2020 performers

Bluegrass and old time legend Alice Gerrard’s groundbreaking collaboration with Appalachian singer Hazel Dickens during the 1960s and ’70s produced four classic LPs and influenced scores of young women singers. Her many talents include her compelling, eclectic songwriting; her powerful, melismatic vocals; and her instrumental mastery on rhythm guitar, banjo, and old-time fiddle. Alice’s 2015 album, Follow the Music was nominated for a Grammy. Her most recent release, Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes 1965-1969 on Free Dirt records, has found critical acclaim for its intimate peek into previously unheard Hazel and Alice practice tapes. In 2017, Alice was inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame along with Hazel Dickens. She continues to perform, teach and document old-time music, and can be found most afternoons at the dog park with her beloved rescue pit bull, Polly.

Alice Gerrard & Kay Justice

Kay Justice, of Wytheville, Virginia, is a long-time singer of Appalachian music, and her voice has been described as that of a “coal country angel.” Kay grew up surrounded by music—both of her grandmothers sang at home and in church, one playing old-time banjo and the other pump organ and piano. Kay’s own interest in traditional Appalachian music blossomed in the 1960s, and she began searching out older practitioners, learning often obscure traditional songs and ballads and to play old-time banjo. In the mid-1980s, Kay began singing, recording, and touring extensively with the acclaimed singer Ginny Hawker. The duo taught traditional singing workshops at various music camps and recorded four albums together. She has recently begun working with another legend of Southern traditional song, Alice Gerrard.

Alice & Kay will be performing in the Thursday evening concert, and Alice will be doing a workshop "A visit with Alice: fiddle tunes, stories & songs" on Saturday afternoon.

 
EDDIE BOND

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 lives in Fries, Virginia where he is a schoolteacher. 

Eddie will be performing in the Friday evening concert and leading a fiddle workshop on Saturday afternoon.

 

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.

Jake blount
 

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 be participating in the Thursday morning panel discussion, performing in the Saturday evening concert, and leading fiddle and banjo workshops on Saturday afternoon.

Slate Mountain Ramblers
 

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 be performing in the Thursday evening concert. Ivy will be leading a beginning level 2-finger banjo workshop on Saturday afternoon.

 
David Greely

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 be performing in the Friday evening concert and leading two workshops:  a Cajun singing workshop on Saturday afternoon and a Cajun fiddle workshop on Sunday afternoon.

The Horsenecks

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 be performing in the Thursday evening concert. Gabrielle will be leading a fiddle workshop and Barry a banjo workshop on Saturday afternoon.

 
 
Jody Stecher &
Kate Brislin

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 be performing in the Saturday evening concert, and doing a demo-style duet singing workshop on Sunday afternoon.

Earl White Band
with Victor Furtado

Earl White was among the first Black Americans to delve into the old-time music that was once an important part of rural black communities in the South. He started playing fiddle in 1975, as a founding member of the Green Grass Cloggers, college students from North Carolina who revolutionized clogging by combining older flatfooting styles with more modern “precision” clogging routines. A syncopated dance step that Earl invented during that time came to be known as “the Earl” and is still taught at clogging workshops.

 

During his time in North Carolina, Earl spent time collecting fiddle tunes in the mountains, mostly from white fiddlers who at times credited black sources for some tunes and stylistic elements. In 2016, Earl and his partner Adrienne (who plays guitar in the Earl White Band; Stephanie Wolf plays bass) moved to a farm near Floyd, Virginia, where they have opened a bakery.

Since moving to Virginia, Earl has been playing with star banjoist Victor Furtado, who will join him for his BOTMC set.  Victor Furtado was the winner of the 2019 Steve Martin Banjo Prize, at 19 the youngest recipient of that award.  He’s also taken home numerous ribbons at Clifftop, where he took first place in 2015 at the age of fourteen!  He’s also won at Galax and the FreshGrass competition.  A Berklee College of Music student for the past several years, he combines his studies with his recording and performing activities.

The Earl White Band will perform in the Thursday evening concert, and Earl will lead a fiddle workshop on Sunday afternoon.

 
Evie ladin band

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 will perform in the Friday evening concert, and Evie will lead a clogging workshop on Sunday morning.

 
squirrel butter

Squirrel Butter is Charlie Beck and Charmaine Slaven. They perform traditional and original music influenced by Appalachian, early country, jug band, and blues artists from the late 1800’s through 1950’s. Charlie plays banjo, fiddle and steel guitar; Charmaine plays guitar and fiddle, and they both sing.  Charmaine’s very first instrument was her feet; she fell in love with flatfooting and old time music while attending the 2005 Portland Old Time Gathering and has become an accomplished flatfooter.  She’s also in demand as a square dance caller and is one of the organizers of Dare To Be Square West, the West Coast's premier annual square dancing festival. Charmaine and Charlie live in Seattle, Washington with their young daughter.

