The Milk Carton Kids
Two voices, two guitars — sometimes that's all it takes. Case in point: The Milk Carton Kids. Los Angeles-based singer-songwriters Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan spent a decade pursuing separate careers before they formed a duo two years ago, taking the name from the title of one of their songs, "Milk Carton Kid." With their close harmonies, deft guitar work, and deadpan humor, they quickly built a wide and devoted following. Earlier this year, they released their third album, The Ash & Clay (Anti Records).
Funny how things come together. Born in Rome, Italy, to parents from Minnesota, Hilary Thavis grew up loving music — especially folk music — from Woody Guthrie to Italian folk singers like Fabrizio De André and Francesco De Gregori. But it was the blues that ultimately captured her attention. Trouble & Truth, the debut album from her band Gaia Groove, was released in 2011. A solo recording is in the works.
Tony Thomas was only eight when theater organ music first caught his attention. And over the next few years, his parents took him to visit theaters and residences where Mighty Wurlitzers and other instruments could be found. By 14, he was giving concerts. These days, Tony is an award-winning pianist and organist. His CD of jazz-influenced arrangements on theater organ is titled Something Different ... Something Wonderful.
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 O, What A Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound (Grove Press), and the editor of several anthologies of poetry, including Good Poems: American Places (Viking).
The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band
Keyboardist, composer, and arranger Richard Dworsky is music director for A Prairie Home Companion. He has also accompanied Garrison Keillor on U.S. and European concert tours and has collaborated with numerous other performers, including Al Jarreau and singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth. Among his many CDs is So Near and Dear to Me (Prairie Home Productions).
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, 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.
When Richard Kriehn turned 10, his mom bought him a mandolin; at 19, he'd won the Buck White International Mandolin Contest. He went on to play with the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and bluegrass group 1946. On the classical side, he has performed with numerous orchestras and was principal second violin for the Washington/Idaho Symphony.
Saxophonist Kenni Holmen is a member of The Hornheads, a Twin Cities horn ensemble, and one of the area's most active recording and touring musicians. He has performed or recorded with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Glen Miller Orchestra, Gladys Knight, and the Reverend Billy Graham, to name a few.
Beth Gilleland's acting roles have taken her from radio and TV airwaves to many Twin Cities stages — Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop, Illusion Theater, the Guthrie, and others. Her playwriting credits include Sisters of Swing (with Bob Beverage), and she has toured extensively with her one-woman show, Whistling Girls and Crowing Hens.
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.
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).