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Jake Speed and the Freddies
Folk, bluegrass, ragtime band Jake Speed and the Freddies first got together eight years ago, busking on the streets of Cincinnati. They still hold to this tenet: "If you ain't good enough for the street corner, what are you good for?" Their traditionalist approach to the old-timey style has won them the respect of listeners and critics alike. Their honors include four Cincinnati Entertainment Awards and a couple of CAMMYs (Cincinnati Area Music Awards). The band is Jake Speed (guitar, harmonica, kazoo, washboard), "Kentucky" Graham Hentschel (tenor guitar), Justin Todhunter (mandolin), and Chris Werner (bass). A new album, World Come Clean, was just released.
Howard Levy is perhaps best known for developing a fully chromatic harmonica style on a standard 10-hole diatonic instrument. Anyone who has ever picked up a little Hohner Marine Band can appreciate the feat. His musical adventures include journeys into jazz, pop, rock, Latin, classical, folk, blues, country, and more. He was a founding member of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, and he has performed with musicians from Dolly Parton to Styx, Bobby McFerrin to Paul Simon. Levy leads two Chicago bands: Chévere, a Latin Jazz-fusion ensemble, and a four-piece group called Howard Levy's Acoustic Express. His newest album Alone and Together is on Balkan Samba Records.
In one of his poems, Billy Collins muses, "The trouble with poetry is that it encourages the writing of more poetry," Not a problem, Mr. Collins. Keep 'em coming. The works in Questions About Angels; Picnic, Lightning; Sailing Alone Around the Room; Nine Horses; The Trouble with Poetry and his other best-selling books have sparked a firestorm of interest in the art. He was twice appointed United States poet laureate and served as New York State poet laureate 2004-06. In 2004, he was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Mark Twain Award for humor in poetry. His latest collection is titled Ballistics (Random House).
Boys of the Lough
The Irish Times described the Boys of the Lough's music as "full of guts and technical brilliance." Since they formed in 1967, the band has done dozens of tours, to the U.S. and worldwide, all the while keeping the centuries-old music of Ireland and Scotland close to its roots. The Boys are Dave Richardson (mandolin, cittern, concertina, button accordion), from Northumberland; Cathal McConnell (flute, whistles), from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland; Kevin Henderson (fiddle), from the Shetland Islands; Brendan Begley (button accordion), from the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry; and Garry O'Briain (guitar), who calls County Clare home. Midwinter Live is their latest recording.
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson
"Smoke don't rise, fuel don't burn, sun don't shine no more / Late one night, sorrow come round, scratching at my door." These are opening lines of "Rattlin' Bones," the first song on Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson's album of the same name — the lines that a growing number of fans worldwide can't get out of their heads. Kasey started out singing with her family in the Dead Ringer Band, then set out on her own and emerged as one of Australia's favorite artists. Shane Nicholson was front man for the rock group Pretty Violet Stain, before earning critical success as a solo act. Rattlin' Bones (Sugar Hill), the husband-and-wife team's first album together, has garnered rave reviews and has gone platinum in the Land Down Under.
It's hard to put a label on Punch Brothers. These five virtuosic musicians have been pushing boundaries as performers, recording artists, composers, interpreters, technicians, and stylists, since they first came together in 2006. That's when they made the album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which earned them a Grammy nomination. Suffice it to say, Chris Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Thile (mandolin), and Gabe Witcher (fiddle) are stirring things up with their extraordinary sound. Their most recent album, Antifogmatic, is on Nonesuch Records.
Garrison Keillor was born in Anoka, graduated from the University of Minnesota ('66), and lives in St. Paul. He is the author of numerous books, including Life Among the Lutherans (Augsburg Books) and Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance (Viking), and the editor of several anthologies of poetry, including Good Poems: American Places (Viking).
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.
One minute he's mild-mannered Tim Russell; the next he's George Bush or Julia Child or Barack Obama. We've yet to stump this man of many voices. In other roles, Tim played the part of Al, the stage manager, in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and a detective in the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
On APHC, Sue Scott plays everything from ditzy teenagers to Guy Noir stunners to leathery crones who've smoked one pack of Camel straights too many. The Tucson, Arizona, native is well known for her extensive commercial and voice-over work on radio and television, as well as movie and stage roles.
Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. He is author of the book (and CD/CD-ROM) MouthSounds. Fred admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."
Is that water dripping? Footsteps coming this way? Car tires spinning on an icy driveway? Nope — it's sound effects wizard Tom Keith. With vocal gymnastics and a variety of props, Tom has worked his magic on APHC since the mid-1970s. Starting out as a board operator at Minnesota Public Radio, Tom never expected that his career would take such a turn.
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).