Contemporary Folk Staff - July 27-August 2, 2014

Kathy Mattea |
Twice named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association, Kathy Mattea established herself in the late 1980s and 1990s as an artist at ease both with country tradition and free-ranging innovation, with a penchant for songcatching. In 1990, the West Virginia native won the first of her two Grammy Awards, earning the Best Female Country Vocal Performance award for her moving “Where’ve You Been,” co-written by husband Jon Vezner. She is among the most successful women in the genre’s history, yet her creative spirit has led her to explore musical territory extending well beyond its confines. Her recent recordings have intertwined Celtic, gospel and bluegrass influences with the folk and acoustic music that have always served as her artistic anchor. Increasingly in demand as a public speaker, Kathy regularly presents educational programs, both separately and in conjunction with concert appearances, at colleges and civic venues across the country. These range from vocal and songwriting workshops for Berklee College of Music, North House Folk School, and the Swannanoa Gathering, to topical and motivational talks about the arts, climate change, and “Finding Your Path,” to her multi-media presentation “My Coal Journey,” a discussion of music’s role in social change, featuring live musical performances and a powerpoint slideshow. An early spokesperson and advocate for AIDS awareness and research, Kathy’s long history of activism has led her to bring public attention to several current environmental issues, including climate change and the controversial mining practice called “mountaintop removal” in her native Appalachia.

Livingston Taylor |

Livingston Taylor picked up his first guitar at the age of thirteen, beginning a forty-year career that has encompassed performance, songwriting and teaching. Born in Boston and raised in North Carolina, Livingston is the fourth child in a very musical family that includes Alex, James, Kate and Hugh. Livingston recorded his first record at eighteen and has continued to create well-crafted, introspective and original songs that have earned him listeners worldwide. From Top-40 hits “I Will Be in Love with You” and “I’ll Come Running,” to “I Can Dream of You” and “Boatman” both recorded by his brother James, Livingston’s creative output has continued unabated. He is equally at home with a range of musical genres and has toured with major artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett and Jethro Tull. A natural performer, his shows are peppered with personal stories, anecdotes and ineffable warmth and a depth of musical knowledge that allows him to slip easily from folk to classic Gershwin or something from the best of Broadway. As a full professor at Berklee College of Music since 1989, Livingston’s Stage Performance classes are some of the most popular at the College, and provided him with the material for his book, Stage Performance. Livingston is at work on a new album expected to be released in the spring of 2014.

Jim Lauderdale |

Jim Lauderdale is a Grammy-winning musician and one of the most respected artists working in the bluegrass, country and Americana music communities today. One of Nashville’s A-list songwriters, his songs have been recorded by such artists as Patty Loveless, Shelby Lynne, Solomon Burke, The Dixie Chicks and George Strait. His music has been featured recently on the ABC hit show, Nashville, and he had several cuts on the soundtrack of the successful film, Pure Country. Jim is also in high demand as a player, touring with the likes of Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Rhonda Vincent. Jim frequently collaborates with legends such as Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and long time friend Buddy Miller as the duo, Buddy & Jim. The duo also host the radio shows, The Buddy & Jim Show, with performances and in-depth interviews with a wide variety of artists and friends, and Music City Roots, with concerts each week from the Loveless Barn in Nashville. Since winning “Artist of the Year” and “Song of the Year” at the first “Honors and Awards Show” held by the Americana Music Association in 2002, he has also subsequently hosted the show each year. Jim is the subject of The King Of Broken Hearts, a new documentary by Australian filmmaker Jeremy Dylan, which tells of Jim’s unconventional and prolific story from his North Carolina roots, being immersed in the country music scenes in both New York City and Los Angeles, to breaking through in Nashville as a songwriter.

Ellis |

If you look up the definition of “wholehearted,” you just might find a photo of Ellis. An award-winning songwriter and performer, she has a way of leaving audiences better than she finds them, with softened edges & opened hearts. Audiences at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, and Moab Folk Festival have all voted her the “Most Wanted to Return” when she first performed on their stages. A Texan at heart, Ellis grew up outside of Houston until her family relocated to Minnesota at age 16. She quickly joined a rock band, and then started her own record label while in college. Since then, she has recorded and self-released eight recordings including the recent live CD, Wherever You Are. She has been a repeat guest on A Prairie Home Companion, and her song “Red Light” was featured in the major motion picture, The Roommate. Ellis’ latest studio release, Right On Time has won her several songwriting honors. She has been a resident instructor at the Rocky Mountain Song School for the past seven years, and twice has been a guest instructor at the Sisters Americana Songwriting Academy. This is Ellis’ second Gathering

