August 22, 23 & 24, 2014

2014 Artists


The Steel Wheels - The Steel Wheels are renowned for their raw energy and chemistry on stage, where they cluster tightly around a single microphone to adorn Trent Wagler's unmistakable tenor with bell-clear four part harmonies complimented by Eric Brubaker's fiddle, Brian Dickel's upright bass and Jay Lapp on the mandolin and guitars. The band’s own brand of acoustic Americana roots music reflects stylings of the past yet boldly embodies the strength of powerful original song writing.
 
Their breakout album, Red Wing (2010), garnered critical praise and enjoyed tremendous success on the radio. It spent 13 weeks on the Americana Music Association’s Top 40 Chart, where it reached the number 15 slot, and cracked the Euro Americana Chart top 10.  The Steel Wheels were nominated for five Independent Music Awards in 2010, with “Nothing You Can’t Lose” taking top honors as Best Country Song.  Following 2011's release, Live at Goose Creek, The Steel Wheels continued to take the Americana scene by storm with their album, Lay Down, Lay Low (2012), which lingered for 10 weeks on the AMA’s Top 40 Chart and was the 2012 Americana Album of the Year from the Independent Music Awards.   Additionally NPR Music named “Rain in the Valley” their Song of the Day, marveling that the “heavy hymn […] is sparse and dense all at once.”  2013 brought yet another Americana charting release entitled, No More Rain.  

As the band thrives, so do their partnerships with local businesses, artisans, and charitable organizations. The values portrayed in their music—devotion to roots, community, and family—are a way of life for The Steel Wheels, and this is reflected in everything from production process and booking agency to merchandise and touring. The Steel Wheels are proof that music remains a viable and sustaining force for connection in our world.


C.J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band - C.J. Chenier talks a lot about energy. Ask him why he recorded a certain song and he’ll tell you he likes the energy of it. Why does he love zydeco music? It’s the energy. And so it should come as no surprise that C.J.’s new album, Can’t Sit Down (World Village, Street Date –September 13, 2011) is so jam-packed with energy it could power a small city!

Recorded live in one session at Rock Romano’s Red Shack Studio in Houston, Texas, Can’t Sit Down is all about truth in advertising: give it a spin and watch your feet get to work whether you want them to or not. C.J.—whose father was the late Clifton Chenier, perhaps the most celebrated zydeco musician in the genre’s history—cut the album live in the studio quickly in order to capture the freshness—the energy—of the material.

C.J. Chenier has been having a good time doing what he does for more than three decades. He was still in his teens when he started out, playing in funk bands in his hometown of Port Arthur, Texas. C.J.’s life changed when Clifton asked his son—who had played saxophone and keyboards before picking up his dad’s instrument, the accordion—to join his Red Hot Louisiana Band. “My mother told me that he was always saying that when I get old enough he was going to try to get me in his band,” says C.J. “I never thought it was gonna happen.”

By the time Clifton passed away in 1987, C.J. knew that his life’s calling was to continue his father’s work—not to play the way Clifton did but to bring zydeco into the present. “My daddy always told me to do the best I can do in my style,” he says. “You master what you do. He told me, ‘Be yourself.’ Clifton Chenier already did his thing. I’m trying to just be C.J. Chenier.”

Make no mistake about: C.J. Chenier is a master too, and Can’t Sit Down is surely this master’s masterwork!


Baskery -No matter where they go in the world, people tell the sisters that they’ve never heard or seen anything like it, that they have a completely unique sound and perform with what seems to be an inexhaustible energy. That’s Baskery’s aim, to never stop surprising. Baskery is a band built on what three people can do together. The music is not to be confused with country or bluegrass just because the instrumentation involves a double bass, a six string banjo and acoustic guitar.

The trio is not bound to any genre and this is what makes Baskery a little hard to figure out just by listening to their albums. It’s all there in the live act, cause it is real. The three sisters can’t recall when or why they started playing, the music’s always just been there. “Performing live has become the most natural thing to us”. That’s where the high energy level on stage hails from, a pure and reckless love to the art of performing music.

In their late teens the sisters joined forces with their dad, who had been a one man band as long as the girls can recall it, playing old blues and country tunes for a living. They got introduced to the music business in a quite unglamorous way: “We played cover songs in pubs and bars, still we never played songs we didn’t like just to please the crowd”. This foundation of classic “roots music and Americana” settled in their hearts, but also awoke the urge of breaking the rules of traditional music.

Baskery is all about turning the music on its head, blending the straightforwardness of punk with the subtlety of singer/songwriting. Baskery has successfully toured all over the world, performing at festivals such as Glastonbury (UK), Woodford (AUS), SXSW (US), Portland Waterfront Blues Festival (US), Calgary Folk (CAN), California World Fest (US), Lowlands (NL), Azkena Rock (ES), Storsjöyran (SWE), Bergen Fest (NOR), Toender (DK) Shrewsbury Folk Festival (UK), Four Corners Folk Festival, (US), Sisters Folk Festival, (US) and many more.


