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.

This presentation is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by theNational Endowment for the Arts,with additional contributions from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and General Mills Foundation.


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.


The Grand Slambovians - Formed in Sleepy Hollow, New York over a decade ago, The Slambovian Circus of Dreams (AKA The Grand Slambovians) pioneered the alt-folk/americana genre, staying on the fringes of the music industry and under the radar while producing several critically acclaimed studio albums.  ‘A Box of Everything’ the band’s newest release (out April 1st, 2014) is a compilation of the ‘Greatest Hits’ you’ve never heard from this reclusive band. Their melodic avant-folk conjures a quirkier Tom Petty or fuller Buffalo Tom with an exotic instrumental arsenal. If you like Dylan, Bowie, The Decemberists, you’ll find a lot to love about this band which features an otherworldly slide mandolin, accordion, cello and styles ranging from dusty Americana ballads to Pink Floydesque cinematic anthems. Headlining major music festivals and venues across the US, Canada and UK, they built their career from the ground up with a loyal fan base supporting them all the way.

Fronted by songwriter Joziah Longo (vocals/guitar/harmonica) whose voice is “Soothing and bewitching as a snake oil tonic” says The Big Issue, UK and goes on to say “the entire root system of Rock Family Trees is embedded in his voice”. The band features guitarist/mandolin player Sharkey McEwen (think lovechild of David Gilmour and Duane Allman); multi-instrumentalist Tink Lloyd (accordion, cello, uke, theremin, melodica); and Eric Puente (Percussion).


Danny Schmidt & Carrie Elkin - It’s a special treat when Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, who normally tour separately and solo, get to share the stage together. If the chemistry seems especially sparkful, they come by it honestly, as they are a rare breed: a romantic partnership in real life, not just musical life. And the two together on stage makes for a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Danny Schmidt is best known for his riveting poetic lyrics, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt for their depth and complexity. And gypsy spirit Carrie Elkin is best known for her incredibly soulful and dynamic vocals, which have drawn favorable comparisons to Patty Griffin at her most powerful, and Nanci Griffith at her most intimate.

Together, the respective strengths they each bring, individually, merge into a much greater whole . . . a performance of great energy and spirit . . . and one that audiences seem to be able to connect with on a multitude of levels, at once: Emotionally, Spiritually, and Intellectually.

On Danny:
Named to the Chicago Tribune’s 50 Most Significant Songwriters in the Last 50 Years, Austin, TX-based singer/songwriter Danny Schmidt has been rapidly ascending from underground cult hero status to being broadly recognized as an artist of generational significance. Danny is considered a preeminent writer, an artist whose earthy poetry manages to somehow conjure magic from the mundane, leading Sing Out Magazine to tag him: “Perhaps the best new songwriter we’ve heard in the last 15 years.” 

On Carrie:
With her Red House Records Release, “Call it my Garden,” Carrie Elkin has emerged as one of the defining new voices in the world of singer/songwriters, being celebrated by Texas Music Magazine as one of their artists of the year. The voice, the stories, the images, the grace, it’s the complete package. But it’s the power of her live performances that really have been creating an incredible buzz around this young artist. Maverick Magazine said it best, after a recent festival performance: “I have never seen a performer so in love with the act of singing. That’s the gospel truth. Onstage, Elkin was simply a force of nature.”

Come celebrate the release of Danny & Carrie’s brand new album “For Keeps” where they will share songs back and forth, lending their voices to each other’s tunes, in harmony.  And lending commentary to each other’s tunes, in the form of smart-ass between-song banter.


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.”


Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line - Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line are a traveling Carnival of acoustic Americana. The high energy, Nashville-based quintet perform Struthers’ original story-songs with tight, three-part harmonies, claw-hammer banjo, guitar, bass, and drums. Struthers was catapulted into the spotlight when she led her band to a blue ribbon at the prestigious 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition (previous winners include Nickel Creek and The Dixie Chicks) and now her group is touring heavily in support of their 2013 release, Carnival. “When you go to a carnival, you go into a sideshow tent, and on every stage you find a different person with a different story,” says Nora Jane Struthers. “That’s why I’m trying to do with this album – craft vignettes, and in some cases more developed narratives, about imaginary people’s lives.” The moving, perceptive, and witty songs on Carnival represent a new quantum leap, born of hard work and deep creative reflection. “Over the past four years, as I’ve been touring and performing, I realized that primarily I’m a storyteller,” she says. “I’ve been working to hone my skills so I can do that better.” After listening to Carnival, no one will deny the keen edge of Struthers’ masterful new work. The Party Line (which takes its handle from one of the record’s songs, about the early days of rural telephone calls), includes gifted instrumentalists  Joe Overton (claw-hammer banjo, pedal steel and fiddle), Josh Vana (guitar), Brian Miller (bass) and Drew Lawhorn (drums).


Jeff Ray & Hurricane Harold - A chance meeting in a coffee shop five years ago began Jeff Ray and Harold Tremblay’s unique musical alliance.

Jeff’s rhythmic guitar style punctuated by a relentless thumb holding the bass while playing slide on the high strings plus driving a stomp box shows infliences from Bukka White to sitar master Debashish Bhattacharya. He sounds like 2 guitar players.

