Tom Skinner’s Science Project

When red dirt pioneer Tom Skinner passed away his dying wish was that his Science Project band be continued. Skinner’s longtime performing partner multi-instrumentalist Don Morris took up the mantle to become the band leader. Filling out the group is guitarist Brad James, drummer Rick Gomez, & bassist Dylan Layton.

Each band member has a lengthy resume, with Morris having played with many of the region’s best including Jana Jae, Brandon Jenkins, & the Red Dirt Rangers. James has played with Medicine Show, the Organic Boogie Band, Steve Pryor & also with Jenkins. Layton has played with Whirligig, & also with both Pryor, & Jenkins. Gomez has drummed for Jana Jae, the Red Dirt Rangers, Roy Clark, Reba McEntire & with the bands Okie Soul, & Tweed.

Under Skinner’s leadership the Wednesday Night Science Project existed for some 15 years. Don Morris subsequently kept Science going for another 5 before covid interrupted their run. Currently the Science Project has resumed playing every other Wednesday at the Colony bar in midtown. Morris says every Science Project performance takes place “in the spirit of Tom.” Think of Tom Skinner’s Science Project as carrying on the founder’s name in the same way jazz legends Duke Elligton & Count Basie each had their orchestras continue long after their passing.

It’s with great pride that the Tom Skinner’s Science Project band recently completed their new album, “First Set”. Along with several great songs written by Morris, there are a tune each from James & Gomez, & a few covers including one from Brandon Jenkins. Filling out the band’s sound on the record are many special guests like John Fullbright, Roger Ray, & Gene Williams. Tom Skinner’s already considerable legacy is further enhanced by this new album bearing his name & some of his songwriting. Look for “First Set” out this summer.

Michael Fracasso

Michael Fracasso’s celebrated songcraft is uniquely observant and his beautiful tenor often evokes the great crooners of the past. He is a first generation Italian raised in Appalachia near Pittsburgh where pop, rock and folk music converged just like the Ohio, Monongahela and the Allegany rivers in the valley below.

His critically acclaimed work includes nine distinctive solo albums, recorded duets with both Patty Griffin and Lucinda Williams, an epic reinterpretation of John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” memorable tributes to Woody Guthrie, Mickey Newbury and Townes Van Zandt. Three of his recordings including the most recent Big Top (Lucky Hound Music, 2019) were created alongside his gifted friend, producer/guitarist Charlie Sexton. Michael Fracasso came up in the New York folk scene while mentored by the great Doc Pomus (Save the Last Dance For Me, Viva Los Vegas) and follows a grand aesthetic compass found in a rare few. In 2013, he was shortlisted for the Austin Public Library Literary Achievement Award and he continues to be an inspiration to future songwriters for whom he teaches classes. He was the music director for the Showtime movie The Monster Hunter (1999) in which he wrote several original pieces. Following another passion Fracasso wrote an Italian cookbook (Artist in the kitchen: A Brief Biography in Food). Presently he is both the musical guest and chef at house concerts featuring his menu and music.

 

Mallory Eagle

Photo by Jared Phelps

Mallory Eagle’s voice is strong as a heavy pour of whiskey and smoother than a dancehall floor. Originally from Oklahoma City she bounces back and forth between the Sooner State and Nashville, Tennessee. Her first album, Red Dirt Home, was released in February of 2018. Since then, she has opened for and worked with artists like Joshua Ray Walker, Wade Hayes, Jason Boland, Jaime Wyatt, Kate and Forrest O’Connor, Chris Scruggs, Charley Crocket, Kenny Vaughn, and Exile. She is currently writing for her next album and working with several other Nashville artists on various projects.

Jackson Emmer

“Few are writing songs like Jackson Emmer.” – Rolling Stone

Jackson Emmer is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer from Carbondale, Colorado. His work blends humor with heartache, and tradition with exploration. Emmer’s writing is often compared to that of John Prine and Guy Clark. He has toured the US since 2009, collaborated with Grammy-winners, and received grants & awards for his music in Texas and Colorado. Emmer’s third studio album, Alpine Coda, was released in 2020 to critical acclaim. He has opened for Robert Earl Keen, Sierra Ferrell, and Leon Bridges. His work has been featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, 1200+ Spotify playlists, and 200+ radio stations worldwide.

Black and white image of Joel Rafael crouching and strumming his guitar next to a large dog. The dog and Joel are looking at each other.

Joel Rafael

Black and white image of Joel Rafael crouching and strumming his guitar next to a large dog. The dog and Joel are looking at each other.
Photo by Grant James

The best writing comes from writing what you know – and based on Joel Rafael’s life experiences and over 50 years of making music, he has a deep well from which to draw. He has chronicled his life and the world around him with songwriting rooted in the folk tradition; and no influence is more obvious in his work than that of Woody Guthrie. Rafael is among the best Woody Guthrie students, proponents and interpreters we have.

