Big Medicine is just the remedy for folks who like their music somewhere between old-time and bluegrass. This North Carolina-based group — Kenny Jackson, Joe Newberry, Bobb Head, and Jim Collier — learned the string band tunes, ballads, hymns, and hollers from deeply rooted sources: field recordings made in the depths of the Great Depression, old commercial "hillbilly" records, as well as friends and relatives. "The music is in our bones," they'll tell you. The most recent of Big Medicine's CDs is Pine to Pine (Yodel-Ay-Hee).
Guitarist Adam Granger has written about flatpicking style, given lessons, and performed countless tunes since he taught himself to play more than five decades ago. In 1974, he moved from his native Oklahoma to Minnesota, where he became a charter member of the Powdermilk Biscuit Band, A Prairie Home Companion's first house band. His book-CD set Granger's Fiddle Tunes for Guitar is the largest collection of fiddle tunes in guitar tablature in the world. His recordings include Repertoire and Dapple Patti (a collaboration with banjoist Alan Munde). His new album with fiddler Anni Spring is called Fiddle and Guitar (Jeep Records).
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. Her solo album, Bird Song, was released in 2009 on Red House Records. The Jennys' latest is Bright Morning Stars (Red House).
Songwriter, vocalist Aoife O'Donovan grew up in a musical family in Newton, Massachusetts. In her teens, she took an interest in the American folk tradition, and she spent her summers in Ireland, studying music and dance. After graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music, she formed the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still. With that group currently on hiatus, Aoife has turned to other projects, including plans to release a solo album later this year.
Wanderlust and a love of music is a powerful combination, and fiddler Anni Spring has made the most of it. As a high-schooler in Hawaii, she took a shine to old-time music after hearing a recording of banjo master Clarence Ashley. Later, an exchange program took her to Germany, where she met some Minnesota musicians who talked her into moving to Minneapolis. There, her interest in Scandinavian music blossomed and eventually led her to Sweden and Norway. After three years in Oslo, she returned to the Twin Cities. In 2012, she was off to North Carolina. All along the way, she has honed her chops as a square dance and contra dance fiddler and caller. Her new album with guitarist Adam Granger is called Fiddle and Guitar (Jeep Records).
Robin and Linda Williams
"Individually their voices can melt cheese, and in duet they can do all-purpose welding," Garrison Keillor has said of Robin and Linda Williams. Singing the music they love, these two have carved out a decades-long career that has taken them from Carnegie Hall to the Hollywood Bowl. They first showcased their robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time, and acoustic country on A Prairie Home Companion in 1975, the same year they released their first album. They have just recorded their 22nd, These Old Dark Hills (Red House 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 Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance, and Guy Noir and the Straight Skinny (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. Nobody's Fault (Bluesky Records) is the most recent of Pat's 10 albums.
Gary Raynor (bass) has performed with the Count Basie band and Sammy Davis Jr., with whom he toured for several years. He was first call for dozens of touring Broadway shows, including the first presentation of The Lion King. Gary teaches 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.
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."
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.
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).