All posts by Paul Rito

The Hillbilly Gypsies – Apr 15 WPSU

7:30 pm $16. WPSU Studios in Innovation Park. Buy tickets now

Click on the pic to visit the Gypsies’ website.

Hailing from the beautiful Mountain State of West Virginia, The Hillbilly Gypsies have been making and performing their own brand of old time bluegrass and original mountain music for well over a decade! Formed in 2001 from a chance meeting at the now infamous Wednesday night old time jam in Morgantown, WV; The Hillbilly Gypsies have been pickin’ n’ grinnin’ and entertaining their loyal fans ever since.

The band is best known for their high-energy live performances and have become a crowd favorite at major festivals, fairs and concert venues all across the mid-Atlantic region and abroad. They perform in the old fashioned style, playing around a single vintage ribbon microphone. This “Old Timey” approach adds an authentic high-energy barn party atmosphere to their show. Watching the whole band work around the mic is like taking a trip back in time. It’ll sure make you want to get up and dance!

…and don’t let the flash of their lively stage performance and choreography fool ya, these folks are all highly skilled musicians and seasoned entertainers! Their lightning fast award-winning picking skills and musical arrangements mixed with natural comedic wit and high lonesome mountain vocal harmonies are sure to catch your ear right away. Combine that with a knack for original songwriting and a strong passion for old time and traditional music and this makes for an all-around authentic and exciting musical experience that you won’t soon forget. One listen and you’ll know that you are getting the real deal! The Gypsies are more than a band; they are a tight knit family, mindful of tradition but bold explorers of new and authentic styles of acoustic music and entertainment!

“If you ever get the chance, see the Hillbilly Gypsies live. You’ll want to hear them, too, of course, but you’ll be in for a real treat when you watch them. They are masters of the single microphone style, with the awards to prove it. It’s mountain ballet at its finest.” – David Morris, Bluegrass Today

Mustard’s Retreat – Mar 25 CWB

7:30 pm $18. Center for Well-Being, Lemont.  Buy tickets now

Click on the pic to visit Mustard’s Retreat’s website

Mustard’s Retreat (David Tamulevich and Michael Hough), met in Ann Arbor, MI in 1974, as short order cooks, both on hiatus from their studies at the University of Michigan. Discovering a mutual interest in music/writing and performing, they put together 3 songs one day after work, and took them to the legendary Ark coffeehouse’s open mike night. They were a  hit, and, on the spot, were invited back to do a 45 minute set 2 weeks later.

Within a year and a half they had both quit the restaurant and were doing music full time. 40 years later, they have 12 highly acclaimed recordings of their own, plus 3 more CDs with their songwriting collective, The Yellow Room Gang. Mustard’s Retreat has performed more than 4,000 shows over those years, traveled more than 1 million miles and in doing so, have earned a dedicated and loyal following, many of whom have been coming to hear them since the 1970s.

“They are so warm and friendly and giving on stage, completely in touch with their audience. There are no barriers at all, and you just love to watch that and be part of it.” – Tom Paxton

Mike + Ruthy – Mar 11 CWB

7:30 pm $16. Center for Well-Being, Lemont.  Buy tickets now

Click on the pic to visit Mike’s + Ruthy’s website.

Mike + Ruthy are hard touring folk musicians from New York’s Hudson Valley. It doesn’t just mean that they play square dances on old, dusty instruments (which they do), it means they write about the times we live in using sturdy roots music as their bedrock. Buckle a couple kids in the backseat (check!) and you’ve got something that looks a lot like the American bohemian dream.

They host their own festival (homeofthehoot.com), have archive endorsed co-writes with Woody Guthrie and Allen Ginsberg, postcards of encouragement from none other than the late Pete Seeger, and miles upon miles of touring under their belts supporting one of the best catalogs of original music being performed today.

As a duo encircled around one simple microphone they alternate between whisper-soft intimacy and rafter-raising hoedowns. Expanded into a crack 5-piece roadhouse band they slalom between Motown soul and “Bringing it All Back Home” Americana. 

Their latest record, Bright As You Can, is being hailed as one of the top Americana releases of the year (“One of the year’s standout Americana records” – Boston Globe) and their touring schedule reads like a who’s who of today’s scene (“In the vanguard of today’s vibrant folk revival”- PopMatters) including appearances with Ani DiFranco, Avett Brothers, Watkins Family Hour and The B-52s. 

