Wintergrass 2016 Performers-Joe Craven and The Sometimers

Joe Craven has found a couple of hot young pickers worthy of his chops: wild man bassist Jonathan Stoyanoff and Bruce MacMillan dazzling with crafty dobro, acoustic guitar pickin’ and angelic voice. With Joe’s wildly eclectic musicality, the sonic possibilities are unlimited. I just saw this new trio and… WoW!

                                                  – PBS television producer Peter Berkow

J“Joe Craven and The Sometimers” featuring Bruce MacMillan and Jonathan Stoyanoff, adhere to a “no genre left behind” policy of music making while leaping from a springboard of Americana. They perform impressively credentialed and possess enough poetic license to operate heavy machinery. Their analog/power tool box includes both upright and electric bass, various guitars, Dobro, lap steel, mandolin, octave mandolin, fiddle, more cowbell and who knows what else. This new NorCal roots music trio is celebration for a new framework of POP music, as in “Pursuit of Possibility” music. Give ’em a listen and you just might do a little dance while you’re at it!

Multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven is an award-winning creativity educator, former museum curator, actor, music festival emcee, Director of RiverTunes Music Camp, a Co-Director for the Wintergrass Youth Academy. Joe Craven’s love of performing music has put him in many musical genres and alongside many musicians, from Jerry Garcia, David Lindley, Howard Levy and Jason Marsalis, to fusion banjoist Alison Brown and groups such as Psychograss and The Horseflies. For 17 years, he was percussionist and violinist for mandolinist David Grisman. Joe’s unique education programs have inspired; communities in Costa Rica, corporate heads in Contra Costa, CA, a dozen different music camps, thousands of school kids from Stockton to Scotland and college students from Alaska to Alabama. Whether jamming with musicians from Morocco or Mendocino, performing solo, with his daughter Hattie, The Joe Craven Trio, Mamajowali, The Sometimers or playing Carnegie Hall to busking on Cannery Row – Joe’s at home and loving every minute!

Jonathan Stoyanoff is a much in demand bassist who is a fan of, trained in and very proficient at, a wide variety of vernacular music. He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA on a performance scholarship and, since then, Jonathan has helped form and perform in a variety of musical projects. He has played and/or shared bills with Larry Coryell, B.B. King, Robert Cray, Huey Lewis, Dave Mason, Jackie Greene, Ozomatli, Spearhead, Maceo Parker and many more. Jonathan has also played at some of the nation’s most prestigious festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the High Sierra Music Festival. He brings a high level of skill and enthusiasm to Joe Craven & The Sometimers.

Bruce MacMillan is a wonderfully intuitive musician dedicated to the holy temple of American Roots Music. His passion for the history and variety of America’s musical heritage has resulted in a versatility across many musical genres. From Blues to Bluegrass, Country to Jazz and Rock & Roll, Bruce plays with wonderful energy and artistry. He has performed upon many stages and at many music festivals, including the Strawberry Music Festival, High Sierra, and California Worldfest. With his wife Sally, they have two fine music stores in Chico and Redding, CA, known as The Music Connection where Bruce displays his chops as an educator, repairman and salesman. Bruce’s impressive skills on vocals plus all manner of guitars, Dobro and lap steel, bring a broad palette of sound to Joe Craven & The Sometimers.

Joe Craven and the Sometimers kicked off our Peacetown Summer Concert Series with a big bang. Folks danced, sang, and cheered the music of these incredible musicians.

-Jim Corbett,  Promoter / Educator



Wintergrass 2016 Performers-Helen Highwater Stringband

It was just another night in Nashville: four friends—revered acoustic musicians—got together in a living room. The music bounced, danced, gathered strength, and lifted them in a way that only happens with the right players. So, they formed a band and named it Helen Highwater—the tough, whimsical goddess of string band music. It’s David Grier on guitar, Missy Raines on bass, Mike Compton on mandolin, Shad Cobb on fiddle, and power vocals from all four. All are bluegrass music veterans.  helen highwater-900x292

These are musicians who have performed for decades. Their music is rooted but not frozen, recognizable but not predictable, comfy but not smug. It’s also a steel-railed groove of steam-powered drive—Gid Tanner and Bill Monroe stoking the coal car and one band barreling ahead, eyes around the curve.

