Susan Herndon & the Bella Counsel

Susan Herndon is happy to be in Okemah this year to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival with her WoodyFest family . With a brand new album out—BIG BLUE BEAUTIFUL DREAM– Susan hasn’t been slowed down by any pandemic or apocalypse although it has meant that she has relocated to Texas for now. Still, you can see her and her band, the Bella Counsel– Bob French, Randall Coyne, Steve Murf Murphy, Mike Carter, and Sean Richards, this summer on tour in support of the new record. Says one music critic, “on a bedrock of musical diversity and with undeniable artistry, Susan writes splendid and memorable melodies, choruses and bridges– songs that you simply cannot forget.”

Radoslav Lorković

Drawing from a multitude of influences ranging from elegant classical and jazz styles to the rawest, most basic blues, country and soul, Radoslav Lorković has taken on an unusually broad musical spectrum and refined it into his distinctive piano style.

His tenure on the R&B and folk circuits has culminated in five critically acclaimed solo recordings and numerous appearances on the recordings of and performances with artists including Odetta, Jimmy LaFave, Ribbon of Highway Woody Guthrie Tribute, Greg Brown, Richard Shindell, Ellis Paul, Ronny Cox, Dave Moore, Andy White and Bo Ramsey. His thirty-year touring career has led him from the taverns of the upper Mississippi River to the castles of Italy, The Canary Islands, The Yup’ik villages of Alaska, The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.

Born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1958, Lorković’s initial exposure to music can be attributed to two grandmothers. Antonija, his maternal Grandmother, sang him Croatian, Slovenian and Czech folk songs since birth. At age one he was reported to be singing back on pitch. By age three he was putting on floor shows for his grandfather and friends who would respond by showering him with coins yelling “pivaj Radoslav pivaj!” During this time classical music played in the home constantly due to the influence of his paternal grandmother Melita Lorković, an internationally renowned classical pianist. After this blend of central European musical influences, Radoslav moved to the United States at age six. He had a foothold on a classical music career when at age fourteen he was sidetracked by a blues scale that a friend had taught him.

After several years and countless hours of expounding on this spark, Lorković began touring at age 20 with Bo Ramsey and the Sliders. Lorković entered the band having mastered the styles of boogie-woogie greats such as Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Freddie Slack etc.. Ramsey’s influence drove Lorković deeper to the core of the blues. The music of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Little Walter shifted Lorković’s focus to the basics as he began to draw from the styles of Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins. Several years later Lorković and Ramsey joined forces with Greg Brown adding musical authenticity to his deep Iowa Roots. At this time Lorković was simultaneously brushing up on his classical heritage and looking south to the polyrhythmic sounds of Professor Longhair and James Booker. He had picked up Tex-Mex and Zydeco accordion as well. In 1990 he made his solo recording debut. Six CDs later, Lorković currently tours the world regularly appearing at prestigious events such as the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, WOMAD, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa folk festivals, Falcon Ridge Folk Festival,Mountain Stage, Prairie Home Companion, eTown as well as a litany of Italian castles and villas.

Ken Pomeroy

Award-winning teenager and Cherokee singer songwriter, Ken Pomeroy, demonstrates a songwriting maturity that belies her age. With a smooth vocal delivery, reflective lyrics, and impressive guitar play, her combination of skills quiets and mesmerizes any room with an intoxicating aural experience. Recommended if you like: Patty Griffin, Jade Bird, Emmylou Harris.

In 2016, Ken received the Rising Star award from the Songwriters Association of Norman. Ken released her debut EP Minutes to Hours in 2017 and completed her 2nd album HALLWAYS near the end of 2018. Ken opened for the legendary Wanda Jackson at the Oklahoma Rodeo Centennial Opry. Also in 2018 she won the Inaugural Jimmy LaFave Songwriting Contest in Stillwater, Oklahoma at Willie’s Saloon. Ken was also featured on The Oklahoma Room 2018 compilation CD and attended Folk Alliance International in February of the same year. She shared the stage with Stoney LaRue and Bo Phillips at the Bob Childers Gypsy Cafe Event benefiting the Red Dirt Relief Fund in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Every year she is a regular at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival playing Lou’s Rocky Road Tavern stage, and The Hen House at the festival. She has performed at both the 2019 Winfield International Bluegrass Festival and the 2019 International Bluegrass Festival in Guthrie, OK. Ken has also performed Internationally in Eindhoven, Netherlands and Birkenfeld, Germany. In January of 2018 she played the first Mile 0 Fest music festival in Key West, Florida and returned to the Fest for the third year in a row January 2020. Ken’s musical influences include such local talent as Kyle Reid, Carter Sampson and John Calvin Abney. She is also influenced by the music of John Moreland, The Milk Carton Kids, and also by classic artists like John Denver, James Taylor, and Gillian Welch.