Dangermuffin -Five years and four albums into a career that’s found them drawing circles around the lower 48, building a burgeoning national fan base, Dangermuffin embodies a curious paradox. The themes found within their striking new collection, Olly Oxen Free, sum up that juxtaposition.

This Folly Beach, S.C.-based trio are clearly at peace with themselves and their career, while keeping up a constant pursuit of truth. The seeds they’ve planted at major festivals around the nation grow as fast as the mileage on their odometer, yet they dream and sing of home with a yearning passion. Most strikingly, the band’s musical execution remains refreshingly simple, belying a staggering lyrical and thematic depth behind each individual song.

Dangermuffin can no longer be plainly dubbed an Americana or roots-rock band. Behind the virtuosic rhythms of drummer Steven Sandifer, the group seamlessly segues from calypso to world beat to a down-home shuffle, often within the same song. When guitarist Mikie Sivilli steps in with a powerful slide-driven lead, one might even venture to call it Southern rock. But by the time songwriter Dan Lotti sings the first words of another verse with his unmistakable light rasp, the listener is undeniably back on the beach, pondering both the world’s pleasures and ills through sandy toes.

The follow-up to 2010’s Moonscapes, which produced tracks that received generous airplay on both SiriusXM’s Jam_On and Outlaw Country stations, Olly Oxen Free demonstrates heightened ambitions and a refined, road-polished outfit ready to take on even more. Olly Oxen Free never turns its back on the audience for a moment. Recorded at Truphonic Studios in Charleston with producer MJ Fick, even the album’s peaceful acoustic interlude, ‘Jaula,’ feels like a breath of fresh ocean air; an unexpected, serene eye of a perfect summer storm.

From ‘Homestead’ to ‘Rattle the Cage,’ Lotti’s songwriting encourages us to be free, revel in the simple beauty of our complicated lives, and always seek out healing answers. Like the cry bellowed during a children’s game of hide-and-seek, Olly Oxen Free signals that it’s safe to come out from our hiding spots, gather together, and celebrate late into the evening. Dangermuffin is more ready than ever to provide the soundtrack.


Billy Strings & Don Julin - Billy Strings & Don Julin play traditional American string band music with energy levels usually associated with extreme sports. A typical set includes haunting Appalachian songs, righteous gospel standards, and blazing bluegrass instrumentals. Honoring the musical traditions of Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, and Jimmy Martin, these boys will take you back to that high lonesome sound of yesterday’s bluegrass. No super-slick Nash-pop here. This is your grandaddy’s bluegrass delivered with a pedal to the metal intensity of a moonshine runner.

Billy Strings is a 20 yr old, tattoo covered guitar picker/singer that you surely will be hearing about for years to come. “Blessed with the voice of an old soul from the mountains, a gentlemanly air, and the ability to sling hundreds of notes with razor-crisp precision at the speed of a machine gun, Strings’ flat-picking talent seems almost beyond comprehension to veterans of the local bluegrass scene, especially given his youth.” Northern Express Publications.

For over 30 years, Don Julin has built a reputation as being one of the most eclectic and versatile mandolin players today. From jazz to bluegrass, from Vivaldi to Led Zeppelin, old-time fiddle tunes to ambient buddah-bar loops. His original mandolin compositions have been licensed by HBO, VH1, MTV, NBC, Showtime, Bravo, National Geographic Explorer, Fox Sports, and others. Julin is the author of the best-selling “Mandolin For Dummies” (Wiley & Sons 2012) and is an in- demand mandolin teacher giving mandolin workshops and master classes around the world.


Crankshaft & The Gear Grinders - Crankshaft has been pounding the pavement since 2008, developing his own “pork neck” style along the way. A sound heavily rooted in rock ‘’ roll, blues, country, swing, and surf that “could not have been imagined prior to the early punk scene,” as described by Dig In Magazine. Rock solid original lyrics, a dedicated fan base, and his 21st century twist on the American roots is pushing him to the top of the crowded Minneapolis music scene in a hurry. It’s becoming clear to many that Crankshaft is “one of the best and most interesting roots, rock and blues acts playing around town these days.” - Cities 97.

Born into this world from gas station cassette tape collecting semi-truck drivers, Alex “Crankshaft” Larson was introduced to a wide variety of music as a pup. In 1996 he traded a combination oil/wood stove to his uncle for his first electric guitar and amp. Since then he’s been involved in many projects, including a band he started with his brother in 2001 called The Mojo Spleens. In April 2008, while self-employed as a contractor, he started practicing as a one-man band and was playing shows two months later. Larson self-produced and released three albums during the next two years. In 2010, backed with the business skills he developed running a construction company and the strong DIY ethics he learned from his connection to the underground punk scene, Crankshaft decided to hang up his hammer for good so he could focus on writing and performing music. Since then he’s been earning a living playing, as both a traditional one-man band and as the leader of his trio, Crankshaft and the Gear Grinders.


