2015 Artists

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This year’s Folk Festival features performances from:

Adonis Puentes & the Voice of Cuba Orchestra – Cuban

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada

Adonis Puentes - SittingAdonis Puentes has said, “My mission in life is to make you have two hours of joy.” Propelled by the rhythms of his driving sextet, the multitalented Puentes – an accomplished guitarist, percussionist and songwriter – transports listeners to Cuba, his birthplace. Puentes was born into music together with his twin brother Alexis (“Alex Cuba”) in Artemesia, a small town in the western part of the island. Music from the Casa de Cultura club across the street filled their home, and the young boys were trained to sing and play guitar by their musician father, Valentin Puentes. In 1995, the Puentes brothers left Cuba seeking success in Canada, and ten years later, Adonis began his solo career. Puentes and his band, the Voice of Cuba Orchestra, play songs in the traditional son style. Son is one of Cuba’s oldest native music genres – it originated in the 1750s – and its irresistible, danceable rhythm was the forerunner for salsa. Driven by African-derived percussion, son integrates Spanish string instruments with touches of American jazz. Against unmistakable Cuban beats, Puentes’s smooth vocals and his band’s dynamic horns sweep over listeners and pull them into a world of sound. Despite international success, Puentes remains true to his Cuban heritage and travels back home often. As Puentes told Canada’s The Globe and Mail in 2012, “I’m a messenger of my Cuban roots and tradition.” Critics and fans alike are taking note of this message; Puentes has been nominated for both a Grammy and Canada’s Juno awards.

Alicia Svigals’ Klezmer Fiddle Express feat. Steve Weintraub – klezmer

New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Alicia Svigals credit Tina Chaden Ethereal, sweet, haunting, urgent, gorgeous, and profound. Critics grasp to find words that capture Alicia Svigals’s fiddle playing. Svigals, a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics folk band, is credited with contributing to the widespread revival of klezmer music – and with it Yiddish culture – in the U.S. and abroad. Klezmer is a traditional celebratory music of Eastern Europe’s Jewish community that had its beginnings in the Middle Ages. It incorporated fragments of cantorial melody, snippets of ancient folk tunes, bits of Yiddish poetry, Hebraic ritual, and Greek and Ottoman influences. Klezmer came to the U.S. with the wave of Jewish immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and was revived once more in the 1960s-70s. Svigals’s music draws from this celebratory and mystical tradition but also carries political and social messages relevant to today’s listeners. She has collaborated with artists ranging from Itzhak Perlman to Led Zeppelin, and her powerful fiddling can be heard on multiple film and television scores.

The Lowell Folk Festival is excited to welcome back Steve Weintraub, a traditional and contemporary Jewish dancer and choreographer. Weintraub was born and raised in New York City and learned to dance under the tutelage of Alvin Ailey and Erick Hawkins. Klezmer-style dancing borrows from other European folk styles, and Weintraub has an international reputation for leading joyous, easy-to-follow dances that draw on this tradition. While Svigals’s playing will lure you in, Weintraub’s dancing guarantees this performance will feel like a party.

Ann Yao Trio Chinese string ensemble

Orlando, Florida

Ann Yao 1_Photo credit Li Wei

Ann Yao embodies China’s musical past and present with elegance and grace, deftly performing cutting-edge interpretations of traditional material on the zheng, one of China’s most ancient instruments. A five-foot long, horizontal, plucked zither that typically has 21 strings, the earliest known reference to a zheng appears in Chinese literature in the third century BCE.

Born into a musical family in Shanghai, Ann grew up immersed in traditional Chinese music. Her grandfather’s home was an important gathering place for traditional musicians from many regions of China. Ann was learning the zheng from her aunt and uncle by the age of ten; she developed an interest in and later mastered varied regional styles. Ann went on to study zheng at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, joining Beijing’s Central National Music Ensemble after graduation.

