Sarah Lee Guthrie’s lineage is undeniable. But if you close your eyes and forget that her last name is synonymous with the river-legacy of a widening current of American folk music, you’d still be drawn to the clarity and soul behind her voice. There is a gentle urgency to her interpretations of the songs she sings and the classic music of her heritage. It flows from the continuity of her family, her vital artistic life today and the river of songs that have guided her to where she now stands.
It’s been hinted at since she first stepped on the stages of Wolf Trap and Carnegie Hall as a teenager in 1993 singing Pete Seeger’s “Sailin’ Down My Golden River” for sold-out audiences. But it was later on that she began to embrace her birthright and her inherent gifts.
“Looking back on the years of shows that I have done, its been the shows with my family that stand out the most, that feel bigger than me, the best part of me, the place I shine the most. I am back on the road with my Dad now and remembering what I was made for, these are the songs that make us who we are and I love to sing them.”
Sarah Lee Guthrie now ventures on a road that leads back to the rich culture of her family running through the warmth of her own bloodlines. This is rare opportunity to witness the growth of one of America’s finest young folk singers.
Gregory Page is a songwriter & poet the son of a traveling Armenian pop singer whom he would not meet for over 40 years. His Irish mother was the lead singer/saxophone player in one of Britain’s first all-girl group’s, The Beat-Chics, that toured with The Beatles.
He was a shy boy, fond of books and pictures, a solitary rambler in the woods & fields around his country home in England where is was born and grew up. At fourteen he went to America, and for the next 5 years he wrote poetry and learned to play the guitar. During this time he got to know music intimately. James Taylor and Paul Simon were his great loves, but he admired Leonard Cohen, Nick Drake and other sentimental musicians who wrote about the sufferings of the poor and abandoned.
In Southern California, he began to doubt himself and his work. A rebuff from a girl he loved was the starting point of his despair. Writing about this wretched world and finding some consolation in his clumsy efforts to represent what he saw and felt, he resolved at twenty-seven, after a period of wandering and depressing uncertainty, to become a songwriter. He thought this was his only means of salvation, a solitary and pure activity in which he would be free, responsible for himself alone, and yet might create a work that would give joy and understanding to others.
As part of a group of “red dirt” musicians who migrated to Stillwater in the late 1970’s – a rag-tag outfit that includes Jimmy LaFave, Tom Skinner, Bob Childers and the Red Dirt Rangers – singer/songwriter Greg Jacobs helped set the standard for great Okie songwriting.
His latest CD, Encore serves as proof this standard is still alive and well. Some call Jacobs the red dirt crooner because of his easy goin’ style, and that just might be right. He is the smoothest of all the red dirt troubadours, laying down a solid Okie groove, on songs that are both historic and personal. As Thomas Conner wrote in the Tulsa World, “Jacobs is the sweet voice of Oklahoma ‘Red Dirt’ – not quite the grievous angel, but maybe the mischievous angel.”
Jacobs remains one of the more original of all singer/songwriters working in America today and more than most delivers on the promise of Woody Guthrie, who said “all you can do is write what you see.”
“I have sang Greg Jacobs songs for as long as I can remember. His originals were just fantastic. He was who you wanted to be.” – Garth Brooks
The list of artists that have covered Greg’s songs reads like a who’s who of “Red Dirt” including: Jimmy LaFave, Tom Skinner, Bob Childers, Cody Canada and the Departed, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Monica Taylor, The Red Dirt Rangers, Cowboy Jones, and others.
Glen Hansard is a singer songwriter from Dublin, Ireland. He has been releasing music either with his bandmates in The Frames or collaborator Markéta Irglová in The Swell Season and most recently under his own name for close to thirty years. He still occasionally performs live with both bands or can be found on tour as a solo artist.
Glen wrote music for and starred in the film Once, which won he and Markéta an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The film would later go on to become a Tony award winning musical.
