota. The Hopefuls have released two albums titled Garrison Keillor & the Hopeful Gospel Quartet, and their most recent, Climbing Up on the Rough Side. The current members of the Hopeful Gospel Quartet are Mollie O'Brien, Garrison Keillor, and Robin and Linda Williams.

Jearlyn Steele

Jearlyn Steele started singing with her siblings in the aptly named group The Steele Children. The children sang in churches, concert halls, and on radio and television across the state of Indiana. Jearlyn left the Hoosier state to attend the University of Minnesota and, one by one, the rest of her brothers and sisters followed. For fun, they started singing together again as The Steeles. The public wanted more, and so the family turned to singing full-time, which they've been doing for more than a decade. In 1983, the Steeles sang in Gospel at Colonus at the Guthrie Theater. The show toured and ended up on Broadway in 1988. Jearlyn has recorded many local and national commercials, and has been heard on various albums with top acts like George Clinton and Prince.

Prudence Johnson

Prudence Johnson's career in music has taken her from stage (honky-tonks to Carnegie Hall) to silver screen (Robert Redford's A River Runs Through It to Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion). As one music critic put it, "[There's] not a genre she hasn't interpreted with her ducky, sensual alto voice and terminally good taste." Her 10 album releases include Moon Country, featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael, and 'S Gershwin with pianist Dan Chouinard. Collaborating with four Minnesota composers, she created A Girl Named Vincent, the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay set to music and scheduled for CD release. Prudence also appears on (and produced) a recording of Gales of November, the concert version of the play Ten November, chronicling the sinking of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald. The CD is on the Sleeper label.

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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