After moving to the United States in the 1980s, she joined Music from China, an innovative New York City-based ensemble known for contemporary arrangements of traditional material. Her trio features two other musicians who have performed regularly with Music from China. Guowei Wang, a highly acclaimed erhu (two-string fiddle) master, serves as the ensemble’s Artistic Director. At 17, he joined the Shanghai Traditional Orchestra, eventually becoming erhu soloist and concertmaster. Yihan Chen started learning pipa (Chinese lute) from renowned teachers when she was eight. She later attended the China Conservatory, earning prestigious awards for music performance. Together, these three virtuosic musicians, masters of their respective instruments, raise traditional Chinese string music to new heights of skill and beauty.

Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba – Malian ngoni ensemble

Mali

Called the “African answer to Hendrix” by The Guardian, Bassekou Kouyaté has redefined the limits of possibility for the ngoni, a traditional Malian spiked lute that is an ancestor of the banjo. The ngoni had always been played while seated until one night in 1985. At a show in Bamako, Mali. Bassekou Kouyaté put a strap on his ngoni and stood for a solo like a rock guitarist. “[I] created quite a stir among traditional ngoni musicians,” Kouyaté says, but through his innovative approach, “they began to feel that their instrument was being brought back to life.”

Born to famous griot parents in 1966 – father Moustapha Kouyaté, an ngoni player, and mother Yaraka Damba, a singer – Bassekou Kouyaté is part of the 800-year-old griot tradition, West Africa’s hereditary oral historians, musicians, and praise singers. After his father passed away, Kouyaté moved to Ségou, where he accompanied numerous singers, including his future wife Amy Sacko, and developed his own ngoni style featuring a double-picking technique and the sliding and bending of notes. Kouyaté’s influence has made the ngoni, long identified with the courts of kings, widely accessible– from young Malians to American blues musicians, who find uncanny similarities between Kouyaté’s music and their own. Ngoni Ba features four ngonis ranging from bass to treble, singer and wife Amy Sacko, and two percussionists. Now playing with several family members in addition to his wife, Kouyaté, continues to reaffirm his stature as a groundbreaking Malian griot and an influential international musician.

John Berberian Ensemble – Armenian

Massachusetts

John Berberian

An ancient string instrument with a richly layered sound as ornate as its inlay, the oud is sometimes called the “queen” of Near Eastern music. The basis for the European lute, the oud is held like a guitar, but similar to the violin, it lacks frets and is especially challenging to play. As a child in New York City, John Berberian first learned the violin but grew enchanted by the oud in his father Yervant’s dry-cleaning shop: there, behind the racks of shirts, Yervant, an Armenian immigrant and accomplished oud player, repaired instruments and entertained a rotating cadre of visiting musicians from Turkey, Greece, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. By age ten, John was imitating his father on the oud.

For most of the last millennium, Armenia has been under political domination by others, including the Ottoman Empire and the Soviet Union. Facing political and social repression – and the 1915 expulsion and genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey – many Armenians fled their homeland, creating an international diaspora. As one of the finest Armenian oud virtuosos, Berberian has helped to sustain this culture abroad through his teaching and playing for the last forty years. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Arts Council have both recognized Berberian with an esteemed “Master and Apprentice Grant” for his role in ensuring the millennia-old sound of the oud still entrances listeners today. Appearing at the Lowell Folk Festival with the John Berberian Ensemble will be Mal Barsamian (clarinet), Harry Bedrossian (keys and vocals), and Charles Dermenjian (dumbeg).