His most recent release was 2019’s This Wild Willing (Anti Records). “This collection of songs is mainly made up of those that came through while improvising and following the melodic lines and threads. Sometimes when you take a small musical fragment and you care for it, follow it and build it up slowly, it can become a thing of wonder,” Hasard says. Lead track “I’ll Be You, Be Me” finds Hansard weighing the risks of such vulnerability, his restrained vocal masking the fury of the underlying instrumental’s building storm, and to which Hansard advises “on first listen, please turn it up loud in your head phones!
Glen visited the Woody Guthrie Center in 2016 while on tour and has been making plans ever since for a return visit.
Annie and Marie Burns as a duo create uplifting, transcendent music filled with warmth and conviction. Stirring and reverent, their passionate, seductive harmonies and lyrics are bursting with spirit and soul. The Burns Sisters are renowned for their pure harmony, beautiful lyrics and joyful energy and will celebrate in early 2015 with a new album “Looking Back, Our American Irish Souls”
Annie and Marie Burns were born in NY to a progressive political, musical, creative family in Binghamton. Two of twelve siblings, Annie and Marie have been singing together since early childhood.
Their mother, Teresa, was a church soloist and treasured local singer. Their father, John J Burns, was a progressive Kennedy school politician. Several of their siblings are in the musical, movie and TV industry, both as singers, actors and producers.
Still in and just out of high school the sisters pursued their individual musical callings. Marie had moved to Florida and started her musical career in San Antonio Florida. She fell in love with old time country and bluegrass music while living in the South. With a little convincing from Annie (who had been gigging around town when not in school) Marie returned from Florida and joined forces with her two sisters. They had heard Ithaca had a great music scene, so they moved to Ithaca and started working as “The Burns Sisters” writing and recording their own songs and launch albums through Columbia Records and Rounder records. Marie and Annie now release on their own label “Sisters Music”. The two have written and produced together and apart approximately 20 CDs.
The Burns Sisters have shared the stage with many great folk legends, including Arlo Guthie, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Jimmy Lafave, David Amram, Radoslav Lorkovic, Chris Thile, Fred Eaglesmith, Willie Nelson, Sarah Lee and Johnny Irions, Folk Uke, and even the Boston Pops. They have played venues from Carnegie Hall to the Grand Old Opry, and from hills of Northern Thailand to the hills of Clare Ireland. They have graced many a track with their beautiful backup harmonies, on projects too numerous to mention. The sisters are mainstays at The Woody Guthrie Folk Fest in Okemah, Oklahoma.
“Annie has a bell-like, steady, warm and heartfelt voice. It is so pleasurable to listen to someone who uses her instrument in such a commanding and sensitive way. — Rosanne Cash – American singer-songwriter and author
Looking Back Our American Irish Souls, I think it a truly magnificent, quite superb piece of work. Your beautiful voices blend so perfectly, the vocal performances and the playing throughout is perfect too…and so moving…you have injected new life onto some old classics (From Clare To Here, Ned Of The Hill, Free-Born Man, and Too Ra Loo are just excellent versions…and even the sometimes-abused Danny Boy is treated with grace and feeling giving it the dignity it deserves.), and your take on Kilkelly is by far the best version I’ve yet heard. And, I believe Workhouse – given the theme – should be heard by EVERYBODY on this island NOW…. The engineering/ production is as good as it gets.”
– PJ Curtis – renowned writer, music producer and poet
Bonnie Whitmore is not new to the music business. For the last two decades, she’s played bass and sung with some of the biggest artists in the Americana genre: Hayes Carll, John Moreland, Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock, to name a few. She’s also maintained a weekly residency at the legendary Continental Club Gallery in Austin, where she lives.
Her 2016 release F*** With Sad Girls turned heads, but with Last Will and Testament, Whitmore has turned a corner in her own artistry that may just catapult her to the top of the Americana heap.
As someone who’s never shied away from the issues, she’s not afraid to be direct. Her record is full of topical songs, tackling suicide, rape culture, loss, and the great American divide. It’s not easy to talk about heavy subjects without weighing the music down, but Whitmore pulls it off without difficulty. It’s like she’s used to talking about serious matters in casual conversation — which she is.
