About This Episode

Kendl Winter, born in Arkansas, moved to Olympia, Washington after high school, drawn to the evergreen forests and the lively and thriving music scene. She put three solo records out on Olympia’s indie label, K Records, and performed in nationally-touring northwest string bands before beginning The Lowest Pair in 2013 with Palmer T. Lee. Palmer built his first banjo when he was 19 from pieces he serendipitously inherited. Shortly after deciding songwriting would be the most effective and enjoyable medium for his musings, he began cutting his teeth fronting Minneapolis string bands and touring the midwest festival circuit, which is where he and Kendl first met, on the banks of the Mississippi.

“Both of us studied roots music and traditional banjo techniques, three finger and clawhammer. We started there and then from our understanding of them have diverged, perhaps because of our own limitations, and probably because we both tend to err on creative. Even when we are attempting to recreate old sounds, we can’t help but have our own twist on it. We approach our instruments as vehicles to explore poetry, song, and melody and have kind of been making up our own sounds in the places where we couldn’t find ones that seemed to fit or make sense to us. We recorded our first album (36cents) in Dave Simonett’s basement a month after we began playing together, and our second (The Sacred Heart Sessions) , a year later, in a beautiful old church in Duluth, MN.” -Kendl

The Lowest Pair had been planning to release a new record in the Spring of 2016. So in early 2015 Palmer convinced Kendl to spend a winter in Minnesota, with the temptation of working with local greats Dave Simonett and Erik Koskinen on the new material. The duo then set off on what would be a successful season of touring their second, critically acclaimed album, The Sacred Heart Sessions (Spin: “solemn and humble;” The Bluegrass Situation: “deeply felt”), and a new-old-time record, I Reckon I’m Fixin’ On Kickin’ Round To Pick A Little, Vol. 1. In the fall, returning to the midwest to finish up the recordings they had begun a few months prior, Kendl and Palmer found themselves with a whole new batch of songs ready to lay down. After much deliberation, they ambitiously decided the two collections should be released together in 2016.

The two records, Fern Girl and Ice Man, as well as Uncertain As It Is Uneven, could be viewed as two windows into the growing and changing world of The Lowest Pair. Uncertain stays the course of their previous releases, being focused on stripped down, intimate arrangements to support their timeless songwriting and haunting vocals. Fern Girl is a more moody and adventurous exploration of new sounds, new studio production directions, and what it might sound like for The Lowest Pair to be supported by a full band, while keeping one foot planted in the rootsy aesthetics which drew them together from the beginning.

With little attention to tedious practicalities and with an eye focused securely on delivering to their growing fan base a truly special treat; a rootsy, bluegrassy, old-timish version of meiosis has happened as one new album became two new albums.

For Kendl, making two albums was a natural reflection of the pace they had set and the experiences they had accumulated. “It’s not that the two records have to be next to and with each other, it’s just that it’s all there, our current story, and the stories we’re figuring out.”

Fans already know that the chemistry between Palmer’s Midwestern charm, those long winters spent listening to a steady diet of Townes Van Zandt and John Hartford, and Kendl’s poetic and playful way with words, her unique approach to the banjo, and her barefoot-in- the-cool-river-water mystique combine to make a powerful sound, but what’s new in 2016 is both the inclusion of those non-banjo sounds (harmonica, drum, bass, violin) and an incredible expansion of their songbook. In a way, two records, the playful and the hush, the dark and the rooted, the pillow and the nightmare, the pin drop and the starry night; the juxtaposition of the ups and downs that are experiences in a day, in a year, in a minute, all this has demanded from the band more than just “a new record.” Fern Girl and Ice Man and Uncertain As It Is Uneven mark the arrival of America’s next great musical duo, and it’s over the course of these two albums that that boast becomes clearly rooted in truth.

This episode also contains a selection from the Blue Canvas Orchestra's show Wild Woods and Water.

About Michael Perry

Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Perry's bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom, and his latest, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. His first book for young readers, The Scavengers, was published in 2014 and first novel for adult readers, The Jesus Cow, was published in May of 2015.

Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wandered into writing. He lives with his wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service and is an intermittent pig farmer. He hosts the nationally-syndicated "Tent Show Radio," performs widely as a humorist, and tours with his band the Long Beds (currently recording their third album for Amble Down Records). He has recorded three live humor albums including Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues.

Learn more about Michael and where to get his publications at www.sneezingcow.com.

Follow Michael Perry

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Direct download: TSR_19-17_Lowest_Pair_-_BCO_-_LOW_RES.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:48am CDT

About This Episode

Paul LaRoche is the founder and producer of the award-winning Native American music group Brulé. The group is best known for thrilling audiences with a mergence of cultural rock and theatrical instrumentations. Now in their 20th season, their national performances carry the same contagious excitement as Trans Siberian Orchestra, Celtic Thunder, and Riverdance—but with the emotional impact of the American Indian culture.