David Grier was named an Artist of the Decade in 2000 by Guitar Player magazine, has received the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Guitar Player of the Year award 3 times, and has played on 4 Grammy award-winning albums.

Missy Raines is a 7-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year and a former member of the Claire Lynch and Eddie & Martha Adcock bands. She played as a duo with Jim Hurst and now fronts her own ensemble, The New Hip.

Mike Compton is known as the Monroe-style mandolin player and has played with John Hartford and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. Mike received Grammy awards for his work on O Brother Where Art Thou and played on projects for Dr. Ralph Stanley and Elvis Costello.

Shad Cobb is a powerful and nuanced fiddler who draws from deep traditions and has played for the Osborne Brothers, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Marty Raybon, Mike Snyder, and the John Cowan Band.

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-The Bumber Jacksons

The Bumper Jacksons are hot and sweet, painting America’s story from New Orleans’ brothels to Appalachian hollers. Unafraid to scrap together new sounds from forgotten 78’s, the Bumper Jacksons boldly and elegantly balance paying homage to the traditions while fashioning their own unique, DIY style.   Recognized as the region’s “Best Traditional Folk Band” at the 2013 and 2014 Washington Area Music Awards, the Bumper Jacksons are playfully creative with their originals and re-imagining roots music with both power and tenderness.  Bursting at the seams with some of the richest threads of old America, Bumper Jacksons bring you into the center of a party where everyone’s invited and the dance floor never sleeps.

Jess Eliot Myhre -clarinet . vocals . washboard . songwriting
A native Floridian, Jess Eliot grew up singing in church and swinging from banyan trees.  After performing in hip hop and funk bands at Wesleyan University, she moved to New Orleans and became mesmerized by the big, uproarious glory of the old sounds of the street bands and second lines. She dusted off her lonely old clarinet, built herself her iconic frog washboard, and turned a 180 towards the traditional. She now performs all over east of the Mississippi, playing her original songs and traditional American Roots music in performance halls, swing dances, contradances and square dances, house concerts, and busking in your city’s streets.  She’s a two-time winner of the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest in the jazz and vocal categories.

bumper logo
Chris Ousley-guitar . vocals  .  tenor banjo . songwriting
A Maryland boy, Chris tramped off to the hills of western Pennsylvania to study the 3 B’s: books, beer and banjos. There he woodshedded with old hill cats in barns outside of abandoned steel and coal towns playing any instrument he could take a turn on.  Hitting mountain trails, biking over rough terrain, rafting down rivers, all with a bottle of whiskey and a banjo on his back.  Chris’s deep jazz pocket and graceful Kentucky-style banjo is only outmatched by the snarlyness of his beard.  He was the one bold enough to believe that he and Jess could make music for a living and is solely responsible for all of the shenanigans that embody the Bumper Jacksons.
Together, Chris and Jess Eliot form the core of the Bumper Jacksons in 2012.  Their initial meeting fueled a riotous impromptu jam on the lawn of a radical bike house in Washington, DC.… The music never quit since.

Alex Lacquement-bass . harmony vocals  Alex swears that it was beautiful sirens who lead him to the upright bass at the impressionable age of seventeen. With lots of practice under his belt and two degrees in music education from Eastman(MM) and James Madison University(BA) he has found a home laying down some groovy bass lines with the Bumper Jacksons. His first music love which lead him to the upright bass was jazz music, something he studied vigorously.  Years later he found himself chasing every opportunity to play some happy thumping lines with bluegrass and old-time string bands.  Alex is now an invaluable third leg of the Bumper Jacksons, tasked not only with bass-playing dutioes and helpng with arrangements, but also keeping Chris in line for over three years now.
Dan Samuels-drums  .  suitcase percussion  It’s clear that a man who’s birth took place in a speeding car (headed to the hospital in Trenton, NJ) was meant for a life on the road and keeping people on their toes. What better way to do this than being the drummer and suitcase percussionist [in training] for the Bumper Jacksons? As the newest member of the group, he brings a wealth of diverse musical chops and expressions from his time in Baltimore-based funk/soul/hiphop groups.  When Dan isn’t playing on stage with the BJ’s he can be found in Baltimore working on his afro-cuban folkloric suitcase percussion, organizing community events and concerts, or on his roof trying desperately to turn his thumb from brown to green.

