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Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
At 17, Ricky Skaggs — already an accomplished singer and mandolin player — was invited to join the band of the legendary Ralph Stanley. That was in the early 1970s, and since the moment he first took the stage, Skaggs has built a reputation rarely equaled in the world of bluegrass music. The 14-time Grammy winner describes his latest CD, Mosaic (Skaggs Family Music), as "a carrying forth of something old but something new." Kentucky Thunder is Paul Brewster, guitar; Mark Fain, bass; Eddie Faris, guitar; Cody Kilby, guitar; Andy Leftwich, fiddle; and Justin Moses, banjo.
Growing up in rural Maine, Heather Masse sang hymns and folk songs around home with her family. Now based in New York, this New England Conservatory of Music alum is a one-third of the Juno Award-winning Canadian trio The Wailin' Jennys. She also heads up the Heather Masse Band. Her solo album, Song Bird, was released last year on Red House Records. The Jennys' latest is The Wailin' Jennys — Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House (Red House).
Calling themselves Storyhill, acoustic duo Chris Cunningham and John Hermanson are longtime musical collaborators, dating back to high school days in Bozeman, Montana. Their 2007 album — simply titled Storyhill — was named Best CD of the Year by the Indie Acoustic Project and led to their winning the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Competition. Their latest recording is Shade of the Trees (Red House Records).
In 1986, the Klezmatics erupted out of New York City's East Village with an exciting brand of klezmer music, steeped in Eastern European Jewish tradition and spirituality but incorporating contemporary themes and eclectic influences — Arab, African, Latin and Balkan rhythms, jazz and punk. Their many recordings include Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah and the Grammy-winning Wonder Wheel, both on JMG Records. The Klezmatics are Matt Darriau (kaval, clarinet, saxophone), Lisa Gutkin (violin), Frank London (trumpet, keyboards), Paul Morrissett (bass, tsimbl), Lorin Sklamberg (accordion, guitar, piano), and Richie Barshay (percussion).
Dr. John and the Lower 911
His given name is Mac Rebennack, but fans worldwide know him as Dr. John. Born in New Orleans, he became a session player in the 1950s, and in 1968 — billed as Doctor John, the Night Tripper — he released his debut recording, Gris-Gris. Tribal, the latest album from this five-time Grammy winner, came out last summer on the 429 label. His band, the Lower 911, is Herman Ernest III (drums), David Barard (bass), and John Fohl (guitar).
Butch Thompson has earned a worldwide reputation as a master of ragtime, stride, and classic jazz piano. For 12 years, he was A Prairie Home Companion's house pianist, dating back to the show's second broadcast in July 1974. Among his many recordings is the holiday favorite Bethlehem After Dark (Daring).
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.
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.
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."
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).