Saturday, May 9, 2009
Big Medicine is just the remedy for folks who like their music somewhere between old-time and bluegrass. This North Carolina-based foursome, Kenny Jackson, Jim Collier, Joe Newberry and Bobb Head, learned the string band tunes, ballads, hymns and hollers from deeply rooted sources: field recordings made in the depths of the Great Depression, old commercial “hillbilly” records, as well as friends and relatives. “The music is in our bones,” they'll tell you. Big Medicine's recordings include Too Old to be Controlled and Fever in the South (Yodel-Ay-Hee).
It was a book club that started it all. That's where Polecat Creek founders Kari Sickenberger and Laurelyn Dossett first met. A guitar propped up in the corner led to an evening of harmony singing, and soon the two formed their popular group, taking the name from a nearby piedmont North Carolina stream. Their winning songwriting and fresh take traditional mountain harmonies have won over fans across the country. Polecat Creek has released three albums. The most recent is called Ordinary Seasons.
Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group
“Individually their voices can melt cheese, and in duet they can do all-purpose welding,” Garrison Keillor has said of Robin and Linda Williams. And while their fans might not put it quite that way, they'd certainly agree. Singing the music they love, be it bluegrass, folk, old-time, or acoustic country, these two have carved out a three-decade career that has taken them from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. Buena Vista (Red House) is Robin and Linda's latest recording. Their Fine Group: Jim Watson (bass, mandolin) and Chris Brashear (fiddle).
Richard Dworsky, who week in and week out leads A Prairie Home Companion's Guy's All-Star Shoe Band, is a classically trained pianist and composer who rocks, swings, plays great blues and gospel, tears it up on Hammond B3 organ, and keeps up with world-class pickers playing his unique "bluegrass piano” style. He writes all APHC's script themes and underscores, and during his 16-year stint, he has accompanied guests from James Taylor to Renée Fleming. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me (Prairie Home Productions).
Durham Performing Arts Center
Late last year, the dazzling new Durham Performing Arts Center made its debut with a sold-out performance by blues legend B.B. King, followed the next day by the official ribbon-cutting, open house and lots of fanfare. The center is certainly worthy of the hoopla. Designed by modernist architect Philip Szostak of Chapel Hill, it features a spectacular four-level facade of glass and steel. It is the largest venue of its kind in the Carolinas 2,800 seats, all within 135 feet of the stage and is host to touring Broadway shows, concerts, comedy, dance and more. Outside, on the adjacent Capitol Broadcasting Plaza, a dramatic sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa shoots a vertical shaft of blue light toward the sky and can be seen for miles.
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).