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-The Earl Brothers Hillbilly Trance

The Earl Brothers, based in San Francisco and led by banjo master Robert Earl Davis, have been delving into the dark side of bluegrass for more than a decade now, and their fifth and latest album, Outlaw Hillbilly, takes them further down that rough road.

Earl Brothers B_W 350dpi  2015They’re not a good time bluegrass band – they’re more interested in exploring the really bad times – but their music, like the blues, has that paradoxical effect of taking you so deep into the mire that you come out feeling a little better than you did before. These guys are very talented musicians, vocalists, and songwriters, but their sound is raw,” says the website Country Standard Time, which praises their “terrific new album”, “Outlaw Hillbilly”, as “jarring in its intensity” and “simply the next step in the steady progression of a band that continues to gain ground within the bluegrass community.”
Their raw and ravaged sound brings to mind Ralph Stanley at his bleakest – and that’s a good thing!
“The Earl Brothers have got the soul and the songs and the attitude that brought us all into bluegrass music in the first place,” says Chris Hillman of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. “Their songs cry of the mountains, of the people, and of the traditions down through the ages. Bluegrass music is alive and well.”

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-Stumptown Swing

Tim Connell (mandolin and voice) and Mike Burdette (guitar) of Rio Con Brio formed Stumptown Swing after nearly a decade of playing pick-up gigs with Portland’s best acoustic string musicians.  They snapped up the hottest upright bass player in town, Keith Brush (Stolen Sweets, Pete Krebs Trio, Blue Cranes) and are proud to feature their long-time friend and collaborator, the absolutely pyrotechnic violinist, Ben Blechman.

Named after their hometown, Portland “Stumptown” Oregon, the quartet is closely associated with the network of Lindy Hop, Balboa and Swing Dance clubs that have made Portland a major center of the Swing Dance revival.  They are in demand as a live band for the almost nightly swing dance events throughout Portland.  In addition to Stumptown’s thumping dance-oriented set, the group frequently performs a concert set featuring a wider variety of tempos and styles, appearing at both jazz and world music festivals.

Stumptown Swing released its debut album in 2014 and has been performing on concert stages and dancehalls throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Tim Connell

A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and a virtuoso mandolinist with over twenty years professional performing experience, Tim Connell has created a sophisticated and original global mandolin style.  Widely regarded as one of the top North American interpreters of Brazilian choro, Tim has also developed his own unique voice for the instrument, described in a recent Mandolin Magazine cover story as “fiery and energetic, soulful and evocative.”

Tim regularly tours Europe and North America in the international mandolin supergroup The Ger Mandolin Orchestra. He has been a featured guest artist at national conventions of the Classical Mandolin Society of America; he has been on staff at the prestigious Mandolin Symposium for several years and performs and teaches all over the country.  Tim has performed with a roster of the greatest living mandolinists, including David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Avi Avital, Caterina Lichtenberg, Don Stiernberg, Rich Del Grosso, Chris Acquvella and many others.

Tim is a restless and prolific bandleader and arranger, sideman and studio musician, currently touring with his Brazilian choro duo Rio Con Brio, 1930’s-era swing quartet Stumptown Swing, world mandolin duo Mando Planet and guitar wizard Eric Skye. In addition, Tim is an integral member of Americana songsters The Old Yellers, currently riding high on their new release “Ten from Town”. In his solo act, Tim shares his career-long exploration of the world’s many musical styles as realized on the mandolin and voice.

Mike Burdette

Mike Burdette has been performing Brazilian choro and gypsy jazz guitar for the past seven years with many of Portland’s best, including Tim Connell, Jason Okamoto, David Stassens, and Joseph Appel. His pursuit of excellence in these styles has led him to study with many of today’s leading players, including Mike Marshall and Choro Famoso, Dudu Maia, Douglas Lora, and Don Stiernberg. He also builds and repairs instruments for many of Portland’s finest players at Portland Fretworks, and pickers throughout the Northwest enjoy playing on frets he has installed. He lives in rural Newberg, Oregon, with his beautiful wife, Katherine, his chickens, and his honeybees.

