Saturday, June 27, 2009
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Martin Sheen (born Ramón Gerardo Antonio EstÚvez) always wanted to be an actor. His father thought otherwise, but undeterred, Sheen finally borrowed a few bucks from a local priest and headed for New York. That was in 1959. Over the years, he has piled up Emmys, Golden Globes and other accolades for his performances in movies such as Badlands, The Subject Was Roses, Apocalypse Now, The Departed and Bobby, and on television for "Kennedy," "Blind Ambition" and his seven seasons in the role of President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's "The West Wing." For his work as a tireless activist for social and environmental causes, he has received numerous honors, including the César E. Chávez Spirit Award.
As a young child, Stuart Duncan hung out in the Escondido, California, folk club where his father was the soundman. He was inspired by the music of Vassar Clements, Byron Berline, Dan Hicks and others. At age seven, he took up playing fiddle and now, more than four decades later, he has chalked up a career that includes two Grammy Awards and being named the International Bluegrass Music Association's Fiddle Player of the Year eight times, to date! He was a founding member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band and is perennially one of Nashville's most sought-after session musicians. His CD Stuart Duncan is on the Rounder label.
Actor, author, comedian, musician Steve Martin has never been short on versatility. His career includes dozens of films among them, Pennies from Heaven, Roxanne, and The Pink Panther two novellas, Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, and a memoir, Born Standing Up. He is the recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Kennedy Center Honors. Lately, he has again taken up the banjo, the instrument he learned as a teenager by slowing down Earl Scruggs records. He wrote or co-wrote all of the material on his new CD, The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo (Rounder). Released earlier this year, it is Steve Martin's first all-music album.
Steep Canyon Rangers
The Steep Canyon Rangers, first got together in college, and over the past decade or so the Asheville, North Carolina-based quintet has built a solid reputation among bluegrass fans. The group has been regularly featured on the Grand Ole Opry and at music festivals such as MerleFest, Telluride and RockyGrass, as well as venues in Sweden, Ireland, Germany and Canada. Lovin' Pretty Women (Rebel Records), their fourth CD, was nominated for a 2008 International Bluegrass Music Award. The Rangers are: Woody Platt (guitar), Graham Sharp (banjo, Mike Guggino (mandolin), Charles R. Humphrey III (bass) and Nicky Sanders (fiddle).
Heather Masse grew up in rural Maine and currently makes her home in New York. She has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion a number of times, often with her band the Wailin' Jennys. Now, while the Jennys take a break from touring, Heather is keeping busy with other projects. She performs regularly with her Brooklyn-based outfit, Heather and the Barbarians a group that first formed when the members were students at the New England Conservatory of Music. Their album Tell Me Tonight was released in 2007. Heather's solo EP is titled Many Moons (Heather Masse Music). Look for a full-length album from her later this year.
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
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).
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).