Steve's Blog
Thursday February 7, 2013

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Hi everyone

We're finally back from the UK, and there's a concert tomorrow night to ease those blues away and help us all revel in the healing powers of music - and laughter!

1. Lauren Sheehan & Mark Graham, Friday February 8th, 8pm at St. James Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue)

Harmonica wizard Mark Graham and singer / multi-instrumentalist Lauren Sheehan will surprise and delight you with an off the grid tour through the backroads of American music, detouring for big subjects like: Natural Science, Mathematics, Cosmology, Love, Death, Food, Economics and the Classics of literature!

(she) recalls great musical forebears like Mississippi John Hurt, Lead Belly, and Mance Lipscomb, who, though blues-based, drew inspiration and material from wherever they chose and were thus often referred to as songsters rather than blues musicians. - Mike Regenstreif

With sandy-edged vocals and sparkling guitar, mandolin and banjo picking, Lauren Sheehan plays from an old Songster tradition, combining blues, country, folk, ballads and standards, along with popular as well as her own music. Her shows are unusual for their stylistic breadth and emotional range, masterfully delivered with warmth, humour and passion for the music and its history. Inspired by study with elders, oral tradition and scholarship, Lauren creates the intimacy of a back porch, where singing and playing were regular events. She clearly loves the music she performs, shape shifting through the moods of familiar and the obscure, howling with the werewolf and weeping with the willow.

Lauren's upcoming CD, The Light Still Burns, is a companion CD to the history book Kalamazoo Gals: A Story of Extraordinary Women and Gibson WWII Banner Guitars, by John Thomas. While the men were off to war, women filled in and kept the lights burning' at Gibson's. The guitars of this period have a banner across the headstock, hence "Banner Guitars" and are oft considered among the treasures of Gibson guitars. Who were the women, what was their story, why did Gibson cover up the fact that they made these guitars, why are the guitars so wonderful sounding and how were they made? These questions and more about the story are the subject of the book.

But then the author thought about how cool it would be if folks could also hear the guitars the women made. He raised some funds, got guitars donated from all over the country for a recording project and then found a woman to play them - me. Many songs seemed to suggest themselves to me after I read the manuscript so picking the music was easy and it's mostly appropriate to the times and themes in the book. We used a different guitar for each track, so that you, the listeners, would be able to hear and appreciate the sonic details and differences of the guitars. It was an extraordinary experience to be in the studio surrounded by vintage banner guitars and to be able to take my pick of them. We made sure that we represented all the model types we had, so there is good variety.

Lauren will probably play a few songs from it, meanwhile you can listen to an NPR story about the project or read an article from the New Haven Register with the links below.

» Listen to NPR segment

» View at New Haven Register

Mark Graham's harmonica virtuosity on Irish and American fiddle tunes and his rich, woody sound on clarinet are well-known to fans of Kevin Burke's Open House. Graham's sardonic skewering of contemporary life, in such songs as I Can See Your Aura and It's Ugly and Zen Gospel Singing have been cult classics for years. His songs have been recorded by many, including the Austin Lounge Lizards, Bryan Bowers, and the Limelighters. Seeking to create a versatile and unique vehicle to comment on what has come to be called "the human condition", Graham sought to combine the lyrical essence of Tom Lehrer, The Smothers Brothers, Gilbert and Sullivan, the mysterious Dublin balladeer, Zosimus and the Epicurean philosopher-poet, Lucretius and wed them to the barnyard sensibility of old-time music's Uncle Dave Macon. He has performed at such exalted venues as The Newport Folk Festival, The Prairie Home Companion, London's Festival Hall and Port Townsend's Upstage Theatre. An evening with Mark is a trip to a rip-roaring, old-time slugfest illuminated by great flashes of wit and fascinating insight with such classics as Monkey With A Typewriter ("one word of Francis Bacon and we'll settle your hash"), Oedipus Rex ("he killed his Pa and married his Ma. They don't even do that in Arkansas"), and Jackson & Jane (a tale of a pig and a cow who read about the dangers of cholesterol and embark on a fitness regime!)

We can't wait to hear what these two remarkably versatile musicians will come up with in a duo format. Don't you dare miss it!

2. The Edge On Folk, Saturday February 9th, 8am to noon, on CiTR fm 101.9 and streamed live on

Once again, big thanks to Heather McCain for filling in for the past couple of weeks. I'm pleased to be back and at present I have very little idea what I'm going to play on this show. Why not tune in and find out? There will doubtless be some Karla Mundy, Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas, plus a look ahead to Festival du Bois, Sylvia Herold & The Rhythm Bugs, Joanna Chapman-Smith, Bruce Molsky & John Reischman, Stephen Fearing, New Country Rehab, Anais Mitchell, Tom Russell, Battlefield Band, The Savoy Family Cajun Band, Pharis & jason Romero, Taj Mahal, Shemekia Copeland, Rose Cousins, and Del Barber - all coming to a venue near you in the next few weeks (mostly at The Rogue, of course) - but it's the other stuff that is the unpredictable, eclectic, surprising - and I hope - delightful potpourri of Roots Music from around the world that defines this radio extravaganza. I hope you can join me on this week's peripatetic musical ride.

3. Rogue Folk Review

There will / should be a new issue of the Review out some time next week. Meanwhile, visit our concert calendar for the latest concert information.

Have a great weekend. See you at The Rogue!