Hailing from the Red Roof Inn, the driver’s seat of a Honda Fit, the floor of the airport, the guest bedroom at your Aunt’s and Uncle’s house, the back seat of a 15-passenger van, and New York City, Brian Dunne is the companion you never knew you wanted. Equipped with a Telecaster, a Gibson Hummingbird and 17 dollars, he is coming to your town to play his guts out and then stand by the merch table.
‘Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements’ was produced by Brian and released in May of 2017 independently. It garnered a great deal of attention based on the quality of the songwriting and musicality, landing Brian on NPR’s Mountain Stage and 2017’s Cayamo Cruise, and tours with The Secret Sisters, Will Hoge, Rosanne Cash, Robert Earl Keen, Joan Osborne, Delbert McClinton, and a myriad of other songwriting heavyweights. The first two singles were picked up by SiriusXM radio, and if you visited a shopping mall during the spring of 2017, you probably heard the lead single ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ being interrupted by an announcement that someone had lost their kid at the food court.
Brian followed the release of ‘Bug Fixes’ with a live EP of stripped-down versions of previously released songs entitled “The Timber House Sessions”. In early 2019, Brian returned to the studio to begin his next LP with producer Andrew Sarlo which is slated for release sometime before we’re all dead and expected to be ‘totally the most amazing thing you’ve ever heard,’ according to Brian’s mom. In the meantime, his newest single ‘New Tattoo’ has been played extensively on XM radio and become a huge hit amongst a very niche group of people that fly JetBlue and frequent Starbucks.
Rock N’ Roll Ain’t For Me, the 2017 debut from Raleigh singer-songwriter Kate Rhudy, reinterprets well-worn folk with a new vibrancy. “I’ve always written letters to people, and then never sent them,” Rhudy recalls, ‘Rock N’ Roll Ain’t For Me is the collection of those letters, journal entries—in all their glorious honesty.’ Rhudy, who grew up playing both classical violin and fiddlers’ conventions, brought her collection of writings into the studio alongside collaborator and producer Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange. The album sounds warm even in its loneliest moments. “Someone once broke my heart by handing me a toothbrush,” sings Rhudy. You can’t help but feel close to her, you can’t help but feel that you’ve just made a friend.
“One of the Triangle’s sharpest young songwriters” -INDY Week
“For those tired of Americana music from the male perspective, give Kate Rhudy’s debut a shot.” -The Strangers Almanac
““Her voice just has this presence to it that could make anybody in any room stop what they’re doing and turn to figure out who the hell is singing.” -Andrew Marlin (Mandolin Orange)
“Likely to bring a smile to faces of listeners…the Raleigh-based singer-songwriter’s sweet folksy vocals and quick strings wield quips with surgical precision. [Rhudy] cuts straight through the bullshit of some guy we have all met at some point or another.” -encore
Picture a street in working-class Baltimore some 30 years ago. Kids play in the shadows of the row houses that line the sidewalks. Their parents sit on the stoops leading up to front doors. It all seems normal at first glance.
But zoom in on one of these homes — that old duplex built back when this part of town was still mainly open fields. Inside is a completely different community, where fundamentalism, hippie values and volatile, unpredictable emotions coexist and collide. Escape is difficult: the only way out is to pass through the bedrooms of people you might be trying to get away from.
This is where Eliot Bronson grew up. Yeah, he often wanted to slip away from there, but the first thing he saw once he exited was the Pentecostal Church across the street where his father and grandfather had preached and where congregants spoke in tongues.
So Eliot looked inward instead.
“For better or worse, I’ve always been a weirdo,” he remembers. “I was reading about Zen Buddhism when all my friends were getting high and drunk in high school.
“Of course,” he adds, “I did all that stuff later.”
He also observed. In this kaleidoscopic family, where glossolalia and, on occasion, alcohol-fueled ravings, sometimes bled into each other, Bronson found shelter in music. At age 15, he got his first guitar and started teaching himself to play. “Right away, I wanted to write my own songs,” he says. “My house was pretty chaotic, crazy, and unhealthy, so I took to music like it was a life raft. It was something I could do to keep myself alive.”
Punk rock was his shelter at first. Then one day his dad put on a few of his favorite LPs — Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’, something by Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. Eliot had heard these albums a thousand times before. This time, though…
“… it resonated with me,” Eliot says. “It wasn’t just in the background. I tuned into it for the first time. There was a magic and a power there. It didn’t talk down to the listener but it was also high art. It asked you to be smart and to become a better version of yourself. For me, this was a moment when it became my music, not just my parents’ music.”
From local coffee houses and venues beyond Baltimore, Bronson sharpened his writing and performance. He cultivated a working approach that involved singing to himself as ideas came to him and never jotting down chord changes or lyrics once he had committed the finished version to memory. A local following grew. Astute observers saw something different in the young artist’s work. The Baltimore Sun even anointed him “a folk singing wunderkind.”
Expanding his range, Bronson toured as one-half of a duo. They moved to Atlanta and picked up a gig in a room frequented by The Indigo Girls, John Mayer, Shawn Mullins and other discerning clientele. When his partner quit to take a sensible non-musical job, Bronson persisted on his own. His songs won first-place honors at MerleFest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and Eddie Owens Presents “Songwriter Shootout.” He issued several solo albums, including a self-titled release in 2014 that prompted Glide Magazine to describe him as “a gorgeous, magnificent hybrid of (Ryan) Adams, Jason Isbell and Jim James.” Bop n Jazz upped that ante by heralding him as “maybe the best singer/songwriter since Dylan.”
Writers may have trouble topping these accolades, though that’s what Bronson’s latest album merits. Scheduled to release Aug. 25 on Rock Ridge Music, James offers songs that are more like pictures than movies, capturing moments and digging deeply into their meanings. A stomping beat, raw harmonica and searing electric slide drives the opening track, “Breakdown In G Major,” followed by a selection of songs that only confirm Bronson’s restless, escalating excellence.
“Good Enough,” for example, captures a relationship in its final stage — a stage that may end tomorrow or stretch on for years. Bronson sings it sorrowfully, asking the rhetorical question of whether “‘good enough’ is good enough for you” from this point. “When I stumbled onto that line, I was like, ‘That’ll probably stick,’” he says. “But I think the song really came from the first line, ‘Were we really that young?’ Sometimes it takes just one line to resonate with me and get me to start writing.”