The group is one of the top-selling Native American adult/rock music groups and has chalked up impressive CD sales (over 1 million worldwide). Brulé has released 21titles in 20 years and has been named “Group of the Year” five times by the prestigious Native American Music Awards, earning seven NAMMYs since 2002. Their annual performance schedule takes them extensively throughout the U.S., touring the casino, performing arts theatre, arena, corporate and festival circuits.

Brulé has pushed the boundaries of contemporary Native American rhythms and classic rock in their genre-blending selections. Their electrifying show consists of a 5-piece rock ensemble augmented with an array of traditional Native American instrumentation. Paired with the stunning steps of one of the top Native American dance troupes, their authenticity brings a multi-dimensional art form to this cultural rock opera. The musical journey of Brulé’s founder, Paul LaRoche, adds an affecting story to audiences and has been well documented in the best-selling biography "Hidden Heritage".

Brulé is seen regularly on national PBS affiliates across the country. Their history-making concert, “Brulé, Live at Mount Rushmore—Concert for Reconciliation of the Cultures”, has become the longest running Native American concert special on national TV. Brulé produced over 70 episodes of the TV Program “Hidden Heritage” for cable TV. RFD-TV is a cable TV network that broadcasts to over 40 million homes across the United Sates and international markets. The show “Hidden Heritage” presents positive stories from across Native America.

Brulé is pioneering a new trend in the music industry: the epic Native American Rock Theatre.

About Michael Perry

Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Perry's bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom, and his latest, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. His first book for young readers, The Scavengers, was published in 2014 and first novel for adult readers, The Jesus Cow, was published in May of 2015.

Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wandered into writing. He lives with his wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service and is an intermittent pig farmer. He hosts the nationally-syndicated "Tent Show Radio," performs widely as a humorist, and tours with his band the Long Beds (currently recording their third album for Amble Down Records). He has recorded three live humor albums including Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues.

Learn more about Michael and where to get his publications at www.sneezingcow.com.

Follow Michael Perry

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Direct download: TSR_19-16_Brule_and_Airo_-_LOW_RES.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:32pm CDT

About This Episode

With a refreshed lineup and newfound energy, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band remains one of the most accomplished bands in American roots music.

Following an extended 50th anniversary tour, the ensemble grew to a six-piece in 2018 for the first time since their early jug band days. The group now includes Jeff Hanna (acoustic guitar, electric guitar), Jimmie Fadden (drums, harmonica), Bob Carpenter (keyboards), Jim Photoglo (bass, acoustic guitar), Ross Holmes (fiddle, mandolin), and Jaime Hanna (electric and acoustic guitar). All six members also sing, and when their voices merge, the harmonies add a powerful new component for the legendary band. And with the father-son pairing of Jeff and Jaime Hanna, the band carries on a country music tradition of blood harmony. Jeff Hanna says, "It's like when you throw a couple of puppies into a pen with a bunch of old dogs. All of a sudden, the old dogs start playing, you know? That's kind of what's happened with us. The basic vibe is so up and positive, and the music– we're hearing surprises from Jaime and Ross all night. And they're encouraging us in the same way to take more chances. It's opened a lot of doors for us, musically, and the morale is really great. That's important for a band that's been out there for over 53 years."

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band played their first gig in 1966 in Southern California as a jug band and by 1969 had become a cornerstone of the burgeoning country-rock community. Their career breakthrough came in 1970 with the release of the record Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy and the single "Mr. Bojangles," a folksy Top 10 pop hit that remains a staple of their live show. During a tour stop in Nashville around that time, Earl Scruggs and his family came backstage to say hello. That introduction led to a friendship and some of the connections the band needed to record Will the Circle Be Unbroken. That three-disc album brought Nitty Gritty Dirt Band together with a number of country, folk, and bluegrass legends. Heroes like Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin, Merle Travis, and Doc Watson joined the scruffy, young band to record country music standards such as "I Saw the Light" and "Keep on the Sunnyside." The acclaimed project is considered a landmark recording in American music.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band earned a pop resurgence in 1980 with "An American Dream" and "Make a Little Magic." Those singles also found traction on the country chart, setting the stage for a major run at country radio. The band secured 16 Top 10 country hits between 1983 and 1990, including three No. 1 singles: "Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper's Dream)," "Modern Day Romance," and "Fishin' in the Dark." Bernie Leadon, a founding member of The Eagles, played in the band from 1986 to 1988 filling a vacancy by longtime member John McEuen.