Kingfisher Singers & Dancers – Wampanoag social songs & dance

Massachusetts and Rhode Island
“All of our songs, all of our dances, have to do with what lives here, the environment. It’s what makes us who we are,” explains Jonathan Perry, of the Kingfisher Singers and Dancers, to describe how his culture is rooted in the seasons and landscapes of the northern Atlantic coast and its adjacent woodlands. Throughout the year, the Wampanoag hold celebrations in tandem with the harvest cycle. The Wampanoags once lived across sixty different tribal villages in southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It was the Wampanoags who encountered the first European settlers at Plymouth, and laid the foundation for the American Thanksgiving celebration in 1621. By the early 1900s, five tribes remained, and in 1928, several Wampanoag communities organized themselves into the Wampanoag Federation. Today the Mashpee Wampanoag are a federally recognized nation with an annual powwow that attracts thousands. The Kingfisher Singers and Dancers herald from the Mashpee, Aquinnah, and Herring Pond communities and the members view their dancing as a means to teach others about the values, perspectives, and culture unique to “the people of the first light.” Wearing traditional dress and beating a rhythm with handmade rattles and a water drum, the dancers will periodically pause to explain their movements. The Kingfisher Singers and Dancers also “prefer to dance with the people, not for the people,” so don’t be surprised if you find yourself learning new steps alongside the performers.

Leonardo Sandoval – tap

Brazil by way of New York City

leo sandoval_profile“A thoroughbred…capable of authority and nuance.” So says the Chicago Sun-Times about Brazilian tap dancer extraordinaire, Leonardo Sandoval. At just twenty-six, Sandoval has taken the dance world by storm with his Brazilian-infused tap dancing style, incorporating rhythms and dances, such as samba, from his native country. His steps seem effortless and blend perfectly with the Afro-Brazilian beats he’s known to dance – and sometimes improvise – to. Sandoval has studied dance for twenty years in Brazil and the U.S., and in an effort to widen tap dance’s appeal in his native country, he founded the Cia Carioca de Sapateado in Rio de Janeiro.

Tap dancing is a uniquely American art form that arose in the 19th century from the cross-pollination of African and European dance (such as Irish step dancing). Vaudeville and Hollywood popularized the form, and in recent decades, tap has enjoyed a renaissance. The style is developed, not in the conservatory, but in the street, dance hall, and social club, where dancers share, mimic, steal, and reinvent steps, playfully challenging each other to “battles.” In this spirit, Sandoval tapped in the streets of Brazil and you can now see him busking in New York City. When not drawing crowds on sidewalks, Sandoval works with the country’s most esteemed tappers – at the American Tap Dance Festival, the Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s “Rhythm World,” and Tap City in New York. Leo is currently an artist-in-residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation, and his first choreographed work debuted in Baltimore earlier this year.

Leroy Thomas & the Zydeco Roadrunners – zydeco

Elton, Louisiana

Leroy ThomasLeroy Thomas prefers to play “old school zydeco.” That’s no surprise, given he was born into a zydeco family and now tours the “zydeco corridor” between Lafayette, Louisiana and Houston, Texas frequently. A Louisiana native, Thomas was born in Lake Charles and raised in Elton, Louisiana. His father, Leo “The Bull” Thomas, was the only known drummer to lead a zydeco band. As a young boy, Thomas emulated his father’s drumming on an improvised paint-bucket drum set. After trading an old cassette player for a used accordion, Thomas began to learn the music in earnest and played in his father’s band by the time he was 18. He mastered both the button- and the piano-style accordion, which was played by the great Clifton Chenier, the “King of Zydeco.” Springing from the rich cultural mix of southwest Louisiana and East Texas, zydeco combines traditional black French Creole music with blues and R&B to create irresistible dance music. A driving, accordion-led music with signature frottoir (rubboard) percussion and electric guitars, zydeco is a relatively modern sound that emerged after the Second World War. Now known as “the Jewel of the Bayou,” Thomas’s playing is energetic, fun, and old school. He’s been known to spin his accordion – decked out in the American flag – above his head during a set. His songs are often playful, with titles like “Leroy’s Boogie” and “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound.” With his fast and furious accordion and a full band, Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners promise to bring the bayou to Lowell.