Cassie Latshaw

Feminine fun loving folk siren, with hints of rock and blues. Backed by her magnificent band cornucopia….. or something to that effect. Cassie Latshaw is a singer-songwriter from the Okie-est of roots. Raised on her grandparents’ exotic animal farm, this monkey girl from Bristow has evolved into a badass musical mama who unnamed sources have described as “pretty good” and “the chick with the big hair.”

By day, Cassie shares her life experience and sweet handmade songs with a playful melodic exuberance. By night, though, her siren-like voice will thrust your ship into jagged rocks as she, with her band of musical heathens, attempts to outstrut Mick Jagger himself.

Her debut album as a solo performer was released in late 2017. Titled Guinevere after her trusty chordstick steed of the same name, this album birthed a fire inside that has since consumed every creative fiber within her and pinpointed where her personal happiness resides.

….. then the world went silent and our forced hibernation took hold. In this time, Cassie created her next album. And now, as the world reintroduces itself, Cassie has something she’d like to share with the Okie community that has always been her rock.

In this spirit, Cassie’s new album “Memoirs of a Monkey Girl”, will slap your face in the most neighborly way, melt every heart string that binds you, and leave our collective Covid blues behind.

Chris Buhalis

Chris Buhalis is a songwriter from Ann Arbor, Michigan who has been walking Woody’s Road since he “finished” school, bought a guitar and hit the road with a Woody Guthrie songbook. Chris has released two acclaimed albums. He’s still singing, writing and recording his songs, and disturbing the comfortable.

Born in Detroit, singer/songwriter Chris Buhalis opted for the rambling life he sang about in his warm Americana songs. Years of wayfaring, from Alaska to Texas with plenty of points in between, influenced his 1998 debut, Kenai Dreams, a roots-folk set with a wandering spirit sung in a dusty Midwestern croon. Buhalis’ heroes loom large in his world, most notably political folk icon Woody Guthrie and Americana legend Townes Van Zandt, the latter of whom made a guest appearance on Kenai Dreams title cut shortly before his death in 1997. Since then, Buhalis has performed an annual tribute concert to both Van Zandt and Hank Williams, Sr. — another acknowledged hero — at a local Ann Arbor bar every year on January 1, which is the anniversary of both singers’ deaths.

Over the coming decade, Buhalis remained a prominent figure in Michigan’s folk scene performing frequent solo shows, appearing at festivals, and organizing various charity concerts. By 2013, he’d amassed a group of songs he felt were strong enough to record and entered the studio to begin making his long-awaited follow-up album. Just a few months later, the sessions were derailed when a work accident with a table saw severely injured his left hand, leaving him uncertain about whether or not he’d ever be able to play guitar again. Over the next two-and-a-half years, Buhalis battled his way through several surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy, willing himself back into picking shape and finally completing work on his album.

Released in February 2016, Buhalis’ hard-won second LP, Big Car Town, featured longtime collaborator Jeff Plankenhorn along with prominent Michigan musicians like Joshua Davis and Michael Shimmin.

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Crys Matthews

Already being hailed as “the next Woody Guthrie,” DC resident Crys Matthews is among the brightest stars of the new generation of social justice music-makers. A powerful lyricist whose songs of compassionate dissent reflect her lived experience as what she lightheartedly calls the poster-child for intersectionality,” Justin Hiltner of Bluegrass Situation called Matthews’s gift “a reminder of what beauty can occur when we bridge those divides.” She is made for these times and, with the release of her new, hope-fueled, love-filled social justice album Changemakers, Matthews hopes to take her place alongside some of her heroes in the world of social-justice music like Sweet Honey in the Rock and Holly Near. “Crys Mathews offers up a collection of fiery sermons, truth telling journalism and rally cries…sung to us with her compassionate voice full of heartbreak, indignation, encounter, uprising, and revolution,” said Holly Near.