With so much material to work with, the band is making it a point to shuffle the set lists more often, meaning that this isn't the same Dirt Band show from years past. "We're fortunate that we've got a deep songbook. That's been on our list, to resurrect some of the tunes we haven't done in a while, in addition to some new stuff," Hanna says.

At the peak of their country career, the band toured Europe with Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, who hinted that they'd love to appear on a sequel to Will the Circle Be Unbroken, if the band ever decided to make one. That gesture convinced the band to get back in the studio to record another all-star album. Circle Volume II featured Johnny and June, as well as Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, John Hiatt, Bruce Hornsby, John Denver, Ricky Skaggs, New Grass Revival, and many other marquee names – not to mention encore performances by Roy Acuff, Jimmy Martin, and Earl Scruggs. Released in 1989, the album won three Grammys and a CMA Award for Album of the Year.

As the country music landscape shifted toward a youth market, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band kept on touring and recording. They played on two projects by The Chieftains, cut a song with Karla Bonoff for an album dedicated to the 1996 Olympics, and contributed "Maybe Baby" to a Buddy Holly tribute, Not Fade Away. Another collaborative album, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume III, arrived in 2003. Soon after, the band earned an additional Grammy for "Earl's Breakdown," which they recorded with Earl Scruggs, Randy Scruggs, Vassar Clements and Jerry Douglas. Meanwhile, both "Mr. Bojangles" and Will the Circle Be Unbroken were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band took a moment to acknowledge their incredible history by filming a 50th anniversary concert event at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Guests for that Circlin' Back special included early Dirt Band member Jackson Browne, Sam Bush, Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, John Prine, Jerry Douglas, Byron House, Jerry Jeff Walker, and longtime Dirt Band member Jimmy Ibbotson. The concert aired as a nation-wide PBS Pledge special in 2016 and won a regional Emmy for Special Event Coverage.

Today, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band consists of Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, Bob Carpenter, for years known as "the new guy," and Jim Photoglo, a friend of the band whose credits include cowriting "Fishin' in the Dark", as well as touring and recording with Carole King, Dan Fogelberg, and Vince Gill. Newest members Jaime Hanna and Ross Holmes also bring years of experience to the band. Hanna toured and recorded with The Mavericks and Gary Allan, while Holmes toured and recorded with Mumford & Sons and Bruce Hornsby.

"The energy these days is so up -- and our fans have responded in a really great way," Hanna says. "As a fan of other bands, I know how complicated it can be when members come and go. You can either embrace that or you don't. Our fans are really gracious and I appreciate that. It's been a really good run and there's a lot of daylight ahead of us."

About Michael Perry

Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Perry's bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom, and his latest, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. His first book for young readers, The Scavengers, was published in 2014 and first novel for adult readers, The Jesus Cow, was published in May of 2015.

Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wandered into writing. He lives with his wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service and is an intermittent pig farmer. He hosts the nationally-syndicated "Tent Show Radio," performs widely as a humorist, and tours with his band the Long Beds (currently recording their third album for Amble Down Records). He has recorded three live humor albums including Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues.

Learn more about Michael and where to get his publications at www.sneezingcow.com.

Follow Michael Perry

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Direct download: TSR_19-15_Nitty_Gritty_Dirt_Band_-_LOW_RES.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:35pm CDT

About This Episode

"Limiting myself to a genre has never really been my thing," says Pokey LaFarge. "I'm most purely a rambler. I'm traveling the world all the time, and my songs have been directly influenced by my travels. You're liable to hear something in my songs that sounds like traditional jazz; next thing you know, you might be hearing something that sounds like Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline mixed with the chanson singers of France, or a waltz mixed with cumbia, or soul mixed with swing."

Ever since his first record, 2006's self-released Marmalade, LaFarge has been a difficult specimen to pin down, indeed. Though he was raised on a healthy diet of blues, bluegrass, ragtime, Western swing and old-time country — and though he has consistently demonstrated a decided affinity for pre-1950s menswear — the Illinois native is by no means a throwback or a museum piece. Timelessness, and refined good taste, is LaFarge's raison d'être, and his influences are as multi-hued and wide-ranging as the rhythms that buoy his starkly poetic songs — rhythms that are steeped in the very essence of jazz.

"With me, lyrics are the most important thing," he explains. "But when it comes to music, it's just as much about the groove — something about the groove that makes me want to move, you know? There's always a little bit of swing to it, something that's got a bounce. I mean, people have been swinging for hundreds of years!"