“I’ve definitely been told to shut up and sing,” she says, referencing the phrase that became commonplace after it was directed at The Chicks. In such divided times, many artists have become hesitant to share their opinions for fear of being ostracized or losing fans. But Bonnie took “shut up and sing” literally. “I thought, fine, I’m just going to sing what I want to talk about.”
“My goal for this record is to inspire people to have hard conversations.”
Whitmore has spent the last few years polishing these songs on the road opening for James McMurtry. “Bonnie’s been first call support on my tours for a while now, because she kicks ass consistently,” says McMurtry, “Sometimes I forget who’s opening and wander back into the venue after I eat, thinking, “Damn, chick can sing, opening band sounds like money, oh . . .” He first asked her to open a tour for him a few years ago, after hearing her sing “F*** With Sad Girls” at the Continental Club Gallery. She’s a songwriter’s songwriter and musician’s musician.
“Country music was the voice of the people. It wasn’t always the prettiest voice, but it was an honest voice,” says American Aquarium founder and frontman BJ Barham. “I think that’s where country music has lost its way.” He pauses, then adds, North Carolina accent thick and voice steady: “I operate in the dark shadows of what we don’t want to talk about in the South.”
These days, those shadows are tall and wide, making it hard to recognize a neighbor, family–– even yourself. On American Aquarium’s new album Lamentations, Barham shines light on dark American corners with heartbreaking conversations, long looks in the mirror, and empathetic questions, all through songwriting that is clear without sacrificing its poetry, and direct without losing its humanity. “As a songwriter, my number one job is to observe and then translate what I observe into a song, a story, a lesson,” Barham says. “I’d be doing myself and the listener a huge disservice if I didn’t talk about the things I see, which is a country, divided.”
As much as Barham appreciates an indignant protest song or one-sided anthem, he isn’t writing them. Instead, on Lamentations he’s making the political personal, reaching out to humanize folks with opposing viewpoints, and offering dignity instead of demonizing. The result is the strongest writing of Barham’s already stout career. “I’m still very much standing up for what I believe in––I don’t think anyone can question what side of the aisle I stand on,” he says. “But hopefully people listen and at least try to understand why their Sunday School teacher wears a Trump hat.”
Barham has built a fiercely devoted fanbase hundreds of thousands strong, fortified with 15 years of sold-out American Aquarium shows across the country and Europe. The band’s 2018 release Things Change strode confidently into that distinct territory where rock-and-roll and politics meet, prompting Rolling Stone to announce Barham “earns every bit of his Southern Springsteen cred.” In 2019, the American Aquarium lineup also shifted again: Shane Boeker remains on guitar, and bassist Alden Hedges, keys player Rhett Huffman, pedal steel ace Neil Jones, and drummer Ryan Van Fleet joined the group.
A beloved live band known for consistently playing at least 200-250 dates a year, American Aquarium chose to be more selective in 2019, winnowing the schedule to 92 shows. For Barham, sober for six years now, is a dad to a toddler and still happily married, the adjustment was a must. “We’re learning how to balance being in our mid-30s and being rock-and-rollers,” he says. “Being home was the most rewarding experience. It allowed me to be creative and write about things that really matter.”
Born in Coney Island, New York in 1947, Arlo Guthrie is the eldest son of Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, a professional dancer with the Martha Graham Company and founder of The Committee to Combat Huntington’s Disease, and America’s most beloved singer/writer/philosopher/artist Woody Guthrie. Arlo has become an iconic figure in folk music with a distinguished and varied career spanning almost sixty years.
Growing up Guthrie, Arlo was surrounded by such renowned artists as Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, to name only a few. Not surprisingly, Arlo drew from these influences and he in turn became a delineative artist bridging generations of folk. He and Pete Seeger created a legendary collaboration that was sustained for over forty years. The last Pete & Arlo show was in November 30, 2013 at Carnegie Hall, only a few months before Pete passed away at the age of 94.
