Wintergrass 2015 Performers-Matuto

When guitarist Clay Ross and accordionist Rob Curto stepped out on stage in front of ten thousand party-ready Brazilians in the northeastern city of Recife, they weren’t quite sure what to expect. It was their first ever show as Matuto.

“A defining moment,” Ross recalls, thinking back to that fateful show in 2009 when he had received a Fullbright grant to perform in Brazil, and had invited the Portuguese-speaking, forró expert Curto to join the project. They had played together in various configurations around Brooklyn’s wildly cross-cultural music scene, but had never worked together so closely.

“There, on that massive stage, during the apex of Carnaval, through our jazz-influenced originals and bluegrass barnburners our ‘little project’ became the new center of our musical worlds,” recounts Ross. “Feeling that crowd stomp along, with their Brazilian dosey-doe and joyful abandon, was truly special.  Since then, we’ve toured the world recreating that moment.” It was that moment when Matuto (Brazilian slang for “country boy”) knew they were onto something.

That serendipitous, dance floor-friendly something remains delightfully open ended, a question the band poses about culture’s mutability and migratory habits, about what it means to embrace and treasure sounds from outside the musical world you were born into. It’s a question that’s unfolded throughout many centuries of African and European co-mingling in the Americas, from Brazil to the American South.

“The tension of cultural intersection is an exciting place to exist.  It’s what makes our musical choices feel relevant and exciting,” Ross reflects. “With the music we can ask:  What does it mean to be human?  Why create imaginary borders?  Music offers a safe place to live with these questions.”

Matuto’s songs can sway hips just as easily as spark insights. On stage, instruments (accordion, guitar, bass, drums, cavaquinho, zabumba, and triangle) whirl around the core of Matuto’s sound: the syncopations of Brazilian music and the folk traditions of the American South. It’s Bluegrass meets Brazil. It’s an unlikely combination on paper, but on the dance floor, it just feels right.

You’ll hear Brazil in the rich tones of Rob Curto’s forró accordion playing, in the rural rhythms of maracatu (from the Pernambuco region), in the urban beats of Rio’s samba, and in the intricate, chorinho-inspired melodies. All of this balanced with clear connections to American jazz, blues, bluegrass, and folk.

The band’s core members share a combined obsession with connecting the dots between Brazil, rural America, and creative reinterpretation of long-standing party-hardy forms. In 2002, South Carolina native Clay Ross moved to New York to pursue a jazz career, but just a few years later found himself in Recife, Brazil, immersed in the region’s folkloric music. Returning to New York, he began looking for like-minded conspirators, finding the perfect match for his love of Brazilian music in renowned accordionist Rob Curto (Forró for All). Born in New York, Curto is widely regarded as forró’s (NE Brazil’s accordion-driven country roots music) foremost ambassador in the States. He spent years living and playing in Brazil, completely absorbing and interpreting the country’s musical traditions.

Since that Carnival coup in Recife, the U.S.-based group has toured North America and Brazil, playing hundreds of shows each year, from popular American world music and folk festivals to major Brazilian celebrations. They have been featured showcase artists at the prestigious annual world music gathering WOMEX and have toured as U.S. State Department musical ambassadors in Africa, Europe, and The Middle East.

Tapping NYC’s diverse jazz, roots, and world music scen4_matuto-by-vincent-soyezes, they have recorded three highly regarded albums including most recently The Africa Suite, a series of original pieces based on the band’s engagement with the people, sounds, and traditions on the road as ambassadors. The Africa Suite focuses the band’s fascination with the cultural push and pull between Africa and the Americas, creating a musical snapshot of the five countries on its 2013 State Department-sponsored tour.

Matuto revels in cultures colliding and in the ongoing exchange of ideas.  They know its history is not without tension, but those very tensions can fire creative expression and good times.  “We’re questioning the boundaries and borders of the present and past” muses Ross. “We can’t always answer these questions, but we can let them guide us towards new possibilities through music.”