“Hurricane” Harold Tremblay’s 30 + years of playing harmonica shows his influences from the blues masters to Charlie McCoy and Lee Oscar.

Jeff and Harold won “Best Self Produced CD” for “Carriage House Sessions” in 2010 and it was entered in the Blue’s Foundation’s “International Blues Challenge” held Feb 2011. They also competed in the IBC in 2011 in Memphis.

Described as “East meets West Blues” Jeff and Harold take risks in country blues, sounding old and new at the same time.    


Linda McRae - “A lot is happening in Linda McRae's world. This past year (2013) saw Linda’s newest release Rough Edges & Ragged Hearts on the Roots Music Report Charts for 52 straight weeks, was #3 most played recording of 2013 at Galaxie Radio and The Skydiggers recorded covers of great Canadian artists including Gordon Lightfoot, Ron Sexsmith, Linda McRae and Neil Young.” – Montreal Gazette, Metro Winnipeg, Nova Scotia Heral).

In addition, Linda has recently signed with seminal Canadian Folk label Borealis Records and a new retrospective entitled 50 Shades of Red is due for release later this spring featuring songs from Linda's previous 4 solo recordings and a recording of new material will be released in Spring 2015.

Linda has performed in venues as diverse as Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre with the Vancouver Symphony to New Folsom Prison’s Library with the inmate’s blues band! Playing guitar, banjo and accordion and with a voice equally warm and world-weary McRae’s stories are stand-alone gems sketching out solitary men as convincingly as forthright female romantics. One song breaks your heart, the next one puts it back together.

Performing on clawhammer banjo, acoustic guitar, accordion and porchboard stompbox, Linda combines old-time sounds with universal themes of heartbreak & redemption offering an intriguing sepia postcard from the past that is vibrant and alive in the present. Recordings and performances with musical luminaries include Bruce Cockburn, Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, Gurf Morlix, and Ray Waylie Hubbard.


Stella! - Stella! is a four-piece, all-women, American roots band from southeast Michigan and has been referred to as a singer-songwriter super group with three-part vocal harmonies and four songwriter voices. Stella! was first conceived of by singer-songwriter Jo Serrapere after a conversation with American music critic and Creem Magazine co-founder Dave Marsh. Jo was inspired to put together a new group to showcase country-roots songwriting. With the release of their debut album, “Sorry, Stella,” the girls were invited to join Michigan-based music collective Earthwork Music.

Eclectic writer Jo Serrapere credits songwriter Tom Waits, early blues, jazz, and old-time country as her strongest influences. She was the founding member of the old-time string band, Uncle Earl. Jo has had two appearances on National Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and three albums with her band, Jo Serrapere and the Willie Dunns, including her recent release, “Love Going South.” “Love Going South” held the #1 position for two months on the Freeform American Roots Chart in fall of 2009 and was listed in their top 10 albums of 2009.

Jo asked songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jen Sygit to join Stella! as another songwriting voice in the group. Jen’s voice adds deep blues tones to Stella! She plays acoustic and electric guitar, banjo, Dobro and Ukelele. Jen has three solo albums to her credit, including her new release, “So Long Pollyanna.” Her previous album, “Leaving Marshall Street” was nominated for a 2007 Detroit Music Award and charted at #9 on the Free Form American Roots Chart.

In the Fall of 2010 Stella! accquired singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Laura Ann Bates. University trained in vocal performance, piano and flute, Laura has now taken up the upright bass. By pursuing opera in the classroom by day, bluegrass and folk in the bars at night, hymns and choral pieces on Sunday morning, she has developed a very diverse musical pallet. In 2007 Laura released a CD with songwriter Brandon Foote called “Jubilee.” She also performs with the Lansing Vaudeville
Troupe “The Little Darlin’s.”

Fiddler, songwriter, and classical violist, Diana Ladio often accompanies Stella! Diana co-founded the Celtic Fusion duo, The Moxie Strings, who recently performed as soloists with the Battle Creek Symphony. When she shares the stage with Stella!, she brings classical, Celtic and old-time fiddle, and original fiddle compositions.


The Barley Jacks - The Barley Jacks sing original vocals and play jawdropping instrumentals in a spirit of excitement and fun.  They are masters of the fiddle, guitar, bass and drum who meld their divergent backgrounds of blues and bluegrass, classical and Celtic, R & B and bebop to inspire each other and create something entirely new. Their 2010 debut recording “Either Side of Night” and 2011 recording “The Lighthouse” has been met with great praise by reviewers. Virtuosity, magic and a little danger combine to make every performance unique. The first thing an audience notices is how much fun the Barley Jacks have when they perform. These Minnesota based veterans of years in the musical trenches enjoy making music together so much that they sometimes giggle like little kids completely lost in a moment of play.