Then there’s “The Mountain,” whose elusive grandeur delivers a powerful message but leaves it to the listener to parse its meaning. “There’s a very literalist current in writing and music right now,” Bronson observes. “There aren’t a lot of layers to lyrics these days. It’s just what you see on the page. So when you don’t write that way, you get, ‘What are you hiding?’”
He laughs and then concludes, “I don’t look at it that way. For me, it’s more about how you feel when you hear it. What does it do for you? That’s the message!”
One more, “Rough Ride,” is a departure for Bronson. Here, the meaning is clear: When 25-year-old Freddie Gray fell unaccountably into a coma in the back of a Baltimore police van, much of America expressed shock and outrage. So did Bronson, but he channeled those emotions into this song.
“I had mixed feelings about writing this because I don’t like inserting my political or social beliefs into art,” he explains. “Art should be about connecting people, not drawing lines between them. But I was listening to Dylan’s Desire album at the time, especially ‘Hurricane.’ I always wanted to write a song like that. It was like, ‘How can you tell a story almost journalistically with great emotional impact and yet not come off heavy-handed?’ I wanted to see if I could do it. Now I’m glad I did.”
Known for his empathetic work with Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and other utterly original artists, producer Dave Cobb played a critical role in bringing James to fruition. “His honesty and old-fashioned vibe were so appealing to me,” Bronson says. “They leant themselves to the way I created. And, of course, it was a huge boost to have this great artist/producer at your back.”
They had worked together previously on his 2014 release, Eliot Bronson. “But this album is different,” Bronson points out. “It’s more sparse and economical. My voice is stronger. And I think it’s a step away from the purely Americana vibe of the last one in a direction that I have a hard time defining. I’m excited to discover how this music will define itself.”
Wherever he’s bound, Bronson promises to write and sing the truth as he sees and feels it. “For the really great artists, like Dylan or Paul Simon, you never quite find what you’re looking for,” he says. “As you get closer, it changes. It stays elusive. What I want to do now isn’t the same as what I wanted to do five years ago. And that’s what keeps me going.” And it’s that shift that drives Bronson to continue to refine his art.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tom Mackell might surprise listeners with the southern influences in his music. After attending college in the south, he made the necessary pilgrimage to Nashville in 2015 to find inspiration, collaborate with diverse artists, and build his unique voice and sound that juxtaposes Northern roots against traditional Southern sounds. Tom’s style is as diverse as it is accessible, from easy listening, beachy tunes to late-night tailgate jams. Tom is no stranger to the road: he has toured across the nation with Sister Hazel as well as The Voice alumnus Tony Lucca. Tom co-wrote “Restless Heart” off Lucca’s new record “Ain’t No Storm” which hit #3 on the iTunes Singer-Songwriter chart in March 2019. Now calling Charleston home, Tom has a brand new EP titled “A Life I Once Knew” that will surely become a go-to record for any Americana, country, and acoustic music fan. Listen now at tommackell.com.
A night of songs in the round featuring Chris Frisina, Shay Martin Lovette, and David Childers.
New Commute kicking things off.
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A musician and actor, Tyler Hilton has accomplished a lot in his career so far. As a teenager, he released two Top 40 singles. He starred alongside Taylor Swift in her video for ‘Teardrops on my Guitar.’ He played the role of one of his musical idols, Elvis Presley, in the Oscar-winning Johnny Cash biopic ‘Walk the Line,’ and co-starred with Robert Downey Jr. in the acclaimed indie film ‘Charlie Bartlett.’ He may be most known for his musical role on the show ‘One Tree Hill,’ which earned him a devoted fan base around the world.
His new album ‘City On Fire,’ out January 18th 2019, comes from a much more personal place for the California native, who grew up in a family of musicians and songwriters and spent much of his childhood performing and jamming alongside of them. Steeped in country, blues, folk and rock traditions, the album captures the loose, organic musical style that runs in Hilton’s blood.
Hilton remembers trying to explain that style to producers in Nashville as a young songwriter. ‘I’d play them my favorite records; Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Townes Van Zandt, Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton,’’ he says. “I’d just get blank stares like, ‘So…are you rock, pop, blues, country…?’ And the answer was always, ‘Yes, all that.’”
It may not have been the easy answer they were looking for, but as Hilton explains, “there’s a common denominator in all of that music to me. Maybe it’s a feeling of adventure, or rebellion, or just hearing real people,” he says. “Whatever it is, that’s what my feelings sound like, and that’s what the music that comes out of me sounds like.”
Hilton recorded the album both in California with bandmate and childhood family friend, Jaco Caraco, as well as in Tennessee with his former roommate and another longtime collaborator, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum. Hilton and Caraco had started recording what was supposed to be a side project for film and TV soundtracks in their spare time. Hilton was on hiatus from filming a pilot for CMT, and Caraco was on break from touring in Miley Cyrus’ band.
It was during this time that Kelley called Hilton about working together as well. ‘I knew this was rare, to have both of my favorite collaborators available at the same time. It just hit me, this is way more than a side project.’
That collaborative spirit is in Hilton’s songwriting DNA. He’s written with Taylor Swift and Michelle Branch, co-wrote on Joe Cocker’s final studio album and is currently in the studio working on new music with Billy Ray Cyrus.
For Hilton’s new album, the title track and first single, ‘City On Fire,’ was written around the 2016 election, a period where Hilton found himself listening to a lot of traditional folk songs and western movie scores. ‘It was strange and comforting to listen to that music during a time of so much change. Everything seemed to be changing,’ he recalls. ‘And then a good friend of mine from high school passed away, and all of my friends came together. I sang some songs, we cried, but mostly we were just left numb and blinking. A lot happened really fast.’
”City On Fire’ came out of me really quickly,’ he explains. ‘It was kind of like a dream I should have had, but instead the images came out as a song, a fully formed murder ballad. It was eerie, but I think it painted the picture just right. It really felt like the city was on fire and a lot was being lost very quickly.’
