Michael Arthur is a pen and ink artist who uses no pencils and no rough drafts. Each drawing is a live reaction to the moment. Michael specializes in drawing the intimate moments of music, dance and theatre. His sketchbook reports have appeared online at Vanity Fair (where he is a contributor), The New Yorker, NPR, Gothamist, and The New York Times. His animated videos have debuted at NPR, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Huffington Post, IFC, and other places. Michael draws live regularly as the “town draw- er” in Balthrop, Alabama and he appears monthly with Catie Lazarus’s Employee of the Month Show at Joe’s Pub. He has drawn live with many performers, including David Byrne and the Indianapolis Symphony.
In 2006, Alabama-born songwriter-siblings Pascal and Lauren Balthrop moved to Brooklyn to start a band and ended up founding a town. Balthrop, Alabama, with a population of 11 or so, is their bustling folk rock township. Musically, the band travels the line between antebellum and antifolk, singing songs of love, dead people, and dead people in love. They have released 5 albums including their double-album debut, Your Big Plans and Our Little Town, and their 2012 studio album, We Have Electricity.
Fiddler Michael Barnett is at the forefront of the new crop of acoustic instrumentalists that are redefining American string band music. His musical vision comes across in technicolor on One Song Romance (Compass Records), establishing him as one of the pre-eminent fiddle players, singers, and writers on the acoustic music scene. Barnett grew up in Nashville and by his mid-teens had already recorded his first album and secured a regular spot touring with bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys. He has gone on to tour and record with David Grisman, Jonathan Edwards, and Tony Trischka. Barnett tours regularly with The Deadly Gentlemen and The David Grisman Sextet.
Alison Brown has taken an unlikely path in establishing herself as one of the most critically acclaimed banjoists in the world. A former investment banker (she has a bachelor’s degree in History and Literature from Harvard and an MBA from UCLA), she toured with Alison Krauss and Michelle Shocked before forming her own group, The Alison Brown Quartet. Alison has recorded 10 critically-acclaimed solo albums, received 4 Grammy nominations, a Grammy award and the Banjo Player of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. In 2014 she received the prestigious United States Artists Berresford Fellowship in music. Alison is also co-founder of the internationally recognized label Compass Records which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Sam Cohen is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Brooklyn. He is best known as the leader of Yellowbirds and as a member of Apollo Sunshine. His music is marked by the combination of intimate songwriting with psychedelic, often expansive, soundscapes. Cool It, Cohen’s debut solo album will be released April 28, 2015 on the Easy Sound label.
Heralded as “a leading light of the New York bluegrass scene” by The New York Times, Michael Daves has garnered attention for his work with Chris Thile, Steve Martin, Tony Trischka, and others in addition to his solo performances. His most recent recording is Sleep With One Eye Open (2011, Nonesuch Records), a duet collaboration with Thile which received a Grammy nomination for best bluegrass album. Daves is currently working on his Twin Albums Project, a double album which features the same set of songs recorded twice with, once in traditional bluegrass style and again rewritten in an experimental rock context.
A stunningly sweet singer with a uniquely expressive voice, Kat Edmonson’s music has a timeless sound. In a few short years, she has gone from singing in small rooms in her native Texas to concert halls and festivals around the world, playing dates with the likes of Gary Clark Jr., Lyle Lovett, Michael Kiwanuka and Chris Isaak. Her 2009 debut, Take to the Sky, comprised creative interpretations of standards and pop hits while her brilliant 2012 follow-up, Way Down Low, was called “one of the greatest vocal albums I’ve ever heard” by The Boston Globe. With no formal vocal training, Edmonson learned her craft as a child by watching Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly musicals on the VCR, drawing inspiration for this album from old films and her favorite songwriters. Her latest album, The Big Picture, is smart, sophisticated and fun and simultaneously classic and modern.
Howard Fishman, composer, guitarist and bandleader, has come to be recognized as one of today’s most agile interpreters of the American songbook. Whether he is performing his own compositions or drawing on a seemingly endless repertoire of American popular music, it is all filtered through a sensibility and aesthetic entirely his own. Fishman’s performances combine the exuberance and spontaneity of jazz with a storyteller’s sense of drama, emotional depth and play. The All-Music Guide has called him “an important force in creative music,” and The New York Times has written that his work “transcends time and idiom.” www.howardfishman.com
Keeping true to the roots of country music is not only a lovely sentiment of nostalgia, but a necessity for the growth of an artist...and staying true to the roots just comes naturally for Trey Hensley. After picking up a guitar at the age of 10, he quickly took the bluegrass world by storm —even performing on the Grand Ole Opry when he was 11. Through the years, Trey has had the opportunity to perform with the likes of Marty Stuart, Earl Scruggs, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Charlie Daniels, Steve Wariner, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs, Blue Highway, J.D. Crowe and many others and Trey has opened shows for Marty Stuart, President George W. Bush, Former First Lady Laura Bush, Dick Cheney, Charlie Daniels, Peter Frampton, Alabama front-man Randy Owen, Sara Evans and others.