Los Cambalacheson jarocho

East Los Angeles, California

Cambalache_PHOTOIn son jarocho, dancing is as much a part of the sound as the instruments and singing: dancers move their feet on the hollow, resonating tarima dance platform and drum out a distinctive, plucky beat. Son jarocho is the native sound of the southernmost part of Veracruz, a state in eastern Mexico that curves around the base of the Gulf of Mexico. This music is infectious and joyous, with layers of bright string instruments that evoke its complex indigenous, African, and Spanish influences. Los Cambalache – meaning “exchange,” a reference to the tradition’s rich crosscultural heritage – is one of the best exemplars of this style in the U.S. The group was founded in 2007 by Cesar Castro, a master luthier, sonero, and jarocho from Veracruz. Group members play the signature instruments of son jarocho: the requinto (a four-stringed guitar amplified with a bone or plastic pick) and the jarana (a smaller eight-stringed guitar), plus upright bass, hand-held percussion, and electric guitar. The group heralds from East Los Angeles, where this style of music gained mainstream appeal in the 1950s via Richie Valens. In addition to playing festivals and clubs, the ensemble performs at museums, schools, and universities in an effort to educate their audiences about this musical tradition. While there may not be a tarima at the Lowell Folk Festival, Los Cambalache are known to invite the public into their performances – ensuring that their set will feel like a fandango, the peak social occasion, jam session, and dance party of old Mexico.

Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge – bluegrass

Lowgap, North Carolina

mickey galyean & cullens bridgeSo deeply connected to bluegrass, the musicians of Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge cannot remember a time without banjos, fiddles, and singing. The players all hail from the Mt. Airy and Galax area of northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia, a region Alan Lomax once called “America’s richest breeding ground for traditional musicians.” To the mystery and delight of the rest of the world, this area was home to greats including the Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers, and continues to be a stronghold for old-time, gospel, and bluegrass music. Bluegrass was forged by Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in the commercial radio jamborees of the 1940s. Monroe took the values of older Appalachian styles, amped up the speed, and introduced a new repertoire of classics to create a new country sound.

This band doesn’t apologize for playing true to an older style of bluegrass: the singing is earnest, songs are often well-worn classics, and the picking is lightning fast. Mickey Galyean, a successful singer and guitar player, started the band following the passing of his musician father, Cullen Galyean, in 2010. The younger Galyean previously played with Brad Hiatt in Rich in Tradition, but he formed Cullen’s Bridge to keep his father’s musical legacy alive. Gaylean brought Hiatt with him on bass, along with veteran bluegrass musicians Rick Pardue (banjo) and Billy Hawks (fiddle). With precise picking and harmonies so close your ears will ring, Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge promise no frills and no “candy grass” – only the real thing in the style of Monroe’s generation.

Music in the Glen – Irish

Massachusetts, upstate New York, and County Clare

Music In The Glen_photo by Marianne Mangan“Music in the Glen” is a beloved traditional Irish reel, a name well-suited for this group of talented players known for their faith to the music of Ireland, rooted in a landscape of glens, green rolling fields, and stone houses. The players of Music in the Glen are deeply connected to Ireland and to each other. “We’re probably some of the most traditional players,” explains Jimmy Noonan, “We’re part of the old guard.” Noonan, originally from Cleveland, is a faculty member in Boston College’s Irish Studies program, and a master of the Irish flute and tin whistle. He is joined by Damien Connolly (County Clare, Ireland), who grew up in a home known for the liveliest playing in town. Damien’s uncle, Seamus Connolly, is a renowned fiddler, director of Irish music programs at Boston College, and one of Noonan’s greatest mentors. While Damien also plays fiddle, he is usually behind the accordion. Dan Gurney also plays accordion, an instrument he’s loved since spying a miniature toy version as a child. Originally from upstate New York, Gurney studied music at Harvard before moving to Ireland for a year of training. Taking up fiddle and guitar, Dylan Foley (also from upstate New York) won his first All-Ireland fiddle championship in the “Under 12” category. Foley and Gurney were trained by the same teacher and frequently play with Noonan in Boston’s best pub sessions. As well-known masters of their instruments, each hold multiple international awards for their playing – from the Massachusetts Cultural Council to the esteemed All-Ireland, or Fleadh Cheoil, music competitions.