The accompanying music video was directed by Hilton’s wife, Megan Park, who is most recognizable for her work as an actress (‘Secret Life of the American Teenager,’ ‘Central Intelligence’) but has recently made waves directing music videos for Billie Eilish, Alina Baraz, Blackbear, and Gucci Mane. For the video, Park teamed with production company PRETTYBIRD, the studio behind videos for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Rihanna’s “We Found Love,’ and choreographer Andrew Winghart (‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ Lorde’s ‘Melodrama’ tour, Kahlid’s 2018 tour).
Tyler will showcase the new music from his album, “City On Fire,” on a February and March tour of the U.S. ‘City On Fire’ will be released on January 18th, 2019 from Hilton’s label, Hooptie Tune Records.
DeadlockNCHC, Witchpit, and Queen City Rejects
Denny Stone – Vocals
Thomas White – Guitar
Zach Hanley – Bass
Josh Bishop – Drums
for booking please contact
Anyone familiar with the Americana music scene knows this Upstate, New York-based band has cut their teeth on a killer live show. With a never-ending tour schedule and a steady buzz, they have built a very solid underground fan base. ‘The game has been live shows and nose to the ground since the beginning,’ says guitarist/songwriter Dan Forsyth. As well as a devout following and a sizable discography, the band’s hard work has also been a huge part of the inspiration for their music. The songs and arrangements have grown out of time spent on the road, growing closer, learning with and from each other and weathering the up’s and down’s of the journey together. ‘We have a truly special bond creatively and personally. It’s the driving force behind the music,’ violinist/songwriter Claire Byrne adds. It is with this bond, patience, determination and undying mutual love and respect for music, the road, and their friendship, they have approached their latest offering, ‘Tree of Shade.’ ‘I’m struck by the gratitude that making music with my best friends/my other family brings,’ says guitarist/songwriter Joe Kollar. ‘Even our producer (Simone Felice) and the engineer (Pete Hanlon) became brothers in this process. Laying out some of your most intimate moments and showing the rawest version of yourself is both scary and exhilarating but more importantly, it reminds you why you chose music as the vehicle. It’s the ’66 Corvette that will always take me back to the beauty and power of a group of people setting out to make something together.’ Their first album with a major producer, ‘Tree of Shade’ is a testament to the essence of a song. Working alongside Felice, the band found themselves stripping things back way more than they normally would. ‘Simone was all about finding the essence of the song and doing our best to bring it out without distorting it or taking the arrangement too far.’ The first single off of the Spring 2019 release is ‘Lay Like You Do,’ a stripped down heartbreaker. “This was one of those songs that came out faster than I could write it down and seemed sort of like plucking an apple off a tree,’ admits Forsyth. “The melody and chorus came out of a dream and when I woke up, I wrote the rest real fast.’ With the addition of drummer Will Sigel in April 2018, Driftwood feels like a new band. ‘Will has elevated our sound without changing the intimate dynamic that is Driftwood,’ observes bassist Joey Arcuri. With this added momentum and a new album, a nationwide tour is set in support of ‘Tree of Shade.’
Turning heads while showcasing original bluegrass and newgrass tunes such as “Backwards Drifting”. The Dirty Grass Players bring a solid performance from a group of musicians that come from diverse backgrounds, but have one similar interest in playing for the love of music.
Sam Tayloe (Time Sawyer)
Through his full band vehicle, Time Sawyer, Sam Tayloe is interested in “real people and real songs” and that’s just what the listener finds in his music – a sense of realness. Blending a grassroots feel with heart-felt lyrics, Tayloe pulls the listener in with introspective ballads that land in that rootsy sweet spot where folk, alt-country, and rock gather for a good time.
For Sam, time is a muse for songwriting; it’s the thread that runs through life, bringing new experiences and giving us a sense of urgency, while still connecting us with our past. He has performed either solo or with Time Sawyer on the stages of some of the Southeast’s most iconic festivals, including Merlefest, Floydfest, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Rhythm n’ Blooms, Carolina in the Fall and IBMA’s Bluegrass First Class sharing bills with the likes of Langhorne Slim, Phil Cook, Steep Canyon Rangers, The Wood Brothers, Joe Pug, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and many more.
From Tayloe come memorable lyrics and strong melodies that result in songs that will stay in your head long after the music stops. Sam continues to develop a loyal and growing fan base. Whether playing in an intimate listening room or a large outdoor festival, the goal is to forge a face-to-face connection with the audience so that all become friends who happen to be fans. He’s definitely our friend and you should be his.
Chris Trapper is a storyteller. With his soulful, honeyed tenor, sly humor and an uncanny knack for melody, Chris has traveled the world over, performing to a dedicated and ever growing fan base with nothing but his guitar and his songs. Raised on Prine and Kristofferson, Trapper’s first foray in the music industry was as frontman of the critically acclaimed alt-rock band The Push Stars (Capitol Records). Over the past decade, Chris has become a modern day acoustic troubadour, performing over 150 dates a year as a headliner and sharing the stage with the likes of Colin Hay, Martin Sexton and even John Prine himself.
The New York Times has called his work “classic pop perfection.”
The new CD SYMPHONIES OF DIRT & DUST is a collection of 12 songs written and performed by Chris Trapper and Produced by Jason Meeker at Silver Top Studios, Boston, MA. Guest musicians include Dan McLoughlin of The Push Stars on bass and NYC singer/songwriter Amy Fairchild on harmonies.
‘I have to mention Jason, the producer of Symphonies of Dirt & Dust. He is my old friend, who not only worked the clubs in rock bands but also worked for Geffen records in their heyday, so he has a good sense of the music business as a whole. What I love about Jason is that he is absolutely obsessed with his craft and getting songs right.
Every record tells a story. For me, much more than gimmicks, my albums are like diary entries, or truthful accounts of where I’m at in life. I suppose that might be the same for most songwriters, but in the spectrum of the music business, it’s still an animal that’s nearly extinct.’ Chris Trapper
Chris has toured North America and the UK with multi platinum songwriter Colin Hay and Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas.
Share in an evening of indie-Americana with singer-songwriters Joshua Radin and Deb Talan and Steve Tannen of The Weepies. These musicians explore the intricacies and adventures of love with distinctive sentiment and exceptional lyricism.