Marika Hughes is a native New Yorker, a cellist, a singer, an occasional radio host on WQXR, a storyteller for The Moth, and was an actor in Stew’s latest show, Family Album, which premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival summer 2014. Marika has performed and/or recorded with Whitney Houston, Lou Reed, Toshi Reagon, Mary J Blige, David Byrne and D’Angelo among many others. She happily leads her band Bottom Heavy and their debut album, Hesitation Waits, will be released in late 2015. marikahughes.com
At 23, Sierra Hull has already earned considerable respect in the bluegrass world, as a singer, songwriter, and mandolin player. Her music has taken her all around the world from Japan to Jerusalem to some of the most prestigious venues in the U.S. including The Grand Ole Opry, Carnegie Hall, and The White House. Sierra graduated Berklee College of Music with a specialized Artist Diploma in 2011 and she is the first bluegrass musician to ever receive Berklee’s acclaimed Presidential Scholarship. In 2015, Sierra will release her third and long anticipated album, produced by Grammy Award winning banjoist, Béla Fleck for Rounder Records.
A restless musical truth-seeker whose ongoing pursuit of inspiration has led her to follow her creative muse in unexpected and rewarding directions, Dayna Kurtz has spent the past decade and a half building a powerful body of recordings on her own uncompromising terms. That catalogue encompasses her own compositions as well as her distinctive interpretations of outside material drawn from a bottomless wellspring of pop, folk, jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll traditions. In addition to releasing seven albums, a pair of EPs and a live DVD, she’s also built an international reputation as a riveting live performer, thanks to her tireless roadwork and industrious D.I.Y. spirit.
Founded by Sarah East Johnson in 2000, LAVA has become known for an explosive choreographic language that pushes the accepted boundaries of dance and gender expectations and incorporates postmodern movement with various forms of dance and acrobatics, live music, theater, and visual art. The OBIE and Bessie award winning LAVA has performed in NYC venues including BAM, The Kitchen, PS 122, The Flea Theater, Dixon Place, DTW, The New Victory Theater, Symphony Space, BRIC, Central Park Summerstage, the Brooklyn Lyceum, and Celebrate Brooklyn. The company has also performed across the U.S. and internationally in Australia and Argentina. Since opening the LAVA Studio in Brooklyn in 2004, the company has had a home in which they rehearse and teach classes in their Prospect Heights neighborhood. LAVABrooklyn.org
Mamie Minch is one of the youngest old-school blues guitarists and singers around. She plays songs of her own devising that sound like they’ve been stored in her 1930s National steel guitar for decades. Mamie has found her niche reviving – and writing – antique blues songs. She lists Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, John Hurt and R.L. Burnside among her inspirations. She’s performed around New York and the world, both solo and with fantastic collaborators including LAVA, Dayna Kurtz, the Roulette Sisters, and her own blues outfit Mamie Minch and Her Business. Mamie’s trademark lowdown pipes and guitar use the sounds of vintage blues to write modern songs.
Eric Mingus is an acclaimed composer, performer, recording artist and poet, who has performed with Gavin Friday, Elliott Sharp, Hubert Sumlin, Lou Reed, Todd Rundgren, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, Karen Mantler, Steven Bernstein, Catherine Sikora, and Levon Helm, and has been a featured performer in many of Hal Willner’s performance projects. Eric’s compositions range from blues and rock songs to haunting instrumental melodies and jazz inspired arrangements, and this extraordinarily broad range of styles is always clearly defined by his unique aesthetic sensibility. Currently he is working on the creation of new work with Knox Chandler and with Catherine Sikora, as well as further developing his RawMan (solo) project.
Bruce Molsky is “one of America’s premier fiddling talents” (Mother Jones) and a twice Grammy nominated artist on fiddle, banjo, guitar and song. His new collaboration with Anonymous 4, 1865 Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War, has just been released to rave reviews. Bruce is also a special guest on legend rocker Mark Knopfler’s brand new CD, Tracker. No Depression called Bruce’s most recent solo CD If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back, “an album from an absolute master.” Bruce is also Berklee College of Music’s permanent visiting professor in the American Roots Program, and is the goto guy for the next generation of fiddlers.