In 1965, a teenaged Guthrie performed a “friendly gesture” that proved to be fateful. Arlo was arrested for littering, leading him to be deemed “not moral enough to join the army.” Guthrie attained international attention at age 19 by recounting the true events on the album Alice’s Restaurant in 1967. The “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” has become an anti-establishment anthem and an essential part of the Thanksgiving holiday season, still broadcast widely on terrestrial, internet and satellite radio. Alice’s Restaurant achieved platinum status and was made into a movie in 1969, in which Arlo played himself, by the esteemed director Arthur Penn. 1969 also brought Arlo to the rock festival of the ages – Woodstock. His appearance showcased Arlo’s hit Coming Into Los Angeles, which was included on the multi-platinum Woodstock: Music From The Original Soundtrack And More (1970).
Arlo married Jackie Hyde in October 1969, and over the following decade they had four children, all of whom have become entertainers/musicians themselves. The Guthrie Family has toured together throughout the years, most notably for the 2012 Guthrie Family Reunion Tour, honoring the centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth.
Jackie passed away shortly after the tour, a few days after celebrating their 43rd wedding anniversary. Abe, Cathy, Annie and Sarah Lee continue to work with their dad onstage or behind the scenes. They all have children of their own and together they have continued to bring The Guthrie Family shows to the stage, the most recent being 2017—their annual Thanksgiving concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. There were thirteen family members on stage at the same time. But mostly Arlo remains a road warrior, touring almost constantly, alone or with friends and family.
Since the first time he performed in public in 1961 at the age of 13, and after almost 60 years of shows, Arlo Guthrie, now in his 70s, has become an American elder—a keeper of the flame.
Ali Harter is an American singer/songwriter from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who has played in several bands, but primarily as a solo musician. Harter is a twenty year veteran of the national & international music scene. Her third & final album, Near the Knuckle, is out now!
Harter’s efforts have won her contests & accolades including 2012’s Comanche Casino Idol, where she on the chance to sing with Garth Brooks’ long time guitar player, Ty England. Harter was also been awarded a Woody Guthrie Award for “Best New Singer-Songwriter.”
Ali has been fortunate enough to share the stage with such acts as: John Mayall, Meg & Dia, Magnolia Electric Co., Steen Train, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, War of Ages, Flee the Seen, & has shared festival billing with the likes of the Flaming Lips, Leon Russell, Ben Harper, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Amos Lee, Limbeck, The Black Crowes, Cake, Damone, as well as many others.
“It’s a weird road we’re on right now — I guess it always has been,” Jamie Lin Wilson says. She’s sitting on her porch in D’Hanis, a tiny town on the Seco Creek in South Texas, not far from San Antonio. She laughs a little, then adds, “But nobody’s life is the same. There is no blueprint.”
Thank goodness for all the lonely paths Jamie’s had to find that no one else has taken. With a voice that slides in and out of notes with easy grace, a sly sense of humor, and lyrics that highlight the details most of us miss, Jamie creates stark vignettes: intimate conversations between friends who might be lovers and lovers who can’t be friends; kids hopping from stone to stone in a graveyard; the way rolling clouds can signal a new season. She lives and works in that sweet spot where folk and country meet––Guy Clark territory.
“It’s unfair that the poets and songwriters are the ones who have the songs about their lives, when maybe that’s not what’s poetic,” Jamie says. “Maybe the moments are the ones happening in everyday farmers’ lives, or to a widow, or a son.” It’s her comfort in and commitment to two distinct worlds––that of the dream-chasing artists and the dirt-under-their-nails realists––that makes Jamie and her songs not just inviting, but cathartically important.
Jamie’s anticipated new record Jumping Over Rocks marks her second full-length solo album, but she’s not the new kid. She cut her teeth fronting and co-fronting beloved bands including the Gougers and the Trishas, winning over listeners and peers across the country. Now, her place as an acclaimed singer-songwriter on her own seems fated, imbued with a singular blend of freshness and road-earned wisdom. “I consider ‘Jumping Over Rocks’ to be a definitive record on myself and my style,” Jamie says. “I hope it’s something people connect with, that it’s familiar to them but also new. I hope that people find it interesting.”