“I believe in hope,” Matthews said. “As a social-justice songwriter, it is my duty to keep breathing that hope and encouragement into the people who listen to my music.” And, from the title track to the last track, Changemakers does just that all while tackling some heavy topics like immigration, the opioid crisis, Black Lives Matter, and gun safety to name a few. “Ani DiFranco said, “People used to make records as in a record of an event,” said Matthews, “so I hope that these songs will serve as a time capsule, a record of the events of the last four years and what it was like to live through them.”

Emma’s Revolution

L to R: Sandy O, Pat Humphries. Photo Credit: Terry Georgia

“Fervent and heartfelt” – The New York Times

Emma’s Revolution is the dynamic, award-winning activist duo of Pat Humphries & Sandy O, who songs have been sung for the Dalai Lama, praised by Pete Seeger, and covered by Holly Near. With beautiful harmonies and genre-defying eclecticism, Emma’s Revolution delivers the energy and strength of their convictions, creating new standards in the art and culture of justice. “Our work has always been about building connection, love and justice through song,” says the duo. “We’re honored to know that our songs have been a source of inspiration, strength and joy.” The duo are winners of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Grand Prize and the first Phil Ochs Award. The duo’s most recent CD release, “Revolution Now”, features a beautiful setting of Woody Guthrie’s plaintive lyric, “Revolutionary Mind”, one of the many lyrics Woody left behind without an existing melody.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, Emma’s Revolution has moved as much of their work online as possible, creating opportunities for people to sing together (Zoom-style, of course), to use songwriting as a way to process emotions in an unsettled era, and to attend concerts where they can have a sense of connectedness, solace and joy, even in these times. Emma’s Revoution’s song parody, “From a (Social) Distance” has been hailed by PowerPop as “Freaking brilliant — funny, touching, gorgeously sung, and it couldn’t have come at a better moment” and has been shared widely on social media.

John Fullbright

John Fullbright got his start at the legendary Blue Door listening room in Oklahoma City. It was there that he recorded a live album and found his base, opening for many other writers including fellow Oklahomans Kevin Welch and Jimmy Webb. His 2012 studio debut, From the Ground Up, received a Grammy nomination for Americana Album of the Year, and later that year he won ASCAP’s Harold Adamson Award for lyric writing. In 2014, John released the critically acclaimed Songs, toured all over America and the UK, and appeared on Late Night with David Letterman.

Photo by Vicki Farmer

“I have no doubt that in a short time, John Fullbright will be a household name in American music.” — Jimmy Webb

“Mr. Fullbright joins the lineage of terse Southwestern songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, sticking to a few folky chords and reaching for unassailable clarity.” — Jon Pareles, The New York Times

“In a short­attention­span world overloaded with sensory stimulation, there aren’t many artists who can stop you in your tracks with a single song…. You can’t move right after hearing this song. That’s how powerful it is.” — Lynne Margolis, American Songwriter

Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz has quietly amassed a diverse fan base throughout all parts of the globe. Since getting his start in coffeehouses in San Diego, Mraz has brought his positive message and soulful, folk-pop sound to rapt audiences around the world through his vibrant recordings, humorous live performances, and philanthropic efforts.

Along the way, he has earned numerous platinum certifications for his various releases, made pop history with his record-breaking classic single, “I’m Yours” and “I Won’t Give Up,” racked up two Grammy Awards, won the prestigious Songwriter Hall of Fame Hal David Award, and sold out amphitheaters and arenas across the globe, including sell-outs at such iconic venues as The Hollywood Bowl, Madison Square Garden, and London’s O2 Arena.

A dedicated artist and gentleman farmer, Mraz is first and foremost a committed global citizen. His impassioned social activism and philanthropic efforts span from environmental advocacy to ardent support for human rights. His own Jason Mraz Foundation serves to shine for arts education and the advancement of equality. Through it all, Jason Mraz continually confirms and celebrates music’s myriad forms and miraculous power, inspiring and delighting his countless fans around the world.