Aja Monet is a poet and songwriter from East NY, Brooklyn. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College (2009), Aja Monet received her BA in Liberal Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2011). She independently published her first book of poetry, The Black Unicorn Sings (2010). In 2012, she collaborated with poet/ musician Saul Williams on a book entitled, Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. An internationally established poet, she is recognized for combining her spellbound voice and powerful imagery on stage. Her latest music project, Courage, was listed on FactMag.com as one of the best bandcamp releases of 2014. www.ajamonet.bandcamp.com
Morley brings her unique blend of jazz, folk and soul all over the world. Be it solo or with her band, her message is consistent and clear; love, justice and inspiration. Morley also uses music as a tool for conflict resolution and dialogue facilitation when working with youth from international conflict zones. She has released five full length recordings under the auspices of Sony, Universal, Polydor, Sunny Side Records, and independently. www.morleymusic.org
The heartbeat of Nation Beat’s sound lies in an original 21st century fusion of thunderous Brazilian drumming and New Orleans second line rhythms. It’s the vibrant force of their explosive live show, known to burst into a crowd-wide Carnival-style party. Nation Beat’s energy seamlessly bridges folkloric Brazilian maracatu with classic NOLA roots music attracting an ever-growing legion of fans. Multiculturalism isn’t another bland buzz word with Nation Beat. Playing the best kind of fusion in the world, the kind that doesn’t try to fuse anything, this American/Brazilian collective belongs to both sides of the equator. Borrowing, mixing and adapting musical traditions is at the very heart of Music, and the creative, animated pulse of Nation Beat.
At an early show, one listener asked Janine Nichols if she was “the black Marianne Faithfull.” Over time, others have heard something in her singing to conjure Billie Holiday (sideways entrances), Sinatra (phrasing), Nina Simone (conviction), Jimmy Scott (time), Blossom Dearie (personality), Joni Mitchell (story-telling), one writer finally declaring that, “Her idiosyncratic sense of space and time elevates everything she sings.” In retrospect, Nichols’ star-dusted career – SNL, St. Ann’s, collaborations with Hal Willner – seems to have been a continuous master class for a singer and songwriter of rare gifts. Her band, Semi-Free, her trio with violinist Charlie Burnham and guitarist Brandon Ross can’t help but exalt her mightily.
Morgan O’Kane is a virtuoso banjo player, shouter and activist now based in New York City. Morgan recalls two other transplanted legendary southern artists; Reverend Gary Davis and Aunt Molly Jackson. Like the reverend, Morgan honed his skills making a living as a busking street artist. Like Aunt Molly, he has kept his connection to his Appalachian home and its issues, taking part in the campaign to ban mountaintop removal mining, which destroys the land and the people who live on it. Accompanied by a revolving cast of characters that includes Ferd Moyse IV(Hackensaw Boys) on fiddle, Ezekiel Healy (The Boggs) playing steel guitar, JR Hankins on flugelhorn and many others.
Parsonsfield is an Americana band from Connecticut that infuses a rowdy, rock-’n’-roll spirit into its bluegrass and folk influences, blowing away any preconception of what you think banjos and mandolins should sound like. In 2013 they recorded their debut album Poor Old Shine (Signature Sounds Recordings). The critics were impressed, with The New York Times noting, “I fully expect to hear more from this band as the years go on.” During the winter of 2013–14 the band wrote and performed an original score in the acclaimed production of The Heart of Robin Hood at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater. Their latest EP is Afterparty.
Plume Giant is an experimental pop band from Brooklyn, NY. They all started writing and recording together while studying music at Yale; sometimes cinematic, sometimes tender, sometimes retro, and always motivated by a cosmic search for hooks, they found a voice on the winding roads of indie rock, art music, and 60s pop. The forthcoming record, Young Narrator in the Breakers, was produced by Danny Molad (Lucius) and Sam Cohen (Apollo Sunshine, Yellowbirds), and will be released in summer 2015.
Movement becomes contagious listening to Superhuman Happiness whose joyful sound has been dubbed “physical cinematic dance rock.” The relentlessly creative band became known for ecstatic dance parties at Zebulon in Brooklyn. They wrote and performed the score to the Oscar-nominated documentary film, How To Survive A Plague, while other highlights include collaborating with Cults on the Red, Hot & Rio 2 compilation. Since aligning with Brooklyn record label Royal Potato Family, Superhuman Happiness has released an EP, their full-length album debut Hands, and a series of 7-inches and digital singles. The recordings run the gamut from art pop dance beats (“Middle Ground”) to the coronation grandeur of church bells (“Second Heart”), from modern soul (“See Me On My Way”) to math rock angularity (“Half Step Grind”).
Marc Anthony Thompson is a reluctant singer and indolent songwriter; an autodidactic musician, composer, sound designer, and filmmaker. He has collaborated with a wide range of genre defying citizens from Phillip Glass and Spike Lee to Bruce Springsteen, and The Roots. With his internationally based nucleus – Chocolate Genius Incorporated – Mr. Thompson has released 5 discs of songs centered on the themes of Life, Death, and The Quest for the Perfect Postprandial. Mr. Thompson resides in the town of Hudson, NY with his wife, children, and a dog named Blue.
Jason Walker can be heard in various performances throughout New York City. He was a featured soloist and ensemble leader of two Robert Wilson and Bernice Johnson Reagon productions, Temptations of Saint Anthony and Zinnias. He was recently on tour with Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach. Jason was the composer in the Bolton Theatre’s adaptation of George C Wolfe’s play Spunk. Jason has shared the stage with Mick Jagger, Bono, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Macy Gray, Lou Reed, Angélique Kidjo, and Dr. John.