Special Guests
Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cory Chisel

Raised in Elko, Wisconsin, and now based in Appleton, singer-songwriter Cory Chisel developed his music interest in the church where his father was a Baptist minister and his mother played piano during services. His uncle's record collection, which included the likes of Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker, was a goldmine too. You can hear those childhood influences in his debut EP, Cabin Ghosts — a spare Americana-saturated sound that blends folk-country and Delta blues. A full-length album, Mockingbird, is due out this summer.

American Fiction

When he's making music, he goes by American Fiction. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he's pursuing a degree in religious studies, he's likely to go by his given name, Ethan Cook. Growing up in Appleton, he sang in church and played saxophone in jazz bands. But he was always intent on writing and performing his own material. And so he does — in clubs and coffeehouses and less predictable locations. (His fans won't soon forget his winter concert performed in the middle of a frozen Lake Mendota.) He has released a five-song EP, Devil's Casino, and a full-length album, Lakes.

Dance Billy Dance

Around Wisconsin, a band called Dance Billy Dance is making quite a name for itself. Since this Appleton-based pop/rock group formed in 2006, they have kept up a busy schedule of writing, distributing their music online, and playing events throughout the state — and they have developed a strong fan following as a result. All this while three of the four members are still in high school. Dance Billy Dance is: Matt Schmitz (guitar), Mark Stewart (guitar), Ryan Doney (bass) and Matt Hoffman (drums).

Jonathan Eddy

Jonathan Eddy started playing violin about the same time he started school. Fast-forward 15 years and this gifted musician is now a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point majoring in violin performance and studying with Professor Steve Bjella. (He also studied for eight years with Janet Bond-Sutter.) He hopes to go on to grad school and then land a full-time orchestra position. Meanwhile, he plays with various ensembles, including the Fox Valley Symphony, Green Bay Symphony Orchestra, and Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra.

Helen Exner

Pianist/songstress Helen Exner began piano lessons at age five and wrote her first song at eight. While she is classically trained, her fans can tell you that her performances are apt to include pop tunes from the 1930s and '40s, jazz, blues, Motown, gospel or her own compositions. She is a prize-winning composer whose choral work "Tiller of the Soil" was commissioned in honor of Wisconsin's sesquicentennial. Helen's self-titled debut album came out in 2006; her latest recording, Sunrise, was released last year.

Greg Waters

"It's about everybody having a little fun and getting down to the roots," guitarist Greg Waters says of his music. He and his band the Broad Street Boogie do just that, moving from jazz/funk to Southern rock. It's this sort of diversity and passion for music that has captivated audiences throughout the Midwest. Waters has been plying his trade for a couple of decades, including 14 years as frontman for the Cool Waters Band. He has recorded a dozen-plus albums; the most recent is titled Disappear. Mike Underwood (drums) and Marc Golde (keyboard).

Guy's All-Star Shoe Band

The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band is led by A Prairie Home Companion music director Richard Dworsky. A masterful keyboard player, composer and improviser in any style, he writes all the script themes and underscores, and he has accompanied guests from James Taylor to Renée Fleming. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me.

Chet Atkins called Pat Donohue (guitar) one of the greatest finger pickers in the world today. And he writes songs too — recorded by Suzy Bogguss, Kenny Rogers and others. Freewayman (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's nine albums.

Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with the Count Basie band, Sammy Davis Jr. — with whom he toured for several years — and the Minnesota Klezmer Band. He teaches jazz bass at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.

Peter Johnson (percussion) has played klezmer music with Doc Severinsen and jazz with Dave Brubeck. He was a drummer for The Manhattan Transfer and for Gene Pitney. He has toured the world, but he always comes back to home base: Saint Paul.

Andy Stein (violin, saxophone) definitely has far-flung musical leanings. He collaborated with Garrison Keillor to create the opera Mr. and Mrs. Olson, and he has performed with artists such as Itzhak Perlman, Eric Clapton, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Joel, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.

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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