2021 performers

 
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Eddie Bond tears it up on fiddle, banjo, autoharp, and guitar; he can sing, yodel, tell stories and his flatfooting is exceptional. Eddie got his start as a performer at age three, earning tossed quarters, dancing to the music of Great-Uncle Leon and his band, the Hillside Boys. By the time he graduated, he could play all the instruments, and throw out any drunk who made too much noise. Eddie started his band the Oldtime Tradition after getting out of the Army in 1996, and became the fiddler for the New Ballard's Branch Bogtrotters around 2001. In 2018, Eddie was awarded the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowship, our nation’s top honor for a folk artist. He and his wife Bonnie live in Fries, Virginia where he is a schoolteacher.

For his BOTMC performance, Eddie will be joined by Jared Boyd, banjo; Karen Celia Heil, guitar; and Bonnie Bond, bass. Jared Boyd grew up surrounded by old-time music on both sides of his family, in the small community of Laurel Fork in Carroll County, VA. He learned banjo from Ray Chatfield through the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program, and from his grandfather, Jimmy Boyd, of the Franklin County old-time dance band The Dry Hill Draggers. Jared currently plays with the Twin Creeks Stringband who recently released their first album, Lee Highway Blues.  San Francisco’s Karen Celia Heil has won ribbons at Clifftop and has been the guitar accompanist of choice for many visiting old-time luminaries including Bobby Taylor, Mike Bryant and Kirk Sutphin. She plays guitar in Joseph Decosimo’s band the Bucking Mules, and locally plays fiddle with Plaid Strangers.  Bonnie Bond has been backing up husband Eddie on the doghouse bass for many years, adding her sweet singing voice to their duets.

Eddie and Jared will perform in the Friday evening concert and teach workshops on Thursday. They also will lead an open jam session (online) at the Saturday night dance.

 

Jake Blount is an award-winning banjoist, fiddler, singer and scholar who foregrounds the experiences of queer people and people of color in his work. He specializes in the music of Black and indigenous communities in the southeastern United States, and in the regional style of Ithaca, New York. Jake has studied with modern masters of old-time music, including famed fiddler Bruce Molsky and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Rhiannon Giddens. In 2016, Blount became the first Black person to make the finals at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Music Festival (better known as Clifftop), and the first to win in the traditional band category. Last summer (2019) he took first place in the banjo contest at Clifftop with three tunes from Black banjoists.

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Jake holds a B.A. in Ethnomusicology from Hamilton College. Based in Rhode Island, he has toured Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand.  His new full-length solo album, Spider Tales (Free Dirt Records), released in mid-2020, has been receiving a great deal of media attention, including reviews and/or feature stories on NPR, No Depression andThe Guardian.

Jake will perform in the Thursday evening concert, and will teach fiddle and banjo workshops on Sunday.

Slate Mountain Ramblers
 
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The Slate Mountain Ramblers, featuring old-time fiddle legend Richard Bowman, hail from the culturally rich rural area around Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Born into a well-known musical family from Patrick County Virginia, Richard was the youngest of 8 kids. His mom and dad played the autoharp, and his dad also played some clawhammer banjo. The first fiddle he can remember hearing was Tommy Jarrell on the radio, and he thought, “Well, man, that really does sound good. I believe I could learn to play that, if I had a fiddle.” Turns out he lived 12 miles from Jarrell, so he started spending some time with him, picking up tunes and his style. Richard also learned from other old-time music icons such as Ernest East, Benton Flippen, and Kyle Creed, before he became the champion old time fiddler he is today.

Over the years Richard Bowman has won both individual and band competitions at many fiddler’s conventions including Galax, Mt. Airy and Fiddler’s Grove. His band, The Slate Mountain Ramblers, have been a prize-winning mainstay of the dance and festival culture in central and western North Carolina and southwest Virginia for over three decades.

 

For their Berkeley appearance, Richard and his bass-playing wife Barbara will be joined by another couple, David and Ivy Sheppard, of the Southern Broadcasters. By age fifteen, Ivy was playing clawhammer banjo and had announced to her parents that she was going to make her living playing music. She met up with the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers in 1999 at a fiddlers convention, followed them home, and subsequently performed with them for several years.  Ivy Sheppard also had a competitive run for Mayor of Mount Airy in 2017. In addition to her work as a musician, she is also well-known in the bluegrass world as a DJ on WPAQ (a station which plays exclusively old-time, bluegrass and gospel music), with two long-running radio shows: Born In the Mountain and An Old Revival Meeting.  David Sheppard is a guitarist, singer, songwriter and skilled craftsman who restores and repairs guitars and other stringed instruments. Ivy and David’s hometown band is the South Carolina Broadcasters, who play music of the Carter Family, transitional old time-bluegrass tunes, and originals.

The Slate Mountain Ramblers will perform in the Thursday evening concert. Ivy will teach a banjo workshop on Friday and she will teach a beginning clawhammer banjo workshop on Sunday. Richard will teach a fiddle workshop on Friday.

 
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David Greely, founding fiddler of the Mamou Playboys, has for years been assembling a repertoire of uncommon Cajun music. He uses old and rare tunes, new companion pieces to the old ones, and striking new melodies that meld Cajun roots with fiddle sounds he’s heard in his travels worldwide, and arranges them with novel instrumentation and rich harmonies.

Presenting his concerts in English or French, he embraces all the aspects of his heritage that a fiddle and voice can reach- ancient ballads, cane field blues, yearning waltzes and fiery two steps, and melds his ancestral legacy with his own adroit compositions and stories of the rich souls who kept this music and language alive.