The Sea The Sea - If life is measured by our leaps of faith, then singer-songwriter duo Chuck e. Costa and Mira Stanley have found a way to catch us midair as we jump headlong into the infinite abyss. Their debut album LOVE WE ARE WE LOVE finds the duo in suspended animation, exploring moments of the unfolding future through their sincere, storyline lyrics, intimate harmonies and emotive sonic landscapes. 

It was a sign - very literally - that first brought Chuck and Mira together. “She was actually holding a sign with my name on it,” recounts Chuck, who was showcasing in a songwriting contest that Mira had volunteered to stage-manage. However, it wasn’t until the fall of 2011, nearly five years later, when they reconnected to form THE SEA THE SEA. “We had both just gone through major upheavals in our lives,” says Mira, “And we were ready to test our faith in what was possible – in our art and in the world.” They borrowed their name from Xenophon’s Anabasis, the ancient tale of Greek soldiers returning to their coastal home after a long arduous battle inland. “The Sea! The Sea!” is a cry of joy. 

Once they began writing and singing together, it didn’t take long for Chuck and Mira to weave their many voices into one. They’ve already received praise from NPR and No Depression and now, by enlisting the careful production of Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird) with accompaniment like tuned wineglasses and swathing strings, they’ve created their honest and ethereal debut album, Love We Are We Love. 

They accompany each other with electric/acoustic guitars, the occasional banjo, piano, and percussion, but it is Chuck and Mira’s rich harmonies that provide the depth to their songwriting. Their perfectly matched voices sometimes share the back-and-forth conversations of the song’s characters and other times are the exchanges of one mind, weighing a decision, analyzing the moment, and trying to find the answers. 

Indeed, The Sea The Sea implores us through beautiful song and their own connectedness to believe that we all exist in this world together, as we stare into the unknowable future. Though the album closes with the universal image of an amoebic flock of birds, Chuck and Mira shared the key to navigating it all at the very beginning, opening the album with the same belief that brought them together: “There is no such thing as having too much faith.”


Charlie Parr - Many people play roots music, but few modern musicians live those roots like Minnesota’s Charlie Parr. Recording since the earliest days of the 21st century, Parr’s heartfelt and plaintive original folk blues and traditional spirituals don’t strive for authenticity: They are authentic.

It’s the music of a self-taught guitarist and banjo player who grew up without a TV but with his dad’s recordings of America’s musical founding fathers, including Charley Patton and Lightnin’ Hopkins, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. With his long scraggly hair, father-time beard, thrift-store workingman’s flannel and jeans, and emphatic, throaty voice, Parr looks and sounds like he would have fit right into Harry Smith’s “Anthology of American Folk Music.” Parr uses three instruments, not including his own stomping foot. A 1890 banjo and two Nationals, a 12-string and a Resonator, which became an obsession when Parr saw a picture of Son House playing it. Most of his recordings, including Roustabout (2008), Jubilee(2007), Rooster (2005), King Earl (2004), 1922 (2002) and Criminals and Sinners (2001) eschew typical studio settings. He has recorded in warehouses, garages, basements and storefronts, usually on vintage equipment, which gives his work the historic feel of field recordings.

To many, Parr is considered a regional artist, which is another way of saying he doesn’t like to travel far from his family’s Depression era roots. “From Cleveland to Seattle and down to San Francisco and back is my area,” he says, though the focus is unquestionably Minnesota and the Northern Plains. Yet he’s built a big enough audience in both Ireland and Australia to tour both regularly. He’s had especially good fortune Down Under, where his “1922 Blues” was used as the counterintuitive music behind a Vodafone mobile commercial and became a viral and radio success. Three of his songs added atmospheric resonance to the 2010 Australian western “Red Hill.” On his last tour, his fourth of that continent, he was a guest DJ for three hours on a Melbourne roots music radio station, on which he played songs from his own mix CD. “The newest thing on it was some Bukka White recordings from the 1940s,” Parr says with some incredulity. “People were calling all morning to say how much they like the music.”


Quiet, thoughtful and humble, Parr has made two albums of spirituals, and a few traditional songs of the hard life and the hereafter are always in his live sets. “When you listen to Charley Patton playing something like ‘Prayer of Death,’ way over and above it just being a ‘Charley Patton’ song, or a‘spiritual’ song, it’s one of the most beautiful and haunting pieces of music you’ll ever hear in your life. You can’t quite put your thumb on it, you just want to do something like that so much...I don’t think I ever have, but it’s a weird, visceral thing. Any time I get a song like that right, I get kind of that weird feeling, you know?”