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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).
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.
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.
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.
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).