Woody Guthrie’s guitar killed fascists. This family carries the torch.

Everything is masterfully performed as Mike Merenda and Ruthy Ungar sing about the charms of hard work, homemade wine and free parking. Amid the barn dance reverie created by fiddle, pedal steel, horns and more, Ruthy’s versatile alto is the most glorious instrument of all.” –ABC News

Listen to Mike + Ruthy on The Freq’s Live at Five

Lúnasa – Feb 25 WPSU

7:30 pm $25. WPSU Studios in Innovation Park. Buy tickets now

Click on the pic to visit Lúnasa's website.
Click on the pic to visit Lúnasa’s website.

Lúnasa is internationally acknowledged as being the finest traditional Irish instrumental outfit of recent times. They are renowned for their stunning shows honed by superb musicianship and a constant touring cycle. They have performed over 1,500 shows across 36 countries since the band formed in 1997. The band has appeared at internationally renowned venues such as The Hollywood Bowl, National Concert Hall (Dublin), Sydney Opera House and Moscow International House of Music. They have been invited to appear at the White House, and now they’re coming to the Acoustic Brew.

Their inventive arrangements and bass driven grooves have steered Irish acoustic music into surprising new territory. Their recordings have been hailed as some of the best and most important world music albums anywhere, while their blend of intelligence, innovation, virtuosity, and passion has brought them to the forefront of Celtic music.

Lúnasa is composed of Kevin Crawford (flutes, low whistles and tin whistles), Trevor Hutchinson (double bass), Ed Boyd (guitar), Seán Smyth (fiddle and low whistle) and Cillian Vallely (uilleann pipes and low whistles).

“Maintaining the unique, intimate qualities of a musical tradition while at the same time meeting and fulfilling the demands of the contemporary music world is a difficult juxtaposition to achieve, yet Lúnasa have managed to accomplish exactly that.” – Kevin Burke

Ari and Mia Workshop & Family Concert – Dec 3 Friends School

Workshop: 1:30 pm $20
Family Concert: 3:30 pm, Adults $10, Children 3-10 $5
  under 3 free. Each Adult admission includes one free 
  child admission. 
Friends School, 1900 University Drive, State College 

Ari and Mia Friedman's website
Click on the pic to visit Ari’s and Mia’s website

The Acoustic Brew along with the State College Suzuki Program and Betha’s Music are pleased to present Ari and Mia Friedman for a string workshop and family concert at Friends School before their evening concet at the Center for Well Being in Lemont. 

The workshop features old-time American tunes and fiddling techniques for string players of all ages and levels.

“Ari & Mia blend a traditional rootsy grounding with a clear background of classical training. Their own works are soothing and fresh, tasteful and accomplished. This duo is taking the classical study of a conservatory program and bringing it alive in folk touring circles.” – SingOut! Magazine

The Tall Trees – May 7 CWB

7:30 pm $16. Center for Well-Being, Lemont.  Buy tickets now
Click on the pic to visit The Tall Tree’s website

The Tall Trees are Tim Grimm and Ben Bedford– two highly acclaimed Midwestern songwriters, joined by the very tall Diederik van Wassenaer on fiddle.

It’s a rare treat that The Tall Trees get to tour together as members of the band have their own successful music careers in full swing. However, when they do play together, it’s magic. The collaboration of noted folk songwriters Tim Grimm and Ben Bedford is unparalleled. With Diederik van Wassenaer on fiddle, the group creates a beautiful blend of tunes.

Tim Grimm has toured and recorded with his friend, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, appeared with Harrison Ford in the film Clear and Present Danger, and has shared the stage with writer and poet Wendell Berry. His recording, The Back Fields was named “Best Americana Album” in the 2006 Just Plain Folks Music Awards in Los Angeles (the largest and most diverse music awards in the world). Named 2000’s “BEST DISCOVERY in Roots/Americana Music” by The Chicago Sun-Times, and “2004 MALE ARTIST of The Year” by the Freeform American Roots DJs, his songs and performances have established him as a unique voice in Americana music.

Ben Bedford delivers intriguing sketches of America, its individuals, their victories and their struggles. Poignant, but never sentimental, Bedford’s portrait-like songs capture the vitality of his characters and draw the listener deep into the narratives. With three albums to his credit, Bedford’s songs tackle scenarios including homelessness, the plight of a Confederate soldier’s wife during the American Civil War, the aerial triumphs of Amelia Earhart, the life of Jack London, the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, John the Baptist, the poet Vachel Lindsay and even the 1973 standoff between members of The American Indian Movement and federal agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Often drawing upon history, Bedford’s songs have a strong sense of time and place. The songs are rich in sensory detail which allows the listener to hear, see and feel each narrative.