No one covers the spectrum of age and experience quite like Jamie: moving portraits of men, women, and children coping, striving, wondering, and celebrating. Interesting? Undoubtedly. Universal but specific and personal, too. “I studied people around me more for this record than I have in the past,” she says. “I wrote songs from my perspective, from the outside looking in.”
Jamie didn’t pick up a guitar until she was 19. Casual remarks she dropped to her mom and cousin led to a gifting of an acoustic that Christmas. She started attending open mics in College Station, and was immediately welcomed into what was primarily a boys’ club of aspiring pickers and writers that included future fellow Gouger Shayne Walker. “By the end of the summer, I was playing gigs in a band, the Gougers,” she says. “I learned how to play guitar on stage.”
Jamie never looked back. She fell in love and married her college sweetheart, Roy. Together, the two raise their children and make their “weird road” work beautifully. “I’ve been taking kids on the road for eight years, touring constantly, just taking breaks to have babies,” Jamie says.
Jamie recorded Jumping Over Rocks during four days at Arlyn Studios in Austin. A fierce cast of musicians joined her, including Charlie Sexton on guitar, and together, Jamie and the players cut every track live. “You’re hearing my voice with the band––their playing, reacting to my emotions, and my voice reacting to the things they’re playing, all in real time,” Jamie says. “I think that adds to the feeling of these songs.”
The result is a rich collection of story songs delivered over rootsy strings, moody keys, crying steel, and sparse percussion, carried by Jamie’s songbird soprano that can convey tears or laughter with equal panache, sometimes in the same bar. The record kicks off with “Faithful and True,” a vocal showcase that mixes the sorrow of admitting shortcomings with a plea for forgiveness. Written with Jack Ingram, the song sounds like a classic from golden-era Nashville. “In our minds, it was about a relationship and obvious temptation,” Jamie says. “I started playing it at shows, and someone came up after one and said, ‘That song sounds like a prayer.’ I said, ‘Man, I think that’s what it is!’ That’s how I’ve thought of it ever since.”
Gently rolling “The Being Gone” questions the cost and payoff of decisions made, while “Oklahoma Stars,” which Jamie wrote with Turnpike Troubadours’ Evan Felker, pays tribute to those long nights that run together, unremarkably, but in hindsight come together to build a relationship, land, or life. Dreamy “Everybody’s Moving Slow” conjures up images of hazy summers as Jamie delivers a crooning performance worthy of the Rat Pack.
Opening with plaintive strings, “If I Told You” mulls over a painful thought: what if the other person doesn’t really want to know how you feel about them? Smiling through defeat, “Eyes for You” explores the vulnerability love brings. “In a Wink” kicks off with a poignant question: “Did you enjoy the clouds as much as Maggie did this morning? / I don’t know that anybody could,” before cataloguing the gorgeous moments we rush through instead of savor.
“Instant Coffee Blues,” originally written by Guy Clark and featuring Ingram as a duet partner, is the sole cover on the record. It’s followed by Jamie’s own song, “Run,” which explores an area Clark mastered, with a stirring debate over how long is too long for a woman to stay.The album gets its title from standout track “Death and Life,” an epic it took Jamie four years to write. A widow mourning her husband and not quite ready to let go; a son who copes with his father’s death by getting to work with his hands, hammers, nails, and 2x4s: the two true tales became intertwined thematically as Jamie mulled them over. “I realized the song is how people who are still here deal with death,” she says. “It’s life after death, but not heavenly life. It’s how the living deal with death.”
When asked how she hopes listeners react to Jumping Over Rocks, Jamie brings up a hero: John Prine. “On his new album, there is a song that always gets me––‘Summer’s End,’” she says. “Every time I listen to it, I start crying, and I think, ‘I don’t know why I’m crying!’” She laughs her big laugh, which comes often and easily. “I hope something I create can get to somebody in that way. That’s what gets us through––finding common ground with someone else, whether it’s in songs or friendship. It makes you feel better about your own life.”