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You can't miss him: Leon Redbone, in the dark glasses, the hat — the dapper gent with the great gravelly voice and one-of-a-kind interpretations of classic American song. Since he first gained public attention playing in Toronto folk clubs in the 1970s, he has recorded a dozen albums, including Live (October 26, 1992: The Olympia Theater, Paris France) and Any Time — both on Rounder Records. His vocals have also been heard in numerous TV and radio advertising campaigns.
James Taylor once told a reporter that Tom Rush "was not only one of my early heroes, but also one of my main influences." Lots of artists could say the same. Rush has had a profound impact on American music ever since his early days on the 1960s Boston/Cambridge coffeehouse scene, where he began performing while he was an English lit student at Harvard. He made his first record, Tom Rush at the Unicorn, in 1962. He has since released dozens of albums, but the most recent, 2009's What I Know (Appleseed), was his first studio recording in thirty-five years.
The Assad Brothers
The Assad Brothers learned to play music as kids in their native Brazil from their mandolinist father. The youngsters went on to study guitar with Monina Távora, a disciple of Andrés Segovia, and their international career began with a major prize at the 1979 Young Artists Competition in Bratislava (Slovak Republic). Now these remarkable guitarists — Odair Assad, based in Brussels, and Sérgio Assad based in Paris and San Francisco — spend most of their time on tour throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Far East. Their many recordings include the Latin Grammy-winning Sérgio and Odair Assad Play Piazzolla (Nonesuch) and Originis (NSS Music), a collaboration with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
Pianist Shai Wosner has performed a wide-ranging repertoire with major orchestras worldwide, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, and the Vienna Philharmonic. Born and raised in Israel, he began his music education at an early age. In the late 1990s, he moved to New York and continued his studies at the Juilliard School with Emanuel Ax. His debut solo album, Shai Wosner: Brahms and Schoenberg, was released last fall on the Onyx Classics label.
Justin Townes Earle
Justin Townes Earle was raised in Nashville, but his adopted home is New York City — a place often referenced on his latest CD, Harlem River Blues, released last fall on Bloodshot Records. The son of troubadour Steve Earle and named for songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt, Justin has undeniably made his own mark as a gifted performer and first-class songsmith.
Sarah Jarosz's debut album, Song Up In Her Head (Sugar Hill), was released in 2009 — at just about the same time she was graduating from high school. She went from cap and gown to a round of summer music festivals, then pulled up stakes in Wimberley, Texas, to enroll in the New England Conservatory of Music. The kid who started playing mandolin at 10, branched out to clawhammer banjo and guitar, and got hooked on bluegrass has a new CD due out next month.
Jearlyn Steele grew up in Indiana and first sang with her siblings (as The Steele Children). After she left home and moved to Minnesota, one by one the rest of the Steele kids followed. They started singing together again as The Steeles, and now music is the family business. Jearlyn also hosts Steele Talkin', a Sunday-night radio show that originates on WCCO in Minneapolis and is heard in some 30 states nationwide. Jearlyn Steele Sings Songs from A Prairie Home Companion is her most recent CD.
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."
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).