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Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile grew up listening to classic country music — her mom’s favorite — and made her stage debut at age eight, singing a version of Rosanne Cash’s “Tennessee Flat-Top Box.” In her teens, she sang backup for an Elvis impersonator, but when she got her first guitar — a broken and abandoned Harmony Sovereign — she was soon playing coffeehouses, parties, and restaurants in the Seattle area. She released her first album in 2005. By the time her next CD, The Story, came out in 2007, her fan base was mushrooming, and the disc rose to No. 41 on the Billboard albums chart. Her latest is 2009’s Give Up the Ghost (Sony). Brandi Carlile is joined by Tim Hanseroth (guitar), Phil Hanseroth (bass), and Josh Neumann (cello).
The Wailin' Jennys
The Wailin’ Jennys first got together in 2002. It was supposed to be a one-time gig, but the collaboration proved such a success that within a few weeks the trio was dubbed “a bona fide Canadian sensation.” They have continued to wow audiences across North America and beyond. As one music critic wrote, “This is about as good as contemporary folk gets.” The group’s critically acclaimed CD 40 Days won a 2005 Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album of the Year. The most recent recording from soprano Ruth Moody, mezzo Nicky Mehta, and alto Heather Masse is 2009’s The Wailin’ Jennys —Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House (Red House). Look for a new CD this summer. Jeremy Penner is on fiddle and mandolin.
She started out wanting to be a jazz musician. Now when singer, songwriter, actor, stand-up comedian, and activist Nellie McKay sits down at the piano or picks up the ukulele, you’re likely hear some blend of jazz, pop, hip-hop, cabaret or vaudeville. The London-born, New York-based performer has found quite a following with her quirky musical approach. She’s nothing if not outspoken, and the causes she holds dear — animal rights, for instance — are apt to turn up in her unpredictable song lyrics. Her fourth album, Normal As Blueberry Pie, a tribute to Doris Day, was released last month on the Verve label.
Calling themselves the Henriettas, Berkeley-based Nell Robinson and Cary Sheldon have revived the singular brand of yodeling popularized in the 1930s by the DeZurik Sisters (originally from Royalton, Minnesota), who made a splash on The Grand Ole Opry, The National Barn Dance, Purina Mills Checkerboard Time, and other radio shows of the day. Nell's album, Nell Robinson in Loango (Red Level Records), features the Henriettas doing a couple of Carolyn and Mary Jane DeZurik's memorable songs.
He was raised in rural Illinois (on the banks of the Mississippi), but Jeff Adams always felt drawn to the eastern Pacific. He moved to Seattle in the early 1990s and studied biological oceanography, marine biology, and freshwater biology at the University of Washington. These days, he is a marine water quality specialist and aquatic invasive species coordinator with Washington Sea Grant, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Ocean and Fishery Sciences.
The 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.
J.T. Bates started playing drums when he was seven. By the time he was 15, he was sitting in with his dad’s big band. Since then, he has backed up countless musicians, as well as working with his own bands — Fat Kid Wednesdays and Poor Line Condition.
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.
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).