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Wintergrass 2015 Performer-Aoife O’Donovan

The thing about fossils is that they take a very long time in the making, and it’s not an enFossilsTourPhoto-web(1)tirely intentional process. The making of Aoife O’Donovan’s debut album Fossils has hardly been a glacial affair, but it has spent rather more than a decade forming about in her creative subconscious. It was time well spent, for she’s crafted a beautiful, timeless record, the natural evolution of an accomplished singer and songwriter.

The album’s roots stretch back to Aoife’s time at the New England Conservatory, where she dreamed of one day recording an album with celebrated producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Tift Merritt). Upon graduation, Aoife (pronounced “ee-fuh”) hit the road as the lead sinAoife O'Donovan Photo by Eric Frommerger and principal songwriter/song-finder of Crooked Still, which grew into one of the world’s most acclaimed progressive string groups over the ensuing decade. The stunning versatility and appeal of her voice brought her to the attention of some of the most eminent names in music and led to collaborations across a wide variety of genres with everyone from Alison Krauss to Dave Douglas, along with a role as vocalist on the Grammy-winning Goat Rodeo Sessions alongside Chris Thile, Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan.

O’Donovan never forgot the call of that solo record, though, and last year she headed to Portland, OR, to fulfill her dream and record with Martine. Rich in songs and unexpected textures, the resulting album bears the remarkable fruits of their creative partnership. Both joyously open and profoundly private, the album is at all times an opportunity to enjoy O’Donovan’s thoroughly modern and deeply rooted vocals.

The album opens with “Lay My Burden Down,” perhaps O’Donovan’s best-known song simply because Alison Krauss recorded it on Paper Airplane. O’Donovan acknowledges the risk in this choice, and the reward. “One of my uncles loves to say that nobody owns songs, and I think that’s true. My version is so different from hers, and it really sets a nice tone for the record,” she says.

O’Donovan and Martine have carefully placed her songs in a variety of musical settings, from the chorus of horns which opens “Thursday’s Child” to the country-rock of “Fire Engine,” from Charlie Rose’s pedal steel, running throughout Fossils, to the sometimes squalling electric guitar on “Beekeeper.” It is a rooted album, to be sure, but not precisely a roots album.

O’Donovan chuckles a little. “I guess it just feels totally natural,” she says. “It’s how a lot of these songs have just come to life over the years.”

Most of O’Donovan’s songs are character-driven, and many of them resemble portions of the folk traditions in which she was raised. The second track, “Briar Rose,” for example, is based on an Anne Sexton poem, a recontextualized fairytale. Though she will concede that a couple tracks are somewhat more personal.

And that she is quite properly proud of Fossils. “This solo album seems like it was a long time coming to me,” she says, the sounds of an airport in the background. “I’ve been thinking about it since I was 18 years old.”

Time well-spent. Fossils, after all, are among nature’s most durable, lasting creations.

Wintergrass 2015 Performers-Della Mae

Kimber Ludiker (Fiddle) had the idea of starting this band over three years ago in Boston, MA. It started out as a joke under the name Big Spike Hammer. And yes the name Della Mae comes from the Osborne Brothers song Big Spike Hammer.
“Hey hey Della Mae, why do you treat me this way?” The idea was to dress in power suits and play “Mangrass”…..whatever that means! After a few fun shows Kimber decided the band had potential. The name changed to a more feminine Della Mae, and she began to assemble women from all over the country. Only three years later Della Mae has come into its own with now 2 releases on Rounder Records and tours worldwide. Della Mae represents 5 states (WA, WY, CO, VT, SC), and many different musical influences!

Della Mae features the 2009-2010 National Fiddle Champion Kimber Ludiker, driving mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner, bassist Zoe Guigueno , the powerful vocals and acoustic guitar of Celia Woodsmith, and innovative guitar flatpicker Courtney Hartman.