Cliff Eberhardt |

Red House recording artist Cliff Eberhardt knew by age seven that he was going to be a singer and songwriter. As a child, Cliff taught himself to play guitar, piano, bass and drums. In his teens, Eberhardt was fortunate enough to live close to the Main Point (one of the best folk clubs on the East Coast), where he received an early and impressive tutorial in acoustic music from such artists as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bonnie Raitt, and Mississippi John Hurt. A driving force of the Greenwich Village New Folk movement and well-known among his peers, Cliff’s songs have been covered by the likes of Richie Havens, Buffy St. Marie, Erasure, Lucy Kaplansky and the folk superstar band “Cry, Cry, Cry” (Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky). A consummate performer, Cliff engages the audience with funny but true stories tinged with irony, accompanied by an unparalleled guitar style. Cliff has been an acclaimed instructor at many song writing camps, colleges, schools, and workshops, and is currently fulfilling one of his dreams – writing music for the theater. Never one to start small, he was asked to write all of the songs for, and perform in, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s production of The Taming of the Shrew, in Washington, DC. We’re pleased to welcome him back for his sixth Swannanoa Gathering.

Don Henry |

Grammy-winner Don Henry has written songs recorded by legends Ray Charles, Patti Page, Conway Twitty, Gene Watson, and B.J. Thomas, as well as by young hit makers Blake Shelton, Lonestar, and Miranda Lambert. Don’s played with performers as diverse as Joey Ramone at New York’s famous Bottom Line and Keith Urban at Nashville’s legendary Bluebird Cafe. The wit and wisdom of Don’s songs are widely renowned, from campfire favorites, the hilarious “B.F.D.” and biker lullaby, “Harley,” to the wonderfully poignant tribute to Martin Luther King, “Beautiful Fool.” Kathy Mattea’s version of the Grammy Award winning “Where’ve You Been,” also won Don and co-writer Jon Vezner, Song of the Year honors from the ACM, the CMA, and the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the first song in country music history to be awarded all four honors in the same year! Miranda Lambert had a big hit in 2013 with Don and Phillip Coleman’s song, “All Kinds Of Kinds,” with Don singing background vocals. Don tours extensively as a solo performer, and he’s also a member of The Waymores with Tom Kimmel and Sally Barris, as well as performing in duos with Sally, Craig Carothers, and Jon Vezner.

Jon Vezner |

Grammy award-winning songwriter Jon Vezner is a tunesmith of rare sensitivity and dry wit. With a degree in music theory and education, in 1983, he made his first trip to Nashville to attend the Nashville Songwriters Association (NSAI) spring symposium, where he soon developed a relationship with music publishing company, Wrensong Music. He moved to Nashville in January of 1986, and within that first year he had songs recorded by Reba McEntire and Ronnie Milsap, followed by Lorrie Morgan’s first single in 1987, “Train Wreck of Emotion,” which he co-wrote with Alan Rhody. In 1989, Vezner co-wrote “Where’ve You Been” with fellow singer/songwriter Don Henry, recorded by Jon’s wife, Kathy Mattea, a true story of Vezner’s grandparents that earned him “Song of the Year” honors with both the Country Music Association (CMA) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM) for 1990. The song was honored with a Grammy Award for “Best Country Song” and the Nashville Songwriters Association “Song of the Year.” Vezner was subsequently named “Songwriter of the Year” by the NSAI. Jon’s songs have been recorded by a varied list of artists such as Martina McBride, Janis Ian, John Mellencamp, Nancy Griffith, Faith Hill, Clay Walker, Diamond Rio and Steve Wariner. Vezner also has quite a list of production credits, including projects for Danny O’Keefe, Victoria Shaw, singing legend Patti Page and Jeff Gilkinson. Jon and long-time friend Don Henry have recently reunited to create a new CD project as the “Don Juans.” In the last two years, Jon received Distinguished Alumni awards from both North Hennepin Community College and Southwest Minnesota State University. Jon also leads songwriting workshops all across the country.

Amy Speace |

Although Amy began her creative career in the theater, acting with The National Shakepeare Company and various other classical repertory theaters, she long ago left behind the stage to pursue music full time. Cutting her teeth playing regular gigs at The Living Room and The Bitter End in NYC, she was discovered by legend Judy Collins in 2005 and signed to Collins’ imprint, Wildflower Records, releasing two critically-acclaimed albums, Songs For Bright Street (2006) and The Killer In Me (2009). Judy Collins herself recorded Amy’s song, “The Weight of the World,” calling it “one of the best political folk songs I’ve ever heard.” NYC’s top AAA station, WFUV, named that song #4 in DJ John Platt’s Top 10 Songs of the Decade. Amy has also been a songwriting and performance teacher at The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School, The Kerrville Folk Festival Song Camp, The Sisters Americana Song Academy and has been the host of American Songwriter’s online songwriting critiques feature. She is a former actress with The National Shakespeare Conservatory and was the Artistic Director of Five Points Theater Company in NYC, working as a director/actress/playwright in the lower east side fringe theater scene in the late 90’s.

