Sam Bush was just 11 when he got his first mandolin. By the time he was 17, he had won the title of National Junior Fiddle Champion for three years running. And he had made his recording debut, Poor Richard's Almanac. Founder of groundbreaking bands like New Grass Revival and Strength in Numbers, he has also been the go-to sideman for Lyle Lovett, the Flecktones and dozens of others. For five years, he led Emmylou Harris' Grammy-winning Nash Ramblers. He has recorded a bunch of solo albums. The most recent is Circles Around Me (Sugar Hill Records).
The Civil Wars
They met quite by accident: John Paul White, who grew up in Alabama, and native Californian Joy Williams were called into a Nashville songwriting session in 2008, with the idea of penning hits for other artists. Now the two are topping the charts with their own hits as the roots-music duo The Civil Wars. After Live at Eddie's Attic, a free digital album of their second-ever concert, was released on their website, legions of fans were hooked. Their studio CD debut, Barton Hollow, came out last month on the Sensibility Music label.
As a child, Stuart Duncan hung out in the Escondido, California, folk club where his father was the soundman. He was inspired by the music of Vassar Clements, Byron Berline, and others. At age seven, he took up playing fiddle. Now, more than four decades later, he has chalked up a career that includes two Grammy Awards and being named the International Bluegrass Music Association's Fiddle Player of the Year eight times. He was a founding member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band and is perennially one of Nashville's most sought-after session musicians. His CD Stuart Duncan is on the Rounder label.
When Emmylou Harris was a kid, she wrote a letter to Pete Seeger, concerned that if she was living a sheltered life at her parents' house and hadn't suffered enough, she couldn't be a folksinger. Pete wrote back, saying: "Don't worry. Life will catch up with you. You'll suffer. Don't go hop a freight." It worked out. With dozens of acclaimed recordings and countless awards, including 12 Grammys, Emmylou maintains a widespread and loyal following, whether she's singing folk, country, pop, or traditional tunes. Her brand-new CD — Hard Bargain — comes out next month on Nonesuch Records.
Singer, songwriter, fiddle player Sara Watkins was only eight when she, her brother Sean, and Chris Thile started Nickel Creek. The Grammy Award–winning acoustic trio spent nearly two decades winning fans with their innovative, genre-bending style before calling an indefinite hiatus a few years ago. Now Sara has struck out on her own. And while she had been thinking for some time about a solo recording project, the idea became reality in the spring of 2009 when she released her first album, Sara Watkins (Nonesuch).
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 and Vicksburg Blues (a collaboration with Butch Thompson) are the most recent of Pat's 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.
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).