Squirrel Butter will perform in the Saturday evening concert, and Charmaine will present a concert for kids on Saturday morning and lead a beginning clogging workshop on Saturday morning.

Plaid strangers

As Plaid Strangers, Karen Celia Heil, Maxine Gerber and Thomas Angell create music that is steeped in the mysteries of the old-time genre. Karen (fiddle, guitar, vocals) is an intense and soulful fiddler, who is also known for her powerful guitar playing and singing in the Bucking Mules. More than a decade ago, Karen made pilgrimages to southern fiddlers’ conventions, visiting the region's master musicians such as Clyde Davenport. She has worked with tradition bearers such as Mike Bryant, Frank George and Joseph Decosimo. 

 

Karen performs locally in the Bay Area, hosts a monthly square dance, and has a thriving teaching practice. She has been on the staff of many music camps around the U.S. and internationally. Maxine (banjo, guitar, vocals) is a highly respected banjo player and taste maker, famous (some would say infamous) as a musical nucleus at the yearly Appalachian String Band Festival (aka Clifftop)in West Virginia. With her banjo/fiddle obsession, and knowledge amassed from visits in her youth to the older generation of master players, she continues to nurture younger  generations of up-and-coming musicians. Her distinctive, rhythmic and supportive banjo style has made her an in-demand accompanist to well-known old time musicians including Alice Gerrard and Rich Hartness. Her first love is playing in jam sessions rather than onstage, but Maxine has accidentally found herself performing with Plaid Strangers after teaming up with Karen to win both the fiddle and banjo contests at the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers’ Festival in 2017. Thomas Angell (fiddle, guitar) is known for his hard driving style, although he also can delve into more elusive and wistful tunes. He is a founding member of the Hook N Line String Band in the Gold Country where he resides.

Plaid Strangers will perform in the Saturday evening concert.

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 participate in the Thursday morning panel discussion, perform in the Friday evening concert, and lead a free workshop on Black Banjo on Saturday afternoon.

 
joseph decosimo

Joseph is a traditional musician and folklorist with a deep respect and love for the older sounds of his home state (Tennessee), Appalachia, and the broader American South. His old-time fiddling and banjo playing have introduced listeners around the US, UK, Canada, and Australia to the richness and vibrancy of the region's musical traditions. A skilled teacher, he has taught at a number of music camps, festivals, and in East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Program. He is currently a professor in the English department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Joseph will lead a two-finger banjo workshop on Sunday afternoon.

 
Birches bend

Birches Bend took first place in the 2019 BOTMC String Band Contest.Ranging in age from 12 - 14, these youth are the future of Bluegrass. The band features Lucy Khadder (fiddle), Jasper Manning (mandolin), Sophia Sparks (mandolin) with Chad Manning (guitar). 

Birches Bend will perform a concert for AND by kids on Sunday morning.

 
WB Reid & Bonnie Zahnow

WB Reid and Bonnie Zahnow have been making music with and for children since their own kids were babies. Back home in Seattle, they work with preschool kids twice a week, and play regularly for family dances. WB is an alumnus of two of the Northwest’s finest dance bands, the Tallboys and the Rhythm Rollers and currently plays in Fin Del Mundo (with Hank Bradley and Cathie Whitesides), the Todalo Shakers (with Frannie Leopold and Eric & Suzy Thompson) and in a duo with clarinet and harmonica whiz Mark Graham.  As a duo, WB and Bonnie have played for contra and square dances from coast to coast and border to border.

WB & Bonnie will perform a concert for very young children on Friday morning and host a jam on Sunday afternoon.

 

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OUR FUNDERS:  We greatly appreciate the generous support of Ed Littlefield, Jr.; Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA), in partnership with the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation; the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission; the Alameda County Art Commission; and the Bill Graham Memorial Foundation. 

 Thanks also to our nonprofit sponsors:  Freight & SalvageKPFA-FMAshkenaz Music & Dance Community Center, and the California Bluegrass Association

 

Extra-special thanks to our Valiant Volunteer Coordinator, Lael Sigal, and of course to all our volunteers – they make the BOTMC possible!

 

© 2020 Berkeley Old Time Music Convention