About Joshua Radin
Love and the complications surrounding it have long been Joshua Radin’s songwriting forte. Featured in more than 150 different films, commercials and TV shows, Radin’s songs have reached large audiences with their ability to convey all of the ambivalence and excited uncertainness of new love.
About The Weepies
Deb Talan and Steve Tannen began writing songs together the night they met. Soon after, they formed The Weepies, an indie junket launched by the now husband-wife duo’s harmonies and insightful songwriting. Their charming performance style and prolific work ethic have led to the sale of more than 1.5 million records and fans across the globe.
ADIOS is Cory Branan’s death record. Not the cheeriest of openings, but like all of Branan’s mercurial work, it’s probably not what you think. As funny and defiant as it is touching and sad, this self-dubbed “loser’s survival kit” doesn’t spare its subjects or the listener.
Not even Branan’s deceased father is let off the hook. In the tender homage “The Vow” he drolly cites his father’s favorite banality “that’s what you get for thinking” as “probably not the best lesson for kids.” For most songwriters that would be the punchline but Branan pushes through words and, in his father’s actions, finds a kind of “genius in the effortless way he just ‘did’.”
Not all the death on ADIOS is literal mortality. “Imogene” is sung from the wreckage of a love that once “poked fun at the pain, stoked the sun in the rain” but ends with the urgent call to “act on the embers, ash won’t remember the way back to fire.”
The trademark lyrical agility is mirrored sonically. Never a genre loyalist, ADIOS finds Branan (much like his musically restless heroes Elvis Costello and Tom Waits) coloring outside the lines in sometimes startling shades of fuzz and twang. While unafraid to play it arrow-straight when called for (“The Vow,” “Equinox,” “Don’t Go”), ADIOS veers wildly from the Buddy Holly-esque rave up “I Only Know” (sung with punk notables Laura Jane Grace and Dave Hause), through the swampy “Walls, MS” to the Costello-like new wave of “Visiting Hours.”
The blistering punk of “Another Nightmare in America” bops along daring listeners to “Look away, look away, move along, nothing to see here” (the song is written from the point of view of a racist killer cop). And as the mourning singer on “Cold Blue Moonlight” shifts from paralysis to panic, the song’s jazzy drone shifts to an almost Sabbath fury. The tonal shifts are always deliberate and not just simple genre hopping; while the turns can be jarring you can trust Branan to take you somewhere unexpected.
The 14-song album was self-produced and recorded in the spring of 2016 at Tweed Studios in Oxford, MS with a tight three piece: Branan on lead vocals and guitar (both electric and acoustic); Robbie Crowell (formerly of Deer Tick) on drums and percussion, keys, and horns; and James “Haggs” Haggerty on bass. Additionally, Amanda Shires contributes on fiddle and vocals, and Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! and Dave Hause provide guest vocals.
Cory Branan has four previous full-length releases: The Hell You Say (2002, Madjack Records), 12 Songs (2006, Madjack), Mutt (2012, Bloodshot Records), and The No-Hit Wonder (2014, Bloodshot). His music has received critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and Rolling Stone Country, NPR All Things Considered, Noisey, Wall Street Journal, Paste Magazine, Oxford American, Consequence of Sound, Southern Living, and many others.
Darrin Bradbury makes Rolling Stone’s “10 Best Country & Americana Songs to Hear Now”
Darrin Bradbury writes about the way things really are in America – a singular perspective shaped by a natural gift for storytelling, a lingering battle with depression, and a sly sense of humor. A self-described folk satirist who has toured the country for more than a decade, Bradbury collects his oddball observations in his newest album, Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs.
Bradbury grew up in New Jersey with an early interest in performing, partly because of his mother’s career as a circus clown. At the age of 7, he felt certain that he would either become a songwriter or a cartoonist. He learned to play guitar as a vessel to tell his stories — and because his handwriting and grammar steered him away from being a novelist. By the age of 18, he’d discovered Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, and Paul Simon, and decided to hit the road.
At 25, he moved from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Nashville, to try making it as a songwriter. For three months, he slept in his car in a Walmart parking lot, and developed a local following by playing open mic nights. With a handful of self-funded EPs and albums, Bradbury steadily cultivated a national audience by touring constantly. Produced by Kenneth Pattengale of the Milk Carton Kids, Talking Dogs & Atom Bombs is Bradbury’s first release for ANTI- Records
The Gone Ghosts
The Gone Ghosts is an Americana/Rock band from Carrboro NC, formed by singer/guitarist and songwriter Dave Hedeman and bassist Dillon Partin from The Vagabond Union. Joined by singer/guitarist Justin Bowlin and drummer Scott Jones.
Based in Charlotte NC, singer/songwriter Trent Thompson brings passion and authenticity in his guitar-based rock. Trent began writing and singing his original music in 2012 with a local Charlotte band “Reaves”. Now as a solo artist, Trent pulls from his religious roots and his real life experiences when it comes to writing and holds nothing back.
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Rupert Wates was born in London and studied at Oxford University. He has been a full time songwriter since the late 1990s, when he signed a publishing contract with Eaton Music Limited. In London he worked with some of the best performers in the city. Moving in 2001 to Paris, Wates formed his own quartet and began playing live regularly. In fall 2006 he came to the US. He is now based in New York City and Colorado. Since coming to the US, he has won more than 40 songwriting and performing awards (www.rupertwatesmusic.com/awards).
His music is an eclectic mix of acoustic, melodic art/folk, with flavors of jazz, vaudeville and cabaret. He has released nine solo CDs. They have received outstanding reviews in the international online press and tracks from them have been played on radio all over the world. In addition, Wates’ songs have been covered by other artists in the UK, Canada and the US. Two full length tribute CDs to his material have been recorded: ‘Crazy Puzzle’ (2015) by Nashville-based performer Roxie Rogers, and ‘Wide Open Heart’ (July 2017) by Los Angeles vocalist Susan Kohler. Both these CDs were initiated and funded entirely by the artists themselves, and comprise exclusively songs taken from Rupert Wates’ back catalog. Over 20 recordings featuring Wates’s songs by other artists were made in 2016, and more are scheduled for 2017 (full list at www.rupertwatesmusic.com/covers).