Ben Blechman

Ben Blechman with a fiddle in his hands is a man on fire.  Possessed of flawless classical technique and an endless imagination, Ben is a master of improvisation and groove.

He has played with the Santa Cruz Symphony, the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra with Roy Hargrove and Terrence Blanchard, and various other symphonies, string quartets and opera companies. Ben played extensively with the Hot Club of San Francisco (filling in for Evan Price).   Since that time, Ben has played with various bands including, Frizz, Hot Club Pacific, Route5, Water Bear, the Djangophiles, Clambake, Vagabond Opera, and the 12th Ave Hot Club.

Keith Brush

Everyone’s favorite bassist….
A veteran of venerable Portland bands such as Pete Krebs and the Portland Playboys, the Blue Cranes, and the Stolen Sweets, Keith Brush is in constant demand as one of Portland’s top bassists, and Stumptown Swing is thrilled to have their long-time friend and collaborator on board.  Swing dancers are known to high-five each other when they see him enter the room with his bass because they know he will keep the dance floor thumping.

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-The DownTown Mountain Boys

The DownTown Mountain Boys based in Seattle, Washington, is the Pacific Northwest’s most exciting and accomplished bluegrass band. Veteran bluegrassers and recording artists Terry Enyeart (bass, lead and harmony vocals), Dave Keenan (banjo, fiddle, lead and harmony vocals), Don Share (guitar, lead and harmony vocals), Tom Moran (Mandolin) and Paul Elliott (fiddle), seen for years in such popular Northwest bands as Ranch Romance, Rural Delivery, Rainy Pass, and Who’s Driving?, have come together in a match made in musical heaven. Take three-part harmonies that send shivers up your spine, add dazzling instrumental firepower, and you have the sound of The DownTown Mountain Boys.

Paul’s fiddle playing has the kind of explosive energy that grabs you and doesn’t let go. One of the most versatile, accomplished, and respected fiddle players on the West coast, he has performed with The Good Old Persons, John Reischman, Michelle Shocked, Alison Brown, Buell Neidlinger, and others. His recording credits span film, television, and radio, and a long list of recordings including Scott Nygaard’s No Hurry on the Rounder label. Paul is also a talented composer and arranger (he wrote the title track of both of the band’s recordings) and a gifted music teacher.  Finally, Paul is a gifted sound engineer and music producer.  In addition to many other projects, he recorded and mixed The DownTown Mountain Boys two recordings: Big Darlin’ (2007) and Heartland (2014

Don is a bluegrass groove-master, and his exquisite and powerful sense of rhythm helps define the band’s sound. He is an accomplished lead singer and a harmony singing ace. Don was a founding member of the popular bluegrass bands Who’s Driving?, and Rainy Pass, and also currently performs with the folk and country band, The Debutones. Don has taught harmony singing and guitar, and a

ppears on an instructional harmony singing series with Sue Thompson and Keith Little.

Hard-driving banjo and sweet lead and harmony vocals make Dave an ear-catching

part of the band’s sound. He has been exciting and delighting audiences for years as a member of popular touring bands Ranch Romanc

e, Jo Miller and Her Burly Roughnecks, and M

iles and Karina Dave’s incredible versatility as an i

nstrumentalist also allows the band to feature twin fiddles in its repertoire.  Dave is a gifted songwriter (he wrote two of the tracks on our first recording) and popular music instructor.  He also serves as the band’s ha

ir styling consultant and occasional hair donor.

Terry is a vocal virtuoso and a highly acclaimed bluegrass and country singer. His powerful, soulful voice is the centerpiece of The DownTown Mountain Boys. When Terry sings, people listen! Terry has perfo

rmed in numerous Northwest bands, including Rural Delivery, and Brother’s Keeper.  In addition to playing bass, Terry is an accomplished mandolinist and guitarist, and he has taught music (guitar, mandolin, bass, and voice) for many years. Terry has just released a collection of songs from his long musical career entitled “MyLife Compilated”.