The band released their debut full-length album, I Built This Heart, in October, with all-star guests Alison Brown, Laurie Lewis, Brittany Haas (Crooked Still) and Emma Beaton (Joy Kills Sorrow). The album was produced by Austin Nevins (Josh Ritter) and engineered by Erick Jaskowiack.

Vintage Guitar magazine describes Della Mae’s sound as “straightforward, expertly executed music that stays true to its inspirations.” Its musical style seamlessly blends years of experience with bluegrass music and modern singer-songwriter sensibilities. With award-winning instrumental abilities and a reputation for energetic live performances, the five women of Della Mae are turning heads

 

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Wintergrass 2015 Performers-Cahalen Morrison & Eli West

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West are, simply put, two of the most innovative and subtle roots musicians today. Their music draws from old folk sources, but it sounds vibrantly alive. Cahalen Morrison writes songs that sound like a Cormac McCarthy novel: simple, beautifully crafted, and seemingly formed from raw natural elements. Eli West brings jagged, angular arrangements medium_squarebased in bluegrass and old-time, but refracted through a 21st century lens. Like Ansel Adams’ photography, their music is instantly accessible and built from the simplest materials, but at the same time seems to transcend its base fundamentals. Together, Cahalen and Eli tap the root of the old country and bluegrass duets. As the sparse landscapes of Cahalen’s vocals reflect the warm glow of Eli’s voice, it’s clear that this duo was made to sing together.

Cahalen Morrison & Eli West’s new album, Our Lady of the Tall Trees, is a stunning example of the power of great songwriting and musicianship. And we’re not the only ones saying this. They’ve been building buzz first and foremost among the top echelon of roots musicians, with Tim O’Brien, Dirk Powell, and Aoife O’Donovan actively singing their praises and spreading the gospel. Cahalen & Eli can easily back up that kind of expert acclaim, as they show on album standouts like the title track, “Our Lady of the Tall Trees,” or the opener, “Stone to Sand.” Their stripped-back cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta” has been gathering early praise as well. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West’s music sounds eminently familiar, for they’re drawing from our common love of American roots music, but it also sounds entirely different. Even on the classic, or traditional covers on the album like “Church St. Blues,” or “Poor Cowboy,” they sound totally unlike the many, many roots music bands covering this same hallowed ground. Gone are the twangy accents, gone the overplayed search for the “old, weird America,” and gone the banjo-as-a-prop theatrics. This is music built on the joy of the craft, made by hand by two young masters with love for the traditions, but a bold vision for how the old sounds can fit into new soundscapes.

Wintergrass 2015 Performers-Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands

  Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands will be at Wintergrass 2015 playing 2 sets on Saturday . Laurie’s music has twice won her the  California’s Women’s Fiddling championships,a Grammy for her part in  True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe 1997, nominated with Tom Rozum for a Grammy with The Oak and the Laurel, in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album of 1995, and twice named Female Vocalist of the Year by the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association). They always are great live with originals songs, great instrumentals and some times you even get Laurie doing some dancing.

Tom has been playing mandolin and singing with Laurie since 1986. Tom’s versatility and diverse musical influences come to the fore every night on stage with the band. He plays primarily mandolin with the band, but is also an accomplished fiddle, mandola, and guitar player. His background as a rock and swing musician adds a uniquely satisfying flavor to the band.

Chad Manning, who has woOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAn plaudits as the fiddler with the David Grisman Bluegrass OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExperience, is a much-sought-after teacher, and greatly in demand as a session player. Chad has been playing fiddle since the age of 8, and toured the Northwest extensively with his family’s band, Homeward Bound. As a teenager Chad twice won Washington State Junior OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFiddle Championships. He also placed in the top five in the Junior and Adult divisions at the National Old Time Fiddler’s Contest in Weiser, Idaho.