In 2012, the International Acoustic Music Association awarded Folk Song of the Year to the Guthrie-Rafael collaboration, “Dance Around My Atom Fire,” from America Come Home (Inside Recordings 2012). His co-write with Jason Mraz, “Under Our Skin,” from Rose Avenue (Inside Recordings 2019), was awarded IAMA Best Group or Duo. Rafael’s song “Sierra Blanca Massacre” is featured in the film Linda and The Mockingbirds (2020) and his song “El Bracero” is featured in the film Song For Cesar (2022).

The songs of Joel Rafael conceal passionate messages within graceful melodies. He began performing in showcases and small clubs around Southern California in the early 70s. In 1981, he toured with Jesse Colin Young, and released his debut album, Dharma Bums. Rafael won Kerrville’s new folk award in 1995 and gained national airplay with the seminal Joel Rafael Band, touring the southwest with Joan Baez in 2003. Rafael has been a featured performer at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival every year since its inception in 1998.

“In the society of illusion, reality must manifest itself. The story songs of Joel Rafael are that manifestation… the essence of minstrel.” – John Trudell

“Joel Rafael’s songs are filled with passion and compassion; passion for social justice and compassion for those among us who have to struggle for a place at the table of American prosperity. His voice is unmistakably his own, big, warm and strong, and a conductor for the human emotions that connect us all.” – Jackson Browne

Tom Paxton

In describing Tom Paxton’s influence on his fellow musicians, Pete Seeger has said: “Tom’s songs have a way of sneaking up on you. You find yourself humming them, whistling them, and singing a verse to a friend. Like the songs of Woody Guthrie, they’re becoming part of America.” Pete goes on: “In a small village near Calcutta, in 1998, a villager who could not speak English sang me What Did You Learn In School Today? in Bengali! Tom Paxton’s songs are reaching around the world more than he is, or any of us could have realized. Keep on, Tom!”

Paxton has been an integral part of the songwriting and folk music community since the early 60’s Greenwich Village scene, and continues to be a primary influence on today’s “New Folk” performers. The Chicago native came to New York via Oklahoma, which he considers to be his home state. His family moved there in 1948, when Tom was 10 years old, and he graduated from Bristow High School and The University of Oklahoma, where he majored in drama while his interest in folk music grew and eventually predominated.

Brought to New York courtesy of the US Army, Tom remained there following his discharge. His early success in Greenwich Village coffeehouses, such as The Gaslight and The Bitter End, led to an ever-increasing circle of work. Then in 1965 he made his first tour of the United Kingdom — the beginning of a still-thriving professional relationship that has included at least one tour in each of the succeeding years.

Tom received a 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy during the 51st Annual GRAMMY® Awards. He was nominated for a GRAMMY for Comedians and Angels in 2007, and Live in the U.K. in 2006. He was also nominated for GRAMMYS in 2003 for his Appleseed Records CD, Looking For The Moon, and in 2002 for his children’s CD, Your Shoes, My Shoes. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BBC in London.

Serena Guthrie


Serena Guthrie, great-granddaughter of Woody Guthrie, has been performing with her family since she was a child including The Guthrie Family Rides Again Tour & The Guthrie Family Reunion. Now an Austin-based musician, Serena is finding her own sound as a songwriter and performer. She has a wide range of musical influences from folk and country to jazz and soul.

Branjae

Branjae is the birth child of Classic Soul, Funk and R&B. With a culmination of lyrical depths, energetic theatrical performances and genre fluidity, her storytelling style comes as unique as the personas she embodies. Branjae’s fearless and energetic showcase, encourages elevated consciousness by connecting with her audiences for the soul purpose of creating unity and harmony. Born in the city of Motown and rooted in the city of The Gap Band, artist Branjae has established herself as a full-bodied, entertainer; singing, dancing, and acting her way into the hearts of audiences across the globe. Her voice has been likened to the rasp of Lauryn Hill, the alto register of India Arie, and the soul of Nina Simone, while her stage presence is heavily influenced by the leg work of Tina Turner, confidence of Michael Jackson, and the commanding presence of Freddie Mercury. Branjae has shared the stage with Jeff Tweedy, Joan Osbourne, Gangstagrass, Thundercat, Fishbone, Ohio Players, RC and the Grits (Erykah Badu’s current band), Andy Frasco and the late Waymen Tisdale.