In 2010 Wates released Joe’s Café, an album of 15 original songs based on true stories, each interpreted by a different vocalist, retelling the stories of ordinary American people. Through them we trace the story of America itself: through two world wars, the Dust Bowl depression, Vietnam and the struggle for Civil Rights, all the way to the present day. Recorded live in the studio in a single weekend, the album’s warm sound evokes the welcoming atmosphere of an all-night café, where friends gather to share their stories. Featured virtuoso musicians on the recording include Darol Anger on violin and Michael Manring on bass.
Joe’s Café has been presented very successfully at Festivals throughout North America, and in other venues in New York City and in the southeastern United States. The show won Best Music Revue in the 2010 San Francisco Fringe Festival. More information about Joe’s Cafe is at www.bitemusiclimited.com.
In 2014, Wates joined forces with Toronto-based virtuoso pianist Bartosz Hadala to form a piano/guitar duo called The Nightwatchers (www.thenightwatchers.com). The duo tour Canada and Europe regularly. In March 2015 they recorded and released a debut CD entitled The Nightwatchers, featuring some of the standout songs of Wates’ extensive catalog.
Rupert Wates averages 120 live shows every year, in front of audiences totaling more than 3,500, in acoustic venues in every state in America, in Canada and in Europe. He performs sometimes alone, sometimes with his trio or his quartet. He prefers smaller listening rooms where the audience is up close and the emphasis is on the music. He was voted an Artist Of The Year in both 2013 and 2016 by the international house concert network Concerts In Your Home (www.concertsinyourhome.com), and for five years running he has been the most booked performer on their database of several hundred artists. In 2018, Wates was a Finalist in the Kerrville New Folk Song Contest, and an Emerging Artist at Falconridge Folk Festival.
Despite Wates’ British background, and underpinning the universality of his music’s appeal, Folk And Acoustic Music Exchange has called him ‘a prime figure in American music” (www.acousticmusic.com) and goes on: ‘This is one gifted sonofabitch… If you’re not hip to this guy yet you’re missing out.’
Audiences everywhere respond to Wates’ brand of melodic art/folk—haunting songs that ring true.
Discography: Full Circle (2019),The Lights Of Paris (2017), Colorado Mornings (2016), The Nightwatchers (2015), The Rank Outsiders Ball (2014), At the Losers’ Motel (2012), Joe’s Café (2010), Dear Life (2008), Coast to Coast (2007) and Sweet or Bitter Wine (2005).
Hailing from Seattle, The Dip is an electrifying seven-piece ensemble that melds vintage rhythm and blues and modern pop with 60s soul, tapped by KEXP as “one of the most exciting and joyous acts to emerge in recent years”. The group quickly gained notoriety throughout the Pacific Northwest for their eminently danceable live shows that feature vocals from frontman Tom Eddy (Beat Connection), an effortlessly deep pocket, and the melodies of the “The Honeynut Horns”. Hard-hitting but sensitive, The Dip harkens back to the deep soul roots of decades past while sounding undeniably relevant. The band’s 2015 self-titled debut, recorded to tape at Avast! Studios, propelled them to notable appearances at Sasquatch! Music Festival, High Sierra Music Fest, Summer Meltdown, and Capitol Hill Block Party and built anticipation for their 2016 release, Won’t Be Coming Back (EP). Now, the band prepares to arrive on the national stage with their second LP, The Dip Delivers. There’s a certain alchemy to The Dip that unites music fans of all ages and backgrounds and leaves everyone smiling ear to ear.
ERIN & THE WILDFIRE
Powerful vocals. Infectious hooks. Sensual harmonies. Snacks.
Erin & the Wildfire combine elements of funk, soul, and R&B into a unique experience for fans. Featuring the core four: Matt Wood (bass), Ryan Lipps (guitar), Nick Quillen (drums) and Erin Lunsford (vocals) – who’ve been together since college, evolving their sound for six years – and a rotating menagerie of talented musicians out of Virginia.
The lyrical content comes from Lunsford’s life, loves, and the passions of her and the rest of the Wildfire – including those of female solidarity, body positivity, and pizza. The demanding presence of Lunsford’s voice, combined with the talent and charm of Quillen, Lipps, and Wood, makes for a high energy, inspiring performance that stays with you until the next time.
“Each show feels like it’s the next and last chance to explain ourselves –another chance to connect with the audience to speak our truth. We hope that people seeing us for the first time (and repeat viewers!) feel appreciated and comfortable and we hope they feel inspired by the tunes.” Lunsford, “The Young Folks”
Raised in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains of South Carolina, Sam Burchfield was brought up on Appalachian music: folk, gospel, country and southern soul. The young songwriter draws on these roots with a deep lyrical honesty and carries the tradition of folk music forward.
Burchfield’s upcoming EP, ‘Graveyard Flower’, seeks to reconnect to the Appalachian roots that raised him. In a world of cell phones and internet distractions, this body of work beckons the listener to plant their feet firmly in the soil. Reconnect to the land, reconnect to each other; ‘Graveyard Flower’ is honest music.
With a voice that recalls a timeless blend of Ray Charles, Van Morrison, and Jeff Buckley, William Blackburn joins such artists as Frank Ocean in crafting modern soul songs that are alternately lush and intimately earthy. The singer songwriter was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina.
Captivated by vocalists such as Ray Charles, William went on to become the front man and lead singer of national touring act Stop Light Observations. Growing up on black gospel and soul, he has taken his profoundly expressive voice and moved fans with stand out performances at festivals such as Bonnaroo and Firefly.
William is setting out to record and release his first ever solo project this Winter.
“Amy Speace is on a roll. Each new release has brought an expansion of her voice and her art, and she has reached the level of absolute mastery. Her new record Me and the Ghost of Charlemagne is brilliant. The song Ginger Ale and Lorna Doones is a masterpiece, a hard hitting gut punch on every level- voice, melody, words, performance, instrumentation. I nominate it for song of the year, and predict that this song will bring legions of new fans to Amy’s work.
Folk music doesn’t get any better than this.”