Patrick Sauber on banjo, has been playing old-time, Cajun, and bluegrass music ever since he can remember. His introduction to performing came at the knee of his father, old-time master fiddler and claw-hammer banjo player Tom Sauber, a stalwart of the traditional music scene in Southern California. Under the guidance of his father (with whom he still performs), . Patrick has recorded or performed with many artists, including Doc Watson, Herb Pedersen, Weird Al Yankovic, The Limeliters, Richard Greene, Christ Stuart & Backcountry, Dirk Powell, and many others. In 2003, Christopher Guest asked Patrick to be the banjo player in The New Main Street Singers in the folk-music satire movie, A Mighty Wind. Patrick also played on the soundtrack CD and toured with the film’s cast.

Andrew is a composer, guitarist, double bassist, sound artist, and teacher. Andrew grew up near Philadelphia, in Wyndmoor, PA, and studied jazz guitar with Philadelphia shredder Ed Scott. He attended Oberlin College, emerging with a bachelor’s degree in jazz guitar. He has written pieces for orchestra, chamber ensemble, jazz band, and choir, and his music has been performed across the nation by groups ranging from the Oberlin Jazz Septet to the Germantown Friends School Choir. His bass-playing combines perfect timing with a playful sensibility that allows him to craft lines that knit the ensemble together seamlessly; his occasional solos are real gems of melodic invention and rhythmic intensity. Andrew is a much-sought-after bassist; besides gigging with The Right Hands, he performs with other Bay Area acts, including Quinn, Timosaurus, and Host Family. As if his plate weren’t full enough already, Andrew is currently pursuing a master’s degree in composition at San Francisco State University. He can be heard on Laurie’s CD, Blossoms.

 

Wintergrass 2015 Performers-True North

Hailing from Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley, Americana-bluegrass quartet True North combines traditional bluegrass instrumentation with fat harmonies and folk-edged songwriting for a distinctive sound that is fresh, True North OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

warm and memorable.

Fronted by vocalist and award-winning singer-songwriters Kristen Grainger and Dan Wetzel, True North is rounded out with two well-known Northwest bluegrass superstars Dale Adkins and Suzanne Pearce Adkins.

The band’s latest release, “Elsebound” (April 2014) has received very favorable reviews* from music critics here and abroad and has been very successful on the Roots Music Report’s top ten (national folk charts),  rubbing elbows with big names like Nickel Creek, Ray Lamontagne and Sarah Jaroz.
True North’s performances exemplify the most compelling aspects of live acoustic roots music: intelligent songwriting, thoughtful arrangements, terrific instrumental interpretations by the band’s highly-skilled pickers, and vocals that alternately bring you to tears or raise ecstatic hairs on the back of your neck.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wintergrass 2015 Performer-Sarah Jarosz

While still in her early 20’s, SARAH JAROSZ, the native of Wimberley, TX, just

Sarah Jarosz
Sarah Jarosz

 

outside of Austin, has earned her credibility in the world where contemporary folk, Americana and roots music intersect. Her reputation is built on three fronts—she is a gifted multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, and banjo), an expressive and distinctive vocalist, and an accomplished songwriter. It’s not just her peers who are taking notice—she’s appeared twice on the vaulted Austin City Limits and also on the BBC’s Transatlantic Sessions as well as A Prairie Home Companion, eTown, Acoustic Café and Mountain Stage. In 2014, she made her late night television debut on Conan, followed a day later by an appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. These two appearances happened while she was in Los Angeles to attend the GramSarah Jaroszmy awards for her two nominations for Best Folk Album (2013’s Build Me Up From Bones) and Best American Roots Song (for the title track). Her first album, Song Up In Her Head, yielded a Grammy nomination for her instrumental “Mansinneedof.” Jarosz has also been nominated for Americana Music Association Honors and Awards for New/Emerging Artist of the Year (2010), Instrumentalist of the Year (2011), Song of the Year (2012 for “Come Around” from Follow Me Down) and Album of the Year (2014).

Since graduating with honors from New England Conservatory in May 2013 with a degree in Contemporary Improvisation, Jarosz now makes her home in New York City. She has maintained a busy touring schedule both in the US and abroad in support of Build Me Up From Bones.