DMB, 2009, High Resolution

Sweet tremolo on a ballad, soulful Monroe-style blues licks, or a lightening-fast instrumental– Tom’s playing keeps you on the edge of your seat. Tom has that rare gift of being innovative without ever losing touch with his pure bluegrass roots. He is author of Mandolin Magazine’s  bluegrass column and a key force in the revival of the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra. Tom also teaches a bluegrass class at Shoreline Community College in Seattle. A librarian by profession, Tom insists on filing our set lists according to the Dewey decimal system.


Wintergrass 2016 Performers-The Seldom Scene

The Seldom Scene will be performing at Wintergrass 2016 with a new member. Rickie Simpkins. Here is the info on founding member Ben Eldridge’s retirement from the band.


Ben Eldridge Retires From The Seldom Scene, Rickie Simpkins Joins The Band

The Seldom Scene announces that founding member Ben Eldridge has retired after nearly 45 years with the Grammy-nominated band. Eldridge is the last original member of the popular bluegrass quintet, but the band will continue to perform, with Rickie Simpkins on banjo and fiddle.

“It was a very hard decision to make, but I’ve been wanting to stop for a while,” Eldridge said. “I’m 77, I don’t like traveling much anymore and I’m not playing that well. My left hand is going south on me.”

He shared his decision with band mates Lou Reid, Dudley Connell, Fred Travers and Ronnie Simpkins – Rickie’s brother – at a recent show in Virginia, where he visited with the band but didn’t play. His final performance was New Year’s Eve at the Birchmere Music Hall in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, joining the band on stage at the end of night.

The Seldom Scene started performing gigs in 1971, after playing together at informal jam sessions in Eldridge’s basement. The band quickly became a local favorite, then developed a national following for bringing the drive of bluegrass to music from outside the genre, including folk and rock and roll.

Eldridge and other members of the original Seldom Scene lineup are members of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame.

“It’s the end of an era,” Travers said. “We’ll miss Ben immensely.”

Added Reid, “It’s really hard for all of us. Ben has been one of my idols since before I joined the Scene. We all love Ben Eldridge.”

Connell has always admired Eldridge’s playing, but gained new respect for him during his absence from the stage in recent months. “I’ve watched great banjo players struggle as they tried to capture what I now consider to be Ben’s genius,” he said. “I mentioned this to Ben last week, and he told me he just played what came naturally to him. That’s the magic and pure genius of Ben’s playing. To him, it was easy.”

Turnover is rare for the Scene. The last personnel change came when co-founder John Duffey died in 1996, and Reid rejoined the band for his second stint. Travers, Connell and Ronnie Simpkins all joined the band on the same day in late 1995 and made their debut on New Year’s Eve that year at the Birchmere. In what is perhaps a fitting bit of irony, their 20th anniversary of joining was Eldridge’s last official show.

To a man, Eldridge and the four remaining members are excited to have Rickie Simpkins join them. But no one is more excited than Ronnie Simpkins, who last played regularly with his brother when they were part of the Tony Rice Unit.

“It’s really difficult for all of us to see Ben leave the Scene,” he said. “Not only is he one of the most innovative banjo players on the planet, he’s been the heart and soul of the band. While I’m really sad to see Ben go, I’m very excited to share the stage again with my brother. Whatever he comes up with, it’s going to be magical.”

In addition to Tony Rice, Rickie Simpkins regularly toured with Emmylou Harris. With both of those bands off the road, he’s looking forward to getting back to playing regularly.

“I’m just honored and thrilled and beside myself,” he said. “I’ve been putting a lot of time in trying to get these songs in my head.”

Fans who hear the new iteration of the band are in for some surprises. The Scene has never had a regular fiddle player and now it is getting one of the best in the business. But he’s also accomplished on the banjo and can sing lead, baritone and tenor.

“All of us in the band are truly excited to have Rickie on board,” Travers said. “It adds a whole new dimension.”

And while the remaining members are understandably saddened by Eldridge’s decision, they get to say goodbye this time without having to attend a funeral, as was the case when Duffey died unexpectedly 19 years ago.

“This is fun because we get to say thank you and tell Ben we love him to his face,” Travers said.

And this goodbye isn’t necessarily forever. Eldridge said he’s likely to turn up now and again for special reunion shows, joining founding members John Starling and Tom Gray and current members of the Scene.

Credit:  David Morris

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