Ruthie Foster

Ruthie’s astonishing voice has taken her on an amazing ride. She came from humble church choir beginnings in rural Texas, followed by a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy Band, and ended up in New York City with a major-label development deal that went sour. After she moved back to Texas to care for her ailing mother, Foster took a break from singing professionally for a couple of years. When she resumed her music career in Austin, she became a regular nominee at the Austin Music Awards, winning Best Folk Artist in 2004-05 and Best Female Vocalist in 2007-08. Broadening her sound by blending blues and soul aspects into her folk roots, Ruthie added a Grammy nomination to her list of achievements (Best Contemporary Blues Album for her last studio release, 2009’s The Truth According to Ruthie Foster). And, in a nod to her astounding range, she then won seemingly contradictory Blues Music Association awards for both Best Traditional and Best Contemporary Female Blues Artist in back-to-back years.

The Persuasions

The Persuasions are the undisputed heavyweight champions of a cappella. They are to singing what Muhammed Ali was to boxing; invincible, innovative, original, and beautiful. Together since they started singing on the stoops of Brooklyn in 1961, The Persuasions have released 18 albums, and have recorded or performed with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, and BB King. Original members Jimmy Hayes, Joe Russell and Jayotis Washington are joined by Reggie Moore and Ray Sanders. The Persuasions have recorded cover songs from Bob Marley, The Temptations, Grateful Dead, U2, and countless others. They have helped keep the art form of a cappella alive for the past 40 years by recording songs from these artists with their own unique style to create a new musical experience. In the process they have gone on to influence acts such as Boys II Men, Take 6, and Rockapella. In 2011 they will be supporting their new album ‘Knockin’ on Bob’s Door’ a tribute to Bob Dylan.

Pierre Bensusan

Described by the L.A. Times as ‘one of the most unique and brilliant acoustic guitar veterans in the world music scene today’, Pierre Bensusan was voted ‘Best World Music Guitar Player in 2008’ by Guitar Player Magazine Readers Choice. His name became synonymous with contemporary acoustic guitar genius, long before the terms New Age, New Acoustic Music or World Music were invented. He has the ability to make a single guitar sound like an entire band as he brings the audience on a mesmerizing musical journey. And yet, Bensusan is more than what any musician or music lover expects from a guitarist. He is a composer as well as a bilingual and a brave improvisational vocalist, melding whistles and resonant low notes with something like his own scat technique. There is a sense of something both playful and serious in his work, an unparalleled sense of freedom in his compositions and his improvisations. His ‘manner’ of playing defies classification – crossing world, classical, jazz, traditional, folk and more. None can be isolated as simply ‘Brazilian’, ‘Arabic’ or ‘French’; rather, they represent our world in its current state, a world sharing itself, fusing cultures together in ways we have never experienced. Not to be missed!

The Flatlanders-40th Anniversary Tour

The fact that Texas music titans Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock – on their first go-round as The Flatlanders in 1972 – were completely rejected by the country music establishment is surprising in retrospect but, ultimately, poetic. That each went on to have formidable solo careers is a testament to their talent and determination. Add to this their diverse yet complimentary styles – Joe the street-wise rocker, Jimmie Dale the mystic with the classic country voice and Butch the cerebral folk singer – and you’ve got a story of one of the most extraordinary kinships in American musical history.

Tim O’Brien

In Tim O’Brien’s music, things come together. The uncanny intersection of traditional and contemporary elements in his songwriting, his tireless dedication to a vast and still-expanding array of instruments, and his ongoing commitment to place himself in as many unique and challenging musical scenarios as possible has made him a key figure in today’s thriving roots music scene ‘ and well beyond it. O’Brien’s presence ‘ be it as a bandleader, songwriter, mentor, instrumentalist, or vocalist ‘ has been strongly felt not only in his own rich music, but in the many recordings of his songs by such artists as the Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Dierks Bentley, Nickel Creek, Kathy Mattea, the New Grass Revival, and the Seldom Scene, and in his recorded collaborations with Steve Martin, the Chieftains, and innumerable others. Most recently, O’Brien has been performing before capacity crowds in the band of Mark Knopfler, who described O’Brien as ‘a master of American folk music, Irish music, Scottish music ‘ it doesn’t matter; a fine songwriter and one of my favorite singers.’

Charlie Hunter

Charlie has released his second solo outing! Not since Solo Eight-String Guitar a decade ago has Charlie made a recording of just him and his guitar. This time, he’s down to 7-strings and is performing songs that are all public domain. The songs were all hand-picked by Charlie’s grandfather! ‘I was into doing a solo record for some time and just hit on the public domain idea. I figured I’d ask someone who actually remembered the tunes from his youth: My grandfather, Sidney Greenman. He was born in 1911 (yep, he’s 99). He helped pick the tunes for me. I recorded this in a day at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn. Everything is live, there is no editing. Hope you like it.’ On this run Charlie will be accompanied by drumming master Scott Amendola.

Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers and Big Sandy and the Fly Rite Boys

She’s been called Seattle’s Emmylou, and when you hear her sing it may be hard to believe she was born and raised in the Great Northwest. The combination of her inventive songwriting, true-blue twang, and rock solid country band, the Lost High Rollers, has led critics to call her one of the best up and coming interpreters of classic country music. Muth’s lyrics reflect her deep love for the history behind the music and focus on the tried and true topics of everyday life: disappointment, lost love, and trying to make enough money to live on. Her songs, beautifully rendered vignettes filled with subtle wordplay that never fall simply into cleverness, but instead give us truths about our lives and relationships that are subtle and unflinching. Traces of her influences, from John Prine to the Louvin Brothers and Lucinda Williams are evident, but her songs are hardly derivative. Muth has a knack for writing songs so true and familiar you feel as if they’ve been around forever, if she keeps writing them like this, they will be. Since forming in 1988, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys have emerged as one of the world’s most respected practitioners of American roots music, western swing, rockabilly, and traditional country, playing it like they invented it. ‘I think of us as just a rock and roll band. A rock and roll band that’s letting the roots show,’ says bandleader Big Sandy. Whether they’re playing the Grand Ole Opry, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, or simply climbing out of a bus after rolling into your town, these guys are bringing us some great old-time rock and roll.

A Rita Coolidge Christmas

She became known as ‘The Delta Lady’ and inspired Leon Russell to write a song of the same name for her. In November 1970, she met Kris Kristofferson at the LA airport when they were both catching the same flight to Tennessee and he got off in Memphis with her rather than go on his originally planned stop in Nashville; the two married in 1973. With him, she recorded several duet albums which sold well, and earned them a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1974 for ‘From the Bottle to the Bottom’, and in 1976 for ‘Lover Please’. Most music fans have a favorite song recorded by two-time GRAMMY?? award-winner Rita Coolidge― ‘Fever,’ ‘We’re All Alone,’ ‘One Fine Day,’ ‘(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher & Higher,’ ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do,’ ‘All Time High,’ ‘Superstar,’ and so many other memorable tracks that topped the charts from the 1970′s onward. It is perhaps due to Coolidge’s pop and rock pedigree that many of her fans are unaware of her longstanding affection for jazz, however. Her debut release for Concord Records, And So Is Love, a collection of well-loved jazz standards, is sure to change all that. It will also undoubtedly add a few jazz chestnuts to that lengthy list of songs Coolidge has already made her own.

Under The Covers featuring Lori McKenna, Jake Amerding and Mark Erelli

Every year since December, 2004, Jake Armerding, Mark Erelli & Lori McKenna have performed a special annual concert, ‘Under The Covers,’ at Club Passim in Harvard Square. In only a few special circumstances, have the trio brought the show on the road to venues outside Boston. ‘Under The Covers’ brings this trio of artists–most widely known as original songwriters–together to perform and evening of other people’s songs. ‘We try to spice it up a bit and choose songs that folks might not associate with ‘singer/songwriters’, ‘ says Mark. When you come to this show you’re just as likely to hear an interpretation of Michael Jackson as you are Jackson Browne, and don’t be surprised if you hear Howard Jones’s 80’s classic ‘No One Is To Blame’ rubbing shoulders with Duke Ellington’s ‘Mood Indigo.’ Anything goes, and the spontaneity is enhanced by us all being onstage the whole time, chiming in on fiddle, mandolin, guitar or harmonies. Also joining the trio is virtuoso bassist Zack Hickman (Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band).

Over the Rhine

The Long Surrender, the new studio album from the southern Ohio-based husband-and-wife team of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Linford Detweiler and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Karin Bergquist, otherwise known as Over the Rhine, is something rare and wondrous ‘ an intimate epic. Shot through with the joys and sorrows of modern-day existence and the unchanging fundaments of the human condition, the album has the feel of a living thing, senses alert, feet planted firmly on terra firma. The album title ‘speaks to our ongoing desire to let go of certain expectations (and much of what we are so convinced we know for sure) in favor of remaining open and curious,’ Karin explains. ‘It seems like many of our friends are currently wrestling with various forms of ‘letting go,’ so hopefully, the ideas conjured by the title feel somewhat universal. And I think the title speaks to the arc of a lifelong commitment to writing and performing regardless of recognition. Learning when to work hard and when to let go. Learning to leave room for grace to billow our sails occasionally. Learning not to white-knuckle everything.’ The fan-funded record, to be released on OtR’s own Great Speckled Dog label (named after the couple’s Great Dane, Elroy), will see the light of day 20 years after their 1991 debut. It’s the bountiful result of a collaboration between the couple and producer Joe Henry, whose songs and recordings they’ve long admired. ‘Joe has been quietly making records (well, not that quietly; he has won at least two Grammys) that don’t sound like other records being made in 2010,’ Linford points out. ‘They are a little bit dark and cinematic and funky and unpredictable. It seems like he loves to help performers who have already covered a lot of miles ‘ people like Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, Solomon Burke, Loudon Wainwright III, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Mose Allison ‘ rediscover the soul of what they do in new light.’ The Long Surrender was recorded at Henry’s Garfield House Studio in South Pasadena.