Foghorn Stringband – Apr 23 CWB

7:30 pm $16. Center for Well-Being, Lemont.  Buy tickets now
Click on the pic to visit Foghorn’s website.

The Foghorn Stringband is the present day shining gold standard for American string band music, with eight albums, thousands of shows, over a decade of touring under their belts, and an entirely new generation of old-time musicians following their lead. Through all this, they’ve never let the music grow cold; instead they’ve been steadily proving that American roots music is a never-ending well of inspiration.

To Foghorn, this music is as relevant today as it was a century ago. They see themselves not as revivalists, but as curators and ardent fans, and their music is a celebration of these roots. From their origins in Portland Oregon’s underground roots music scene in the late 90s and early 00s, when members of today’s hot bands like The Decemberists and Blind Pilot were gathering to explore the roots of American folk music, The Foghorn Stringband have spread the old-time string band gospel all over the world. Along the way, they’ve brought in influences and inspirations from their many travels and late-night jam sessions. Old-time square dance tunes now rub shoulders with Cajun waltzes, vintage honky-tonk songs, and pre-bluegrass picking. This is the kind of bubbling musical brew which first intoxicated the American mainstream.

“Many are called, but few are chosen. On their new recording Devil in the Seat, Foghorn Stringband proves once again that they are still the Chosen Ones when it comes to down-home, footstomping, ass-kickin’ old time music.” – Stuart Mason, FiddleFreak

Malcolm Holcombe – Mar 26 CWB

7:30 pm $16. Center for Well-Being, Lemont.  Buy tickets now
Click the picture to visit Malcolm’s website.

Malcolm Holcombe grew up in western North Carolina, home to some of the planet’s oldest mountains and some of America’s deepest musical traditions. Radio and TV fueled Malcolm’s musical passions as a kid, and music became even more important after he lost both his parents relatively young.

He toured with bands and landed in Nashville, where he took up an inconspicuous station at the back of the house – the very back – at Douglas Corner, one of the city’s best singer/songwriter venues. Stories began to circulate about the mysterious dishwasher with the subterranean voice and oracle-like talent. Sadly so did stories of wildly inconsistent behavior – profound sweetness crossed by bouts of stunning abrasiveness.

He flirted with an official music career. But his stunning debut album made for Geffen Records was abruptly shelved, producing melodrama that only exacerbated Malcolm’s drinking and depression. A business that once had a place for complicated genius turned its back on him, and he teetered near the edge.

Moving back to the North Carolina hills proved a powerful tonic. Holcombe let in help where before he’d pushed it away. With deep faith in God and a commitment to his art, Holcombe repaired himself and his career.

“Ranging from the delicate Down the River to the rattling Butcher in Town, swooning melodies, subtly varied rhythms and evocative lyrics abound.” – Ian Cameron, The Blues Magazine Aug 2015

Abbie Gardner – Feb 27 CWB

7:30 pm $16. Center for Well-Being, Lemont.  Buy tickets now
Click on the pic to visit Abbie’s website.

Best known as one-third of the female harmony Americana trio Red Molly, Abbie has listened to the sweet sound of high lonesome harmonies since her first bluegrass festival at three years old.

Abbie has a strong throaty voice that’s reminiscent of Wesla Whitfield’s… she uses it to render evergreens from the 1920s and 1930s with a crew of guys who play like they were around when this music was the cat’s pajamas. (Cadence Magazine, June 2004)

Abbie has been recognized as an award-winning songwriter, as well, with such accolades as; 2008 Lennon Award Winner (folk) for “The Mind of a Soldier” and 2008 American Songwriter Magazine Grand Prize Lyric Winner for “I’d Rather Be”. Her song “Honey on My Grave” was also published in Sing Out! Magazine in 2008.

“With a confidence that can only be earned, Gardner bursts out with a national steel guitar and a ballsy blues on the opening cut “Break It Slow.” It’s an unprecedented romp, fully of gnarly guitar lines and lyrics reminiscent of Lucinda Williams or Bonnie Raitt..” – Eli Peterson, Twangville