In 2019 Branjae’s presence catapulted with her project, “Street Light”. Billboard Magazine premiered the project’s video & AfroPunk debuted the single with an Op-Ed’ written by Branjae. The “Street Light” exclusive premiere was held at Tulsa’s own, Circle Cinema & was sponsored by Tulsa nonprofits DVIS, Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture, and Circle Cinema.“Street Light” earned Branjae the Best Female Artist Award at the Black Wallstreet Music Awards, 5 nominations at the Tulsa Music Awards, 1 nomination at the Independent Music Awards & was Officially Selected to screen at the 2020 Dead Center Film Festival, & the 2020 Lift Off Global Network Film Festivals in Paris, London, Sydney, Melbourne, New York & Los Angeles. Additional 2019 highlights include a feature on the 2X Emmy Award Winning Series “Play It Loud” by Outsiders Productions, “This Land Is Your Land: A Celebration of 80 Years” by Woody Guthrie Center & “Duet Jazz Club Presents: Branjae’s NYE Extravaganza”.

In 2020 was to pivot accordingly. She began studying for her feature length debut as Sugar Plum, in “Finding Carlos”, a holiday hip hop film inspired by The Nutcracker; and was featured on Gangstagrass’ latest album “No Time for Enemies” which reached #1 on the Billboard Blue Grass Charts and was featured in Rolling Stone Magazine. Branjae also extended her experience & knowledge as a Virtual Panel Moderator at the Tulsa Artist Fellowship: TAF Connection Series & as a Virtual Panel Speaker at the 2020 Oklahoma Film+Music Conference, 2020 Dead Center Film Festival, 2020 Woody Guthrie Folk Festival & 2020 Folk the Vote by WGC. Socially distanced appearances and productions have included: TheDirector’s Cuts: OKC Pride Fest (only on YouTube), On a Porch Somewhere [private concert series hosted in the Tulsa area], Audience of One by Duet Jazz Club & Tulsa Community College TEDx Virtual Event.

Guthrie Girls

This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Photo by Sean Mathis

Here Come the Guthrie Girls! People get ready, a new train is coming. After years of supporting Arlo Guthrie, their folk-singing, guitar-picking, storytelling father, Cathy and Sarah Lee Guthrie have made their way to center stage as the Guthrie Girls. They bring new songs and stories of their own to share in a style of music that leans toward country with folk roots. They carry the same melodic wit, charm, and insight as their famous kin and their new music is a continuous river that flows from great creative musical traditions. Back in the day it was Woody who played fiddle and guitar in the honky-tonks of the Panhandle in Texas and Arlo wasn’t known as the ‘Last of the Brooklyn Cowboys’ for nothing. His ‘Son of the Wind’ and Dillards sessions offer further evidence of the folksinger’s country credentials.

The Guthrie Girls have branded a sound all their own that belongs alongside the best of today’s Americana music. They have planted their new roots in the Lone Star state of Texas and deep in the heart of the Austin’s Americana & alt-country music scene. Austin is the land of singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt and Nanci Griffith. Today, Cathy and Sarah Lee are outlaws in their own right as they shake up their folk music pedigree with harmony driven country-laced songs and a band that is worthy of their origins.

It is certain, these sisters known as Guthrie Girls are bound for some glory of their own.

Cole Quest & The City Pickers

Cole Quest and The City Pickers are a group of New York City musicians connected by friendship and a love of bluegrass. Cole Quest, grandson of the folk icon Woody Guthrie, has brought together a collection of eclectic pickers who have gained recognition on the local scene. Performing both Quest’s original tunes as well as traditional favorites, The City Pickers bring their special brand of high-spirited talent to the stage, with up-beat, knee slapping energy and a high lonesome sound that’ll leave you wanting more.

After recording at NYC’s renowned Magic Shop studio and releasing their debut album in 2017, they’ve released their first EP, Self [En]Titled on Omnivore Records, in April of 2021 with the help of Grammy award winning producer Steve Rosenthal, Grammy award winning mixing engineer Tom Camuso, and Grammy award winning mastering engineer, Michael Graves. As featured in The Bluegrass Situation, Bluegrass Today, Folk Alley, WFUV, American Songwriter, Americana Highways, The Alternate Root, The Morton Report, and many more, they’ve shared bills with acts such as Sierra Hull, Sarah Jaroz, Billy Strings, Della Mae, The Brothers Comatose, The Lil Smokies, Whiskey Shivers, Old Salt Union, The Lonely Heartstring Band, Willie Watson, Blind Boy Paxton, Mike + Ruthy (of The Mammals), Tony Trischka, and Michael Daves during their tenure as a group and continue to perform for live audiences throughout the US.

“Having made their name in their native New York City, Quest and company are clearly well-equipped to convey the music with a craft and creativity befitting his bloodline…Then again, the ability to affect a listener is a sure sign of skill and savvy. And Quest, like his grandfather, has the ability to convey those feelings with care and compassion. Woody would be proud…4 of 5 stars”American Songwriter