Mythili Prakash Dance Ensemble Bharata Natyam

Los Angeles, California 

Mythili Prakash 1Los Angeles-born Mythili Prakash is a rising international star carrying on the 3,000-year-old South Indian dance tradition. Often regarded as the most popular classic Indian dance style, Bharata Natyam is noted for its beauty, elegance and spirituality. A vibrant, brilliant performer, Mythili exhibits a command of this challenging dance form far beyond her years.

Acclaimed as a prodigy at age eight, Mythili was trained by her mother, Guru Viji Prakash, a famous dancer, choreogapher, teacher, and virtuoso of Bharata Natyam. A first-generation American-born Indian, Mythili straddles two worlds. Already the recipient of critical acclaim from Bharata Natyam cognoscenti and adored by Indian audiences worldwide, she strives to transcend cultural barriers and bring Bharata Natyam into the mainstream of American arts.

Modern Bharata Natyam performance evolved about 200 years ago in the province of Tanjore. Falling under the patronage of kings and nobles, it became less religious in nature, causing a gradual degeneration of the art until a renaissance about fifty years ago revived the tradition. Bharata Natyam has two basic forms: Nritta, purely rhythmic movement with intricate footwork, and Nritya, which incorporates interpretative miming to tell the story of the song being sung.

Mythili’s fulltime career in dance includes performing, touring, choreographing and training in the U.S. and India. Though she embodies the classical tradition, Mythili also pushes Bharata Natyam’s boundaries, exploring concepts that increase its accessiblity and connect it with new audiences. Most recently, she brought Bharata Natyam to the national spotlight with her appearance on NBC’s Superstars of Dance.

Polka Country Musicians – polka

Jewett City, Connecticut

Polka Country MusiciansIgnoring the advice of music teachers who feared he was too young, Wally Dombrowski began trumpet lessons when he was only five. His parents, both of Polish heritage, brought Wally to polka shows as a toddler and he was enamored by the trumpet by age two. When his rhythmic drumming on sand pails caught their attention, he was encouraged to learn polka with his brother Rich. Rich founded the Polka Country Musicians in 1977 when he was 18 and Wally was just nine. The brothers took the music their parents loved and made it their own.

Polka originated from peasant dances in Eastern Europe and grew widely popular in the mid-1800s. When immigrants brought the music with them to the U.S., new regional variations developed as the music took root. Polish polka split into two major styles: Chicago and East Coast. The Polka Country Musicians play a version of the Chicago style called “push.” Push polka bands typically feature double horns, accordion, concertina, bass, and drums. Over the years, and as players changed, the band developed its own distinct sound and adopted a slightly slower tempo suited for covers of country songs. When the band is playing in top form, audiences can be so captivated by the music they stop dancing to fully listen. “Connection with the people is huge,” Dombrowski explains, “it makes us want to perform that much better.” And after decades of mastering the trumpet and other instruments, Dombrowski was inducted into the International Polka Association’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

James “Super Chikan” Johnson & the Fighting Cocks – Delta blues

Clarksdale, Mississippi

SuperChikanHR1Mississippi Delta bluesman James “Super Chikan” Johnson is an American original. A musician and an artist, Super Chikan plays an eclectic mix guitars he makes himself, using whatever materials are at hand – gas cans, ceiling fans, cigar boxes and broomsticks. He paints each “chikantar” with detailed scenes of the Delta. The resulting riot of image and color is, like his music, infused with Chikan’s special joie de vivre. “Making one of my guitars is like writing one of my songs. I let the words and feelings take me from the beginning to the end,” he explains. “As it shapes up, I gain more ideas. Just let it go where it goes.”