– Mary Gauthier
A modern folksinger whose music nods to the genre’s 1970s glory days, Amy Speace has spent two decades chronicling the high marks, heartbreaks, and hard roads of a life logged on the road. She’s been a tireless traveler, chasing the dream from the coffeehouses of New York City to larger stages across the globe. Along the way, she’s built an international audience without the help of a major label, relying instead upon a touring schedule whose milestones include the Glastonbury Festival, NPR’s Mountain Stage, and a yearly average of 150 shows.
Me And The Ghost Of Charlemagne finds Speace focusing on the other side of that so-called dream. The real side, filled with an ever-shifting balance of struggle and joy. Produced by longtime collaborator Neilson Hubbard and recorded during the final weeks of Speace’s pregnancy with her first son, Me And The Ghost Of Charlemagne captures Amy Speace at her most nakedly honest, with sparsely-decorated songs that double down on her larger-than-life voice and detail-rich songwriting. It’s an album about the colliding of dreams and reality, full of characters making sense of their lives when something is lost and then found. Really, it’s an album about the trials and triumphs of an artist’s journey — a journey that’s no longer focused upon the destination, but upon the actual trip itself.
Discovered and mentored by folk-pop icon Judy Collins during the early 2000s, Speace left her career as a classically-trained Shakespearean actress and, instead, kicked off a string of acclaimed albums, including Songs for Bright Street, The Killer in Me, and How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat. Championed by The New York Times, NPR and other taste-making outlets for her solo work, she received further acclaim as a member of Applewood Road, a harmony-heavy trio whose self-titled album became a critical success in the UK, earning a five-star review from The London Sunday Times.
Years before Americana music received its own category at the Grammy Awards, Speace was one of the genre’s earliest champions, mixing the best parts of American roots music — gospel, alt-country, folk, classic pop — into her own songs. Me And The Ghost Of Charlemagne follows in that diverse tradition, but it also shines its light on a new Amy Speace: a clear-eyed, reenergized songwriter who’s done with chasing things that don’t matter…but isn’t anywhere close to being done with her art.
Singer/songwriter Lyn Koonce, engages audiences with her warmth and authenticity often turning heads from the first song. From ballads to blues, Lyn’s music is skillful, unique, yet universal. It creates traction and stays with you long after the performance.
Her themes reach in and stir your soul just enough that while singing and revealing her own story, you realize she just might be telling yours. From the desire to experience the depths of sorrow, joy, and love in “10 Feet Tall” to the simple love song, “These Days,” Lyn invites you to feel your way through her music.
You’ll keep coming back because you love the journey. Her songs and stories create a centering against the backdrop of community where her heart lies and where she builds strong connection with her audience. Lyn is relatable, approachable, fun, and true. Her songs follow suit.
Lyn is currently working on her 4th studio album to be released in early 2020.
19 year-old Singer-songwriter Sawyer Fredericks, hailing from his family’s farm in central New York State, is fast establishing himself as an authentic original, Americana artist with an old soul. His deep, beyond-his-years lyrics and melodies, raw, soulful vocals, and powerful live performances have attracted an ever-growing number of devoted fans of all ages, selling out shows throughout the US.
As a folk/blues singer-songwriter, who cut his teeth at local farmers markets, open mics, and iconic New York venues like Caffe Lena, the Towne Crier Cafe, and The Bitter End, Sawyer seemed an unlikely match for reality tv, but quickly won over broad audiences with his genuine delivery and unique arrangements of classic songs, going on to win season 8 of NBC’s The Voice.
Fresh from that whirlwind, Sawyer went forward with the release of his major label debut, A Good Storm, with Republic Records, an impressive blend of soulful Folk, blues, and rock, entirely written or co-written by Sawyer. His 2016 A Good Storm Tour included 62 shows across the US.
In 2018, Sawyer once again went independent, reclaiming full artistic control, creating an album entirely written by Sawyer, self-produced and self-released. The highly-anticipated Hide Your Ghost sheds the high gloss major label treatment, and stays true to Frederick’s honest and elegantly stripped down style, a self-described “free range folk”, incorporating elements of blues, roots rock, and jazz with live instrumental arrangements throughout.
Sawyer has released two videos from Hide Your Ghost with a third to be released in early 2019. For the title track, he paired with paper cut animation artist, Andrew Benincasa, who’s powerful interpretation takes the music video format to the level of high art, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3J506oJPV0. For the second single, ‘Gasoline’, the performance video was filmed in the historic Glove Theatre on the same street where Sawyer played his first open mic, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIZ5pUOHCn4.
2019 finds Sawyer and his band touring the US and Canada, showcasing at the Folk Alliance Festival in Montreal in February and SxSW in Austin, TX in March.
Recent praise for Sawyer Fredericks and Hide Your Ghost:
‘Sawyer Fredericks bravely conjures his short stories with convincing words, sensitivity in his melodies, and he does it all with no posturing or grand standing. No soaring brass or grab you by the throat guitar solos, just soul-adhering messages of reality and nuances.” – John Apice, No Depression
“It’s a mystery how such a young man can pull off such somber, honest, tones. More than pull off, he owns it, taking full control of his music, himself, and the audience.” -David Singer, The Daily Gazette
“Sawyer Fredericks is a storyteller. In an age dominated by frothy pop-confessional hitmaking, Fredericks is bare bones and old school -— a throwback to the oldest folk traditions of singer as yarn-spinner, a ragged narrator of human spit and struggle.” -Amy Biancolli, Times Union
Some artists document their lives through their music. Others chronicle their times. It’s a rare artist who can do both, telling their own story through songs that also encapsulate the essence of people and places who have helped define their era overall. Woody Guthrie comes to mind, and so does Bob Dylan. Bruce Springsteen certainly as well. Yet few others, for whatever genius they may possess, can relate their own history to the history experienced by those who find that common bond, be it in a coming of age, living through the same realities or sharing similar experiences.
Ellis Paul is one of those gifted singer/songwriters.Though some may refer to him as a folksinger, he is more, for lack of a better word, a singular storyteller, a musician whose words reach out from inside and yet also express the feelings, thoughts and sensibilities that most people can relate to in one way or another, regardless of age or upbringing. The exhilaration of the open road. A celebration of heroes. The hope for redemption. Descriptions of those things that are both near and dear. The sharing of love…, intimate, passionate and enduring.