Siobhán Quinn |

A profoundly versatile vocalist and teacher, Siobhán writes and performs songs in folk, blues and adult contemporary pop styles. She is known as a dynamic singer of Chicago & New Orleans style electric blues and has performed many other styles from jazz and big band to r&b and rock; early song to renaissance music, and medieval madrigals in five languages. Truly one of the most popular vocal instructors around, she tours internationally, and is accompanied at Swannanoa by her music partner and husband, songwriter Michael Bowers. Her careful attention to each individual is renowned, and students often return to her workshops, learning new tools each year. She has taught at such programs as WUMB Summer Acoustic Music Week, Kerrville Folk Festival, Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School, NERFA, Great American Masters Music Industry Workshop, and coached voice at the Summersongs & Wintersongs songwriting retreats. When at home in Alexandria, VA, Siobhán teaches individuals, and coaches vocal performance for recordings. She consistently updates her own credentials through such programs as the international British Voice Association Conference master classes in performance/otolaryngology, and CCM at Shenandoah Conservatory. Awarded a WAMMIE for Best Traditional Folk Vocalist, Siobhán has also been a top-five songwriting finalist in the prestigious Boston Folk Festival Songwriting and (with Michael Bowers) Kerrville New Folk Competitions and Emerging Artist at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

Ray Chesna |

An accomplished guitarist and songwriter, Ray is fluent in a wide range of styles including western swing, folk, blues, country and bluegrass, and has been a long-time fixture at Contemporary Folk Week, as the sideman of choice for open mikes and concerts. A private music teacher since 1971, Ray has also been on staff at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV, the Guitar Intensive at Bar Harbor, ME, Club Passim in Cambridge, MA, and has led workshops for the South East Bluegrass Association in Atlanta, GA. He continues to teach privately at his home studio in Asheville, NC, where he also maintains a guitar repair business. Ray records for Echo Lake Records and is the author of Guitar Tools, a guitar theory manual, featuring his unique method of understanding the guitar.

David Roth |

Contemporary Folk Week Coordinator David Roth is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and enthusiastic instructor who has taken his songs, experience, and expertise to a wide variety of venues in this and other countries full-time over the last twenty-six years. His work has found it’s way to Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the Kennedy Center, Peter, Paul, & Mary and Kingston Trio concerts, the Kerrville and Falcon Ridge Folk Festivals (top honors at both “Emerging Artist” competitions), NASA’s Goddard Space Center (his song “Rocket Science” flew on the space shuttle Atlantis in 2009), the Rise Up Singing and Rise Again (sequel) songbooks, and twelve CDs on the Wind River and Stockfisch (Germany) labels. Winner of four Positive Music Awards (celebrating the best in empowering original music), David has also been on many of Christine Lavin’s seminal Rounder Records compilations, and now on her Just One Angel (new holiday songs) CD from Yellowtail Records. The former artist-in-residence at New York’s Omega Institute has also been a songwriting judge at Kerrville, Napa Valley, Tumbleweed, Eventide Arts, and the South Florida Folk Festivals. He’s taught singing, songwriting, and performance at the Augusta Heritage workshops, Common Ground on the Hill, the Woods Dance & Music Camp, WUMB’s Summer Acoustic Music Week, Moab Folk Camp, Rowe Center, Pendle Hill, Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Lamb’s Retreat, the National Wellness Institute, and for many other songwriting groups and associations around the country. David is also Director of the Cape Cod Songwriters Retreat and host of the Cape’s “Full Moon Open Mic” which for the past 8 years has provided a forum for musicians to connect and be heard while at the same time collecting donations for local non-profits and neighbors in need.

Amy Malkoff |

Amy Malkoff is a singer/songwriter and founding member of the groups All About Buford and Deadline Poet, and she has appeared on stage and in the studio with such luminaries as Wayne Brady, Jonathan Brooke, The Persuasions, Ellis Paul, Vance Gilbert, GrooveLily, Patty Griffin, and Dar Williams. She has a degree in music from Kenyon College, with music studies at Youngstown State University and master’s-level coursework at the New England Conservatory of Music. She is a frequent clinician/teacher and a cappella competition judge (often for Varsity Vocals, the organization on which the movie Pitch Perfect was based). Her music has appeared on both the Rounder Records and Hear Music/Starbucks labels.