LaFarge's deft way with words and music — as showcased on such dynamite discs as 2008's Beat, Move and Shake, 2010's Riverboat Soul, 2011's Middle of Everywhere, and 2015's Something in the Water — has won him raves from critics, and inspired a devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic. Jack White, recognizing LaFarge as a kindred spirit, asked him to sing and play mandolin on White's 2012 album Blunderbuss, took LaFarge and his band the South City Three out on tour as a supporting act, and signed him to Third Man Records for 2013's Pokey LaFarge LP. LaFarge also performed the White-penned "Red's Theater of the Absurd" in a saloon scene in Gore Verbinski's 2013 film The Lone Ranger, an appearance which eventually led to landing the recurring role of country legend Hank Snow in CMT's 2017 series Sun Records. LaFarge has played big stages like the Ryman, Red Rocks and Bonnaroo, but he's equally at home ripping it up in any small theater, nightclub or roadhouse that'll have him.

With each of his albums, up to and including 2017's critically acclaimed Manic Revelations, LaFarge has evolved and reinvented himself as an artist, preferring to continually refine his sound and tinker with his approach instead of resting comfortably in one spot. "Early on, I was into leaving things open to interpretation," he says. "It was like me solo, performing as if I was a full band. Or it was me and three other guys — the South City Three — all string instruments, performing as if we had a horn section. And then I got the horn section and the drums, and everything was so loud and all the space was filled, that I had to dial it back. Maybe it's hard for the fans to keep up sometimes, but my favorite composers are the ones that you can't describe what their music is, and every single record is different from the one that preceded it."

LaFarge switched gears again in 2018, uprooting himself from his longtime home of St. Louis, Missouri, and settling in Los Angeles. "People know me as being a midwestern boy," he says, "but I really needed a change of scenery, some new challenges, new inspirations, new routines, things like that. St. Louis being a small town, I was well known there. You're kind of under a microscope, people put a lot of weight on you, and some of them are looking to hate on you seemingly because you became a successful artist — you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Out here, I'm more anonymous, and that's great. There's freaks everywhere, you know? I'm with my people now!"

The West Coast has always held a special allure for LaFarge; after graduating high school, he hitchhiked to Southern California and supported himself by busking. But Los Angeles has also been the home of two of his biggest heroes: Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski. "It's kind of cool to be living where my favorite music composer is from, and my favorite poet is from," he laughs. "I'm loving hanging around this place. There are some cool ghosts here."

There's also a palpable sense of freedom in L.A., something that's brought about a further recalibration of LaFarge's creative vision. "I think in some respects in the past, I was playing a character," he says. "I created that character, but then people got used to me, and they wanted me to play it; and when I didn't, they said I was out of character. Yeah, I want to create characters in my songs, but I would also like to be honest about who I am, and have my work chart the progression of that exploration. But is that even possible? I don't know. When you're changing all the time, maybe the trick is just to do whatever you can to keep the demons away."

After a decade spent mostly touring, recording and touring some more, LaFarge is looking forward to easing up on the gas pedal, and taking a more considered approach to his writing. A book of poetry is in the works, something he's been wanting to do for years. "As a poet first, I've had a hard time getting my poetry into my music," he says. "The forms of American song that I've come up playing, they have distinct chord progressions and structures, and then I'm trying to fit my poetry, which is very fluid, into these boxes. It's almost like living a dual life. I'm gonna keep trying to fit my poetry into my music — but I also wonder, because poetry has become so damaged by the academic world, is it now dead in the minds of most people? So that's going to be an interesting thing to play with."

There will be more Pokey LaFarge music, as well, though its sound and format have yet to be revealed. "I'm messing around with different ideas of how and when to release songs," he says. "It may be a song a week for a couple of months, or maybe some EPs. I'll be experimenting with different musicians and collaborators, different producers and backing bands, while I continue to play solo shows and write new material with my acoustic and my electric guitars. And, who knows, maybe the occasional acting thing."

It's an exciting time to be Pokey LaFarge — and the next few years are going to be an exciting time to be a Pokey LaFarge fan. "You're going to hear a myriad of different styles and presentations," he promises. "Hopefully more piano, a little more electric guitar. A lot more minimalism, a lot more space between rhythm and melody. A lot more poetry. And it's going to be weirder and darker and more beautiful and sexier going forward. That is my pursuit."

About Michael Perry

Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Perry's bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom, and his latest, Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. His first book for young readers, The Scavengers, was published in 2014 and first novel for adult readers, The Jesus Cow, was published in May of 2015.

Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wandered into writing. He lives with his wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service and is an intermittent pig farmer. He hosts the nationally-syndicated "Tent Show Radio," performs widely as a humorist, and tours with his band the Long Beds (currently recording their third album for Amble Down Records). He has recorded three live humor albums including Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues.

Learn more about Michael and where to get his publications at www.sneezingcow.com.

Follow Michael Perry

Other Ways to Stream

 

Direct download: TSR_19-14_Pokey_Lafarge_-_LOW_RES.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:35am CDT

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