Johnson grew up working on his family’s farms in the Delta, passing time by talking to chickens. Known as “Chikan Boy,” he soaked up the blues from his uncle Big Jack Johnson and neighbor Sam Carr, who together played with Frank Frost in the Jelly Roll Kings, an electric blues band popular in the Delta in the 1980s and ’90s. After playing with notable Delta musicians, Super Chikan recorded several solo albums, including his 1997 debut, Blues Come Home to Roost. These recordings brought Johnson increased attention and opportunities to tour worldwide, plus a host of awards, including the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2004, and several Blues Music Awards. Backed by his jaunty all-female band, the Fighting Cocks, Johnson continues to rule the roost. When in Clarksdale, he performs regularly at Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero blues club – Chikan is Freeman’s favorite blues performer.

The Fairfield Four – gospel

Nashville, Tennesee

The Fairfield FourThe Fairfield Four’s legacy stretches back to the pews of Nashville’s Fairfield Baptist Church, where the band was formed in 1921 by Reverend J.R. Carrethers. With voices so smooth they’ve been compared to a cool breeze on a warm summer’s day, their richly layered sound is anchored by a deep bass voice with a lead vocal over top. The original Four were trained in the tradition of a cappella quartet gospel singing, which has its roots in the Negro spiritual traditions of the American South. Enslaved Africans combined English hymns with West African rhythms and singing to create a musical form that expressed both Christian devotion and the desire for freedom. After the massive international popularity of the Fisk Jubilee Singers starting in the early 1870s, the early recording industry turned its attention to the African-American market. In the 1920s and 1930s, several “modern” jubilee quartets were among the most popular recording artists; The Fairfield Four were part of this first wave of gospel heard on the radio. The group released several records on Music City labels, inspiring greats like B.B. King and Civil Rights activists alike. In 2000, the Four were once again in the spotlight when they appeared and sang in the film O Brother Where Art Thou? While the founding members have passed on, the current singers – Joe Thompson, Levert Allison, Bobbye Sherrell, and Larrice Byrd – ensure their sound lives on. As Allison told The Tennessean, “Our style is rare and we refuse to let it die away.”

The Harris Brothers – Appalachian blues

Lenoir, North Carolina

The Harris BrothersThe Harris Brothers come out of the American songster tradition, drawing from diverse currents of vernacular music, including Appalachian bluegrass and old-time, country, jazz, rock, and blues. With Reggie on guitar, Ryan on bass, seamless brother harmonies, and a kick drum fashioned from a suitcase, listeners often ask, “How can two people put off such a big sound?”

Reggie and Ryan Harris were born into a musical family in Lenoir, North Carolina, a small town tucked into the rising foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This area is known for the Appalachian blues, a style that blends together African and European influences – the “mountain cousin” of the Delta blues. The Harris brothers cut their teeth playing with family and friends on front porches, at community picnics, and town celebrations. The two have been picking and singing since they were small children and have performed as a duo for nearly thirty years, playing with such greats as Vassar Clements, Bobby Hicks, and Peter Rowan. The Harris Brothers are a staple in bluegrass country, and perform at large venues such as the Blue Ridge Music Center and Merlefest, plus regional fiddler conventions. The two are known for their showmanship and their ability to improvise – no doubt strengthened by brother’s intuition – and each performance is different. While their sound draws from a variety of musical traditions, their playing is colored by their roots in the mountains and decades of experience. With their hearts truly in the music, the Harris Brothers are sure to captivate any audience.

The Original Pinettes Brass Band – New Orleans brass band

New Orleans, Louisiana

The Original Pinettes Brass BandWhoever said, “A dream can’t become reality” didn’t know The Original Pinettes Brass Band. Some of the liveliest music in New Orleans is played out on the street in joyous marches led by the city’s world-famous brass bands. This parade style is rooted in 19th-century military bands; musicians in the Crescent City combined African rhythms with European forms and invented a loose jazz sound you can’t help but move to. Men have always dominated the brass band scene. As the only all-female brass band in New Orleans and possibly the world, the Pinettes are helping to move the tradition forward.

