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Sam Bush Band
Sam Bush was just 11 when he got his first mandolin. By the time he was 17, he had won the title of National Junior Fiddle Champion for three years running. And he had made his recording debut, Poor Richard's Almanac. Founder of groundbreaking bands like New Grass Revival and Strength in Numbers, he has also been the go-to sideman for Lyle Lovett, the Flecktones and dozens of others. For five years, he led Emmylou Harris' Grammy-winning Nash Ramblers. He has recorded a number of solo albums. The most recent, Circles Around Me, comes out next month on Sugar Hill Records. The band: Stephen Mougin (guitar), Scott Vestal (banjo), Byron House (bass), and Chris Brown (drums).
When Twin Cities jazz singer Connie Evingson was a kid in Hibbing, Minnesota, she loved listening to her dad's record collection Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee. Then she grew up to be a top-flight artist in her own right. Many know her work with Moore By Four or her solo performances on concert and club stages worldwide. She is the creator of Fever, A Tribute to Peggy Lee, which she has performed coast to coast, and a new Peggy Lee show called "Happy with the Blues." Connie has released eight albums on the Minnehaha Music label. The latest, Little Did I Dream, is a collection of songs by Dave Frishberg.
Sarah Jarosz's debut album, Song Up In Her Head (Sugar Hill), came out last spring at just about the same time the 18-year-old graduated from high school. She went from cap and gown to a round of summer music festivals, and now she has pulled up stakes in Wimberley, Texas, and enrolled in Boston's famed New England Conservatory of Music. The kid who started playing mandolin at 10, and branched out to clawhammer banjo and guitar, and got hooked on bluegrass and singing her own songs is now reaping rave reviews and drawing comparisons to Alison Krauss and Lucinda Williams.
In addition to her 45-plus operatic roles, soprano Maria Jette has performed pop songs, chamber music, or oratorio with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and with numerous symphony orchestras coast to coast. She is a frequent collaborator with VocalEssence and a regular guest at the Oregon Festival of American Music. For years, Twin Cities audiences have delighted in her Sopranorama performances with Molly Sue McDonald, Janis Hardy, and Dan Chouinard.
Old Crow Medicine Show
With a little luck and a whole lot of talent, Old Crow Medicine Show went from playing their slash-and-burn brand of old-time music on the streets of Boone, North Carolina, to bringing down the house at the Grand Ole Opry. Willie Watson (guitar), Ketch Secor (fiddle), Gill Landry (banjo, guitar), Kevin Hayes (guitjo) and Morgan Jahnig (bass) have wowed audiences coast to coast with their distinctive take on pre-World War II blues, rags, hollers, fiddle tunes and jug band numbers. They have been included in several documentaries, including PBS's American Roots Music series and In the Valley Where Time Stands Still, a film about the history of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Their new CD, Tennessee Pusher, was released last month on the Nettwerk Records label.
Robin and Linda Williams
Robin and Linda Williams first appeared on A Prairie Home Companion in 1975, the same year they recorded their first album. In 2008, they released their 20th, Buena Vista (Red House Records). For more than three decades, these two have charmed listeners worldwide with their robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time, and acoustic country. Robin and Linda claim that they make their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but truth be told, they spend the lion’s share of their time on the road. And fans at every stop are glad they do. Their Fine Group: Jim Watson (bass, mandolin); Chris Brashear (fiddle).
Some call The Derailers the best pure country band in America. They themselves refer to their sound as "Beatles-meets-Bakersfield." Any way you look at it, since this hard-driving, Austin, Texas-based band first got together in the mid-'90s, they have keep a lot of honky-tonk and rockabilly fans hanging on their every note. Their eighth album — Under the Influence of Buck (Palo Duro), a tribute to Buck Owens — was released a few months ago. The current line-up is Brian Hofeldt (guitar), Ed Adkins (bass), Scott Matthews (percussion), Sweet Basil McJagger (piano, organ) and Chris Schlotzhauer (pedal steel, Dobro).
For 12 years of his four-decade career, Butch Thompson was the house pianist on A Prairie Home Companion, dating back to the show's second broadcast in July, 1974. As a soloist, he has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride and classic jazz piano. Described by Jazz Journal International as "the premier player in traditional jazz today," Thompson also performs with his well-known trio, his eight-piece New Orleans Jazz Originals, and with symphony orchestras, including the Hartford Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Cairo (Egypt) Symphony. Thompson's first recording, Butch Thompson Plays Jelly Roll Morton Piano Solos, has been re-issued as a Biograph CD. His latest recordings are Butch Thompson's Big Three: 'Tain't Nobody's Business (Jazzology Records), featuring Butch on piano, Duke Heitger on trumpet, and Jimmy Mazzy on banjo and vocals; and At First Light (Turnagain Music), in which Butch teams up with the Miami Philharmonic and conductor Gordon Wright for a program of originals by Wright.
Mention a dobro and Jerry Douglas immediately comes to mind. Little wonder. The 12-time Grammy winner and Country Music Association's Musician of the Year can be heard on more than a thousand albums, including discs by Garth Brooks, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Vince Gill and Ray Charles. He has been a member of groundbreaking bands like the Country Gentlemen, J.D. Crowe & the New South and Alison Krauss & Union Station, and he has a thriving career as a solo artist as well. Glide (Koch Records) is his latest CD. Luke Bulla plays violin with Jerry Douglas.
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. Keyboard player, composer and improviser in any style, he also writes all the script themes and underscores. His latest CD is So Near and Dear to Me.
Chet Atkins called Pat Donohue (guitar) one of the greatest fingerpickers 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.
Originally from Cloquet, Minnesota, pedal steel player Joe Savage made his way to Minneapolis in the 1980s. These days, he is a fixture on the Twin Cities music scene, performing with a number of artists in addition to keeping up his work as a studio musician.
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).