Jimmi and The Band of Souls - Jimmi and the Band of Souls. Energetic. Soulful. Genuine. It’s about the passion for the music. It’s about the love of the story. It’s about the joy of playing for people. The band pulls from the vast array of blues, roots and R&B in their original songs and covers. They play boogie-woogie. They play slow and lonely. They play toe tappin’, deep groovin’ and hard drivin’.You’ll hear Muddy, Minnie and Sonny Boy. You’ll hear Eric, Mayall and Etta. You’ll hear Dylan, John, Paul, Mick, Keith, Robbie and Levon. It’s about diversity: Guitars, Slide, Harmonica, Mandolin. Bass, Drums, Two-part harmonies. It’s a full sound that changes in tone and timbre with every song.

Most recently, they won the Road To Memphis challenge and have been selected by the judges at this year’s Road to Memphis competition to represent Minnesota at the 2015 International Blues Challenge!


Sparrow Tree - Sparrow Tree is a fresh, cutting edge 4-piece bluegrass band based out of Marquette, Michigan. Sparrow Tree consists of Russell Harmon on banjo, Sam Graves on fiddle, mandolin and backing vocals, Heather Evans on stand up bass and backing vocals, and Troy Graham on guitar and lead vocals. Sparrow Tree has been playing all over Michigan’s Upper Peninsula...as well as Wisconsin and Minnesota. They have performed at the Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival, at the Falling Rock Cafe and the Northern Nights Concert Series. Sparrow Tree performs a nice blend of old-time bluegrass music in addition to their own original songs, and they do it with a dash of fast-picking and 3-part harmonies...a little something for everyone!


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.


Louis Ledford - [Louis Ledford’s] land is the “Old Weird America” Greil Marcus wrote so emotively about. His stories seldom end with a heroon the proverbial mountaintop. His narratives are typically told by the losers, those close to the edge, in the grandest sense. This latest record (Adios King, Waterbug 2007) puts him in front of a microphone, sans accompaniment, where he pours out live-sounding interpretations of his own music, which while not your Daddy’s folk, has one foot planted firmly either side of Cripple Creek. Adios King represents Ledford’s most accomplished work, which at it’s peak stands shoulder- to-shoulder with that of modern luminaries as Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin, and the like. - J. Holgren, 9X Magazine.

Adios King’s 13 songs, 10 by Ledford and 2 by Louisiana artist/songwriter Gina Phillips, were engineered and Produced by Bob Rupe, a founding member of the influential roots rock band the Silos.

Louis Ledford’s forthright, Southern tales match the songwriting craftsmanship of Kris Kristofferson with the rolling piedmont fingerpicking style exemplified by Etta Baker. Practitioner of the “no metaphor” school of songwriting, His subjects, often centered around the effects of poverty on the human spirit, paint unforgettable portraits that insinuate themselves in your memory. - Andrew Calhoun, Waterbug Records.

Louis Ledford was born in Richmond Virginia. His roots are in rural South Western Virginia and The Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. He first received notice as part of Used Carlotta. The band emerged as part of the Mid-Atlantic roots movement in the late 90’s Ledford went on to record his debut solo album “Reverie”, released by Waterbug Records in 2004, establishing a career as a solo performer. The idea for “Adios King” came out of those sessions when producer Bob Rupe suggested the songs that featured Ledford alone were some of the record’s best.


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.


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?”


The Flat Broke Blues Band - A rock solid blues band from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan featuring a guitar-driven mix of classic blues, R&B, swing and good old rock n’ roll.

Marquette, Michigan based Flat Broke Blues Band has been playing clubs, festivals and concerts around the Upper Great Lakes region for nearly 20 years. The band currently features original members guitarist/vocalist Walt Lindala and bassist/vocalist Mark Johnson. Flat Broke’s stellar lineup also includes guitarist/vocalist Mike Letts, drummer Jim Cohen and lead vocalist/harmonica player Lorrie Hayes.

Flat Broke Blues Band takes the influences of blues, rock, soul and R&B and creates a sound that respects the tradition of the blues but also pushes it’s contemporary bounds. The band’s stage show is filled with an entertaining and danceable mix of blues and R&B classics along with a variety of original songs that showcase the talents of all of the band members.

Over the years, Flat Broke Blues Band has shared the stage with several blues stars including Koko Taylor, Tab Benoit, Shemekia Copeland, Sean Costello, Billy Branch, Kenny Neal, Anthony Gomes, Biscuit Miller and Lonnie Brooks to name a few. Flat Broke Blues Band plays real blues with a passion. If you’re looking for some hat wearing, guitar slinging Stevie Ray “Wannabee” types, this isn’t your band. But if names like Janiva Magness, Hollywood Fats, Tyrone Davis and Etta James ring your bell, then Flat Broke is the band for you.


Yvonne Blake - Yvonne Blake of Ontonagon, Michigan, is a popular performer at various local events. Yvonne has played on Sunday at the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival every year since the very first event in 2005. Her latest CD ‘Hold on’ released in 2012, was recorded at Ricky Skaggs’ “Skaggs Place Studios” in Hendersonville, Tennessee. ‘Hold on’ was engineered and produced by Lee Groitzsch, formerly of Ontonagon.

The Children of the Porcupine Mountains Music Festival - Each year the children attending the festival cap their experience with a Sunday afternoon performance on the Peace Hill Stage. The children are the future of music...enjoy and encourage their exuberant festival celebration. The seeds we plant today, may come to fruition on festival stages years from now.