These are the scenarios that emerge from Ellis Paul’s new album, Chasing Beauty, a set of songs which detail, in typical Paul fashion, stories of people and places that reflect larger truths about us all. “Kick Out the Lights (Johnny Cash)” pays tribute to that fearless American icon name-checked in its title. “Plastic Soldier” offers homage to a wounded soldier returning from Afghanistan. A real-life barnstorming pilot takes the spotlight in “Jimmie Angel’s Flying Circus,” while iconic Boston blue collar musician Dennis Brennan takes the focus in “Waiting on a Break.” Even the Empire State Building and the Boston Red Sox get their due, via “Empire State” and “UK Girl (Boston Calling),” respectively.
In reality, these stories are a continuation of tales Paul has told for more than a quarter century, over the expanse of nineteen albums, numerous critical kudos (15 Boston Music Awards alone), inclusion in several movie soundtracks, and stages he’s headlined both near and far. “I’ve got a car with over 475,000 miles on it, and it’s my third road vehicle,” Paul declares. “I’ve been doing 200 shows a year for over twenty years. There isn’t a town in the country where I won’t find a friend. I’m a nomad. And I’m gonna write and play until I’m gone.”
No doubt he will. Still, it’s somewhat ironic that Paul gravitated towards this bigger world of intent and expression given that the place Paul considers his hometown these days isn’t New York or Nashville, or Boston or Austin or Charlottesville, VA. where he lives, but rather Presque Isle, Maine, a tiny enclave surrounded by three rivers. Not surprisingly, the name translates to “almost an island.” Presque Isle shares a vanishing tradition with many small towns these days, where family farms are giving way to industrialization and giant corporations, and earning a livelihood from the land is no longer the simple option it once was. Nevertheless, it’s still a haven for traditional values and for people as real and authentic as the soil they once tilled. If there’s one grace left to cling to, it’s the grace of nature’s beauty, sealed off by the surrounding mountains and fields.
Likewise, his geographical origins also couldn’t have been further from the world at large. He was born in the dead of winter in the small town of Fort Kent, Maine, a place nestled right up next to the Canadian border. He came from humble origins, a family of potato farmers who could count among their forebears a veteran of the battle of Gettysburg, whose heroism on that field of honor earned him the 140 acres of Maine farmland that his descendants would continue to sow. It was the place that taught Paul the meaning of hard work and self-reliance, and the values that accompany as much drive and determination any individual could muster.
As a boy, Paul found his escape in athletics, working out as a runner and testing his mettle in the open spaces near his home. He became a star competitor, and enjoyed the advantage of traveling throughout the nation after being given opportunities to compete. Along the way, he saw more of the country than most people do in a lifetime. “I was lucky to be able to travel for competitions all over the U.S. and to see places I once could only dream of,” he recalls. “The Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles, the endless plains of Texas, the Kansas prairie, the Rocky Mountain in Wyoming. Every trip was funded by a hat the town passed around on my behalf, and it never came back empty.” When Paul finished second in a nationwide track competition, he was met at the airport by the high school marching band and a fire engine with spinning lights that drove him in triumph through town. In an expression of hometown pride, the mayor handed him the key to the city.
No one ever told Paul he had to follow in his family’s tradition. He was a dreamer after all, and he had seen enough of America to know there was more out there than his little town could ever offer. Consequently, his ambitions were never destined to stay bottled up for long. He would write, paint, play trumpet and sing in the school choir. “I never had anyone tell me I had to be a farmer,” Paul insists. “I had plenty of people telling me how my hard work and talent could take me places. That’s enough to get you dreaming, And enough to make you believe those dreams are within reach.”
Indeed, Paul found those dreams were within his reach, at least in terms of his imagination. However their pursuit would take him far from home. His first destination was Boston College, courtesy of a track scholarship. Yet as Paul describes it, his athletic endeavors, combined with his academic responsibilities, served to rob him of his creativity. It was only after he suffered a knee injury which forced him to take a year off that he rebounded with a new form of expression, made possible when his girlfriend’s sister gave him a secondhand guitar. “A mysterious, lustful partnership with the instrument followed,” Paul concedes. “It became a marriage, a friendship, a lifelong bond that only comes when you find that one thing that becomes an extension of yourself. I played for hours, choosing to write my own original songs and sing instead of studying, socializing or exploring what the Boston streets could offer after hours.”
After graduation, Paul did find time to explore those paths, while taking opportunities to indulge his creative ambitions. Working as a teacher and social worker with inner city children by day and pursuing the possibilities offered by Boston’s fertile music scene at night, he gained prominence in local coffeehouses and open mic nights. It was the same circuit that opened the door for other like-minded artists of the day, and in turn, gave Paul exposure to such creative contemporaries as Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Catie Curtis, and Bill Morrissey. It also helped him win a Boston Underground Songwriting competition and placement on a Windham Hill Records singer/songwriter compilation, bringing him his first hint of national exposure at the same time.
The major tipping point in his career came with the opportunity to open for Bill Morrissey, one of New England’s most prominent folk artists. Paul would repeatedly ask Morrissey about his own influences and seek his advice on who he ought to listen to. “You know, that’s a very smart thing to do,” Morrissey muses. “It helped set him apart. A lot of young singers I meet are not curious about what went on before; they just say, ‘I want to sing another song about my life.’ Paul has a sense of roots, of connectedness to the whole history of folk music; he sees the thread that runs through all the generations of this music.”
It was mutual admiration that caused Paul to ask Morrissey to produce his first full album, 1993‘s Say Something. It was released on Black Wolf Records, the label he founded with Ralph Jaccodine, the man who would become his manager. “Ralph was fulfilling a dream to get into the music business,” Paul recalls. “Starting with a folk singer isn’t a rocket launch, but we got off the ground. We started a label and began a lifelong, DIY partnership and have been in the trenches for over 20 years.”