The group was formed in 1991 from members of the St. Mary’s Academy marching band by Jeffery Herbert, one-time bandleader at the all-girls school. At the time, there were a few male bands with “pinstripe” in their name: the original sixteen members made this idea their own, calling themselves the Original Pinettes. After Hurricane Katrina interrupted the music, the band bounced back with a new lineup under leader Christie Jourdain. These women are committed to their playing and to each other. “We’re not blood related,” says Jourdain, “we’re love related.” The Original Pinettes are also music royalty. In 2013, they won the annual Red Bull Street Kings competition, and were named Street Queens. An audience favorite on the street and at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, the Original Pinettes are bound to make you move your feet and shout out as if you’re on Frenchman Street in the Quarter.

Wylie & the Wild West – western music

Conrad, Montana

Wylie leaping - photo by Bill WattsThe Old West isn’t dead. It’s alive in the labor, love for the land, and lives of the men and women who call that great expanse home today – and you can hear it in the songs of Wylie & the Wild West. Despite widespread success, Wylie Gustafson still wakes up at 5:30 each morning to tend to his award-winning horses. Keeping true to the land is essential for his songwriting. “Most of my songs are born out the environment where I live,” he explains. “When I write an upbeat song I want to make sure it’s a song a cowboy can dance to.” Born in big sky country (Conrad, Montana) Gustafson is a fourth-generation rancher who learned how to sing and train horses from his father, R.W. “Rib” Gustafson. Rib also taught Wylie to yodel – and when Wylie saw how yodeling enraptured audiences, he incorporated it into his rolling, rock-a-billy, country-western style songs. You’ve probably heard his voice before without knowing it: Gustasfon is behind the “ya-hoo-hoo” yodel of Yahoo!’s advertising campaign. While his music draws from the traditions laid down by Jimmy Rodgers and Merle Haggard, Gustasfon consciously moves cowboy songs forward by incorporating influences from rock ’n’ roll. He samples Chuck Berry’s guitar rhythms and incorporates lyricism inspired by the Beatles. Gustasfon also brings rock flair to his performances: His stage presence is energetic and magnetic. In April 2015, Wylie & the Wild West were honored with the National Cowboy Museum Wrangler Heritage Award—the most prestigious award they’ve received, in Wylie’s opinion.

Yves Lambert TrioQuébécois

Montreal, Québec, Canada

Yves Lambert Trio_highresAccordionist and singer Yves Lambert is a towering figure in Québécois traditional music, regarded by his fellow Québécois as a “leading light in the traditional aesthetic of our cultural heritage.” In 1976, he was a founding member of the super group La Bottine Souriante, and for 26 years was the heart and soul of this internationally renowned Québécois band. Yves is fortunate to have come from Québec’s Lanaudière region, which is known for having one of the province’s most extensive and rich traditions of song, dance and music. Québéc’s distinct musical style developed over four centuries around the kitchen hearths and in the dance halls of the province. Descendants of the early French immigrants passed down French songs and stories, slowly incorporating musical influences from their Irish and Scots neighbors to create a rich and uniquely Québécois musical culture.

Searching for new musical adventures after nearly three decades with La Bottine, and always attentive to the next generation of musicians, Yves surrounded himself with young talent and created the Bébert Orchestra in 2004, and the Yves Lambert Trio in 2010. The Yves Lambert Trio showcases the interplay between maturity and youth to create an exciting musical dialogue. The ensemble, featuring Yves’s charisma and talent coupled with Tommy Gauthier’s exquisite work on fiddle and guitarist Olivier Rondeau’s virtuosity and passion, mines the rich musical heritage of Québéc, giving new life to the forgotten or undiscovered gems of the tradition. The nuances of the group’s arrangements, its eclectic rhythmic and sonic palates, and distinct harmonies make this trio a one-of-a-kind musical experience.

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