David was born in Baton Rouge of Cajun and Irish ancestry, and learned Cajun music on dance hall stages throughout South Louisiana, in the archives of Cajun and Creole music at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, and from his apprenticeship to Cajun fiddle master and National Heritage Fellow Dewey Balfa. As a founding member of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, David toured Folk Festivals worldwide for 23 years, and was nominated for four Grammy Awards. He has received the Louisiana Artist Fellowship Award for Folklife Performance, and is an adjunct instructor of Cajun fiddle at the University of Louisiana.

David will perform a set (live) at the String Band Contest.  He also will play for the online Cajun dance Saturday evening, accompanied by Eric, Suzy, & Allegra Thompson (Thompsonia) and will teach a Cajun fiddle workshop on Friday. 

The Horsenecks feature the pairing of Oregonian Gabrielle Macrae's rhythmic Appalachian fiddle style and the driving banjo playing of Liverpudlian Barry Southern.  Gabrielle was raised in the Old Time music hotbed of Portland, OR. As a teenager, her love of old time music brought her to North Carolina where she fully immersed herself in the music of the region. In 2008, she released an album with the Macrae Sisters which received glowing reviews in both Sing Out! and The Old Time Herald. Barry’s banjo playing versatility shines whether playing clawhammer or driving three-finger banjo. Also adept in many styles of guitar playing, he has been active in the UK’s old time and bluegrass scene for the last decade with multiple groups.  The Horsenecks have appeared at many festivals in the USA and the UK, including the Cornwall Bluegrass Festival, Doolin Folk Festival, The Portland Old Time Gathering, and the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Festival.

The Horsenecks will perform in the Friday evening concert and will lead a jam at the String Band Contest on Saturday. On Sunday, Gabrielle will teach two fiddle workshops (including a beginning fiddle workshop) and Barry will teach a banjo workshop..  

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Jody Stecher and Kate Brislin have been singing together since 1974, doing old-time music, early country, old-style bluegrass, recently composed songs, and some really old traditional folk songs and playing guitar, mandolin, five-string banjo, and fiddle. Jody has worked with many major figures in bluegrass, folk and oldtime music including Peter Rowan, Jerry Garcia, Chris Brashear, and David Grisman. Kate was a member of one of the earliest Bay Area old time bands, the Arkansas Sheiks, and went on to found the beloved all-women band Any Old Time, whose Arhoolie album is still in print after more than forty years. Jody and Kate’s many recordings have been Indy winners and Grammy finalists. They are "semi-retired" from touring as a duo but are still singing, maybe better than ever. The BOTMC is honored that they agreed to emerge from semi-retirement to perform for us!

Kate & Jody will perform in the Thursday evening concert.

 
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Evie Ladin, Keith Terry and Erik Pearson intermingle music and dance, three-part harmony, instrumental chops and sonic surprises, all grounded in old-time repertoire. Evie’s emotive vocals and clawhammer banjo have been heard on A Prairie Home Companion, Celtic Connections, Lincoln Center and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Born and raised on Southern music, from inner city Baltimore to Oakland, she has won ribbons from Mt Airy, NC Fiddler’s Convention, and Neo-Trad Band from the Appalachian Stringband Festival, Clifftop, WV. Keith Terry (bass, Body Music, vocals) is a renowned percussionist/rhythm dancer, and the founder of the International Body Music Festival. A pioneer in contemporary Body Music, Keith produces large-scale intercultural collaborations and education. Keith brings a cinematic ear to playing bass as tonal percussion, with bells, box, body and toys. Erik Pearson (guitar, banjo, vocals) is a longtime member of  the Crooked Jades, an accompanist to storyteller Diane Ferlatte, and does solo projects as well. His original banjo tune “Fork & File” was the soundtrack for a rapids rafting scene in Sean Penn’s movie Into the Wild.

The Evie Ladin Band will perform in the Friday evening concert, and Evie will teach a flatfoot clogging workshop (online) on Saturday afternoon.

 
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tony thomas

Tony Thomas is one of the leading historians of banjo origins and the history of African American banjo playing.  He was one of the organizers of the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University which launched the contemporary Black Banjo revival.  His writings include publications by Duke University Press, University of Illinois Press and the Oxford African American Studies Center.  Tony has presented at the Banjo Collectors Gathering,  Banjo Camp North, Suwanee Banjo Camp, Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week at Mars Hill College, Britain’s “Sweet Sunny South” Festival, and at universities and teacher education conferences.  He has performed solo and with New York’s Ebony Hillbillies, playing banjo and guitar. Tony holds a Master of Fine Art in Creative Writing from Florida International University and has published literary fiction and poetry and pieces on African American and African studies and socialist politics since the 1960s.

Tony will present two FREE presentations about Black banjoist Gus Cannon:  Gus Cannon &the Big Banjo World of 120 Years Ago on Thursday at 5:00 pm, and Gus Connon & the Five String Banjo in the Era of the Blues on Sunday at 3:30 pm. Both presentations will be at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music and are FREE. The presentations will both be livestreamed to YouTube and Zoom.

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BAYOU SECO is Jeanie McLerie and Ken Keppeler of Silver City, NM. Their vast repertoire includes old time southern music but is rich with other kinds of old time music too. For over 40 years they’ve sought out, become friends with, and learned tunes from traditional musicians including: New Mexico musicians Cleofes Ortiz and Antonia Apodaca, Tohono O’Odham musicians in New Mexico and Arizona, and Cajun and Creole musicians in southwest Louisiana, where they lived for many years before they moved to New Mexico. Both play fiddle and guitar and sing. Ken also plays one and three row diatonic accordions, 5-string banjo (fretless and freted), harmonica, and mandolin.

Ken & Jeanie will be featured in a Family Concert (Online), sponsored by the Berkeley Public Library, on Thursday at 4pm.