Paul also became infatuated with the music of Woody Guthrie, drawn to Woody’s social consciousness and the humanitarian streak that ran through his work. He even had a tattoo of Guthrie imprinted on his right shoulder, referring to it as “a badge of who he was.” His commitment to Guthrie’s legacy eventually led to his inclusion in a ten day celebration of Woody’s work held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 1996, an event that included such notables as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco and which was presided over by Guthrie’s daughter Nora. Later, when Guthrie’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma hosted the first Woody Guthrie Folk Festival in July, 1998, Paul was tapped as one of the headliners. He has since made this an annual part of his touring schedule, garnering the honor of being named an honorary citizen of Okemah in the process. The connection with Guthrie continued into the new millennium when Nora Guthrie invited him to put music to a set of her father’s lyrics. He later participated in the “Ribbon of Highway” tour, a communal salute featuring such luminaries as Arlo Guthrie, Marty Stuart, Ramblin’ Jack Ellott, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark and Janis Ian, among others.
There’s likely no greater evidence of how Guthrie’s insights and humanity have rubbed off on Paul than in this particularly telling tribute from Nora Guthrie. ‘A singer songwriter is only as good as the times he reflects,”she said in praising Paul. “In times like these, when so many nuts are running the show, it’s comforting to know that Ellis Paul is actually holding our sanity on his own stage! Wise, tender, brilliant and biting, Ellis is one of our best human compasses, marking in melodies and poems where we’ve been and where we might go if we so choose to. Personally Ellis, I’m goin’ where you’re goin’!’
Where Paul is “goin’” is to practically every place a microphone beckons and a crowd of the folk faithful awaits. He’s become a staple at the Newport Folk Festival, played Carnegie hall, and venues from Alaska to Miami, Paris and London. In addition to his 19 albums released on the Rounder and Black Wolf record labels, his music has appeared on dozens of distinguished compilations. A Film/DVD entitled 3000 Miles — part concert film, part documentary, part instructional video — provides a further prospective on both the man and his music. He’s also released a pair of children’s albums, earning him honors from the Parent’s Choice Foundation for both. His latest, ‘The Hero In You’ has been turned into a picture book, detailing the lives of great American heroes. Ellis’ literate, evocative and insightful writings are further showcased in a book of poetry and short stories entitled “Notes from the Road,’ already in it’s third pressing.
It’s no wonder then that recently Paul received a prestigious honor: an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Maine, which also asked him to write the school’s alma mater as well as deliver its commencement address in May 2014.
Happily, his music has been shared with a wider audience as well, through commercials, documentaries, TV shows and in the soundtracks of several blockbuster films, among them three by the Farrelly Brothers — “Hall Pass” (starring Owen Wilson and Alyssa Milano), “Me, Myself, & Irene” (starring Jim Carrey) and “Shallow Hal” (starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow). Peter Farrelly summed up the sentiments of all those who have come to know and appreciate Paul’s music by referring to him as “a national treasure.”
Not surprisingly, Paul’s consistently been heralded by others as well. One writer noted “that it reminds you how much we need storytellers back in pop music — storytellers with empathy, fine eyes and an understanding that even though we live in a soulless, indifferent would, out music doesn’t have to reflect our culture.’ Another reviewer was even more pointed. “Ellis Paul is one of the best singer/songwriters of his generation,” she commented. “And for many of us he is the face of contemporary folk music. Few are as smart, as literate, as poetic as Paul. I cannot think of another artist on the acoustic music scene is better loved by fans, or more respected by his contemporaries.”
Indeed, he is all that, and in a very real sense, even more. He’s an observer, a philosopher, and an astute storyteller who shares with his listeners the life lessons he’s learned, and in turn, life lessons they ought to heed as well. By affirming and defining who he is, Ellis Paul affirms and uncovers the essence of us all.
— Lee Zimmerman (writer/reviewer for American Songwriter, No Depression, New Times, Country Standard Time, Blurt, Relix, and M Music and Musicians)
Crys Matthews is nothing if not ambitious. In August 2017, she simultaneously released both a new full-length album, The Imagineers and an EP, Battle Hymn For An Army Of Lovers. These collections showcase two sides of Matthews’ dynamic songwriting; The Imagineers is a selection of thoughtful songs about love and life while Battle Hymn For An Army Of Lovers tackles social justice themes. Songs from both projects have already won her recognition and awards. She was one of ten finalists (from a pool of 5,000) in this year’s NewSong Music Competition and, after performing at Lincoln Center on November 30th, she was named grand-prize winner. Matthews also won the People Music Network’s Social Justice Songs contest at the 2017 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance.
A southeastern North Carolina native who now calls Herndon, Virginia home, Matthews blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk into a bold, complex performance steeped in traditional melodies and punctuated by honest, original lyrics. Having been compared to everyone from Toshi Reagon to Tracy Chapman to Ruthie Foster, Matthews’ eclectic infusion of genres has won her honorable mentions at the 2017, 2013 and 2014 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and extensive radio play from Woman of Substance radio to WTJU-Charlottesville and WMRA-Harrisonburg to KBOO-Portland.
Equally at home in an acoustic listening room as she is on stage at large music festivals, Matthews has quickly gathered a loyal following on the east coast playing such prestigious venues as the Sundance Film Festival, The Birchmere, The Hamilton, and Jammin’ Java. Matthews’ festival and showcase roster has included BMI’s Island Hopper Songwriter Festival, the 40th Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Folk Alliance International, 30A Songwriters Festival, Northeast Regional Folk Alliance and many more.
A prolific lyricist and composer, Matthews has found inspiration in her surroundings; from driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the compelling and heart-breaking love story of Richard and Mildred Loving. Thoughtful, realistic and emotional, Matthews’ songs speak to the voice of our generation and remind us why music indeed soothes the soul.
If hindsight is 20/20 vision, Arlo Guthrie has a vast perspective looking forward. After decades of perpetually touring, the folksinger is dialing it back a bit, but the road has become a way of life for Arlo: sharing songs and stories, getting to the heart of what really matters, and of course, being a comedic agitator. It’s in his blood. It’s who he is. It’s what he does. Stirring the pot, questioning the powers that be, and reminding us what it’s all about with humor and passion.
Initially making a name for himself in the sixties with the iconic ‘Alice’s Restaurant Massacree’ and providing perhaps the most often repeated phrase from Woodstock (‘The New York State Thruway is closed, man.’), Guthrie helped define the singer-songwriter genre burgeoning in the seventies.vWith over thirty albums in his discography, Arlo delivers an astounding time capsule from the works of his dad, Woody Guthrie, to the present day.