Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, 7:30 pm Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands Admission: $25 | $29 at the door
Presented by the Santa Fe Performance Exchange and Southwest Roots Music
Grammy Award winner and 2-time IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Female Vocalist of the Year Laurie Lewis returns to Santa Fe while touring in support of her latest cd, Skippin’ and Flyin’, her personal tribute to Bill Monroe on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Laurie fell in love with American folk music as a teenager, at the sunset of the ’60s folk revival. It was the vastness, the realness, the melodicism, and welcoming accessibility that drew her. “Oh, it was so exciting,” she says of the Berkeley Folk Festivals where she first caught the folk bug. “Every night there were concerts, and during the day you’d be in a eucalyptus grove listening to someone making music with nothing between you and them. Every day I’d hear something new, Doc Watson or the Greenbrier Boys. Something about it just invited me to start playing it.” She began plunking out simple songs on the guitar, then the fiddle. After high school, she drifted away from the music, but always kept her fiddle under her bed, though she didn’t know why. In her early 20s, she discovered the Bay Area bluegrass scene. To her, it was “like opening that door all over again. Here were all these people making music together, and I could immediately see myself as part of it. It woke up all that excitement I felt as a teenager, and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
The bluegrass scene of Northern California was a powerful mix of the region’s historic progressivism and ardent devotion to musical tradition. Nobody minded that young Lewis was a woman, a non-southerner, or a novice. They did mind if she didn’t want to learn, chapter and verse, the gospels of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. It gave her a rock-ribbed foundation in the rudiments of American roots music. “It really was a different deal coming to bluegrass in the San Francisco Bay area,” she says. “There weren’t a lot of cutting contests; it was all about making music together, a focus on interdependency rather than individual prowess.”
Sam Bush, a pivotal figure in the modern bluegrass revival warns against making too much fuss about Lewis being influential simply because of her gender or where she hails from. “She is newgrass in the truest sense of the word, in that she uses bluegrass instruments to create new original music: it’s music for now,” he says. “Laurie is very genderless to me. I know that’s not the right way to put it, but I just think of her as an artist: a great singer, terrific fiddle player, fine songwriter, and one very good band leader. As a fiddler, she could be from the 1940s or from 2010; it’s timeless,” he says. “As a singer, she knows the rules of bluegrass and how to sing in her own voice. She’s probably one of the few female singers who really knows the nuances of the Ralph Stanley vocal style.”
Joining Laurie for this show are the Right Hands; Tom Rozum (mandolin),Chad Manning (fiddle), Patrick Sauber (banjo) and Andrew Conklin(String Bass).
Since joining forces with Laurie in 1986, Tom Rozum’s versatility and diverse musical influences come to the fore every night on stage with the band. He plays primarily mandolin with the band, but is also an accomplished fiddle, mandola, and guitar player. His background as a rock and swing musician adds a uniquely satisfying flavor to the band. His rhythmic approach to mandolin especially punctuates the band’s repertoire, adding to their on-stage shows a verve and excitement that has become a distinctive feature of their performances.
Chad Manning, who has won plaudits as the fiddler with the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, is a much-sought-after teacher, and greatly in demand as a session player. Chad has been playing fiddle since the age of 8, and toured the Northwest extensively with his family’s band, Homeward Bound. As a teenager Chad twice won Washington State Junior Fiddle Championships. He also placed in the top five in the Junior and Adult divisions at the National Old Time Fiddler’s Contest in Weiser, Idaho. Chad’s fiery yet sweet fiddling is a perfect addition to Laurie’s music.
Patrick Sauber, a native of Arcadia, CA, has been playing old-time, Cajun, and bluegrass music ever since he can remember. His introduction to performing came at the knee of his father, old-time master fiddler and claw-hammer banjo player Tom Sauber, a stalwart of the traditional music scene in Southern California. Patrick’s first gigs found him playing triangle, and, at 10 years old, he was playing accordion in a Cajun band with his dad. He primarily plays banjo in The Right Hands, also taking a tasty turn on guitar and accordion on selected numbers.
Andrew Conklin is a composer, guitarist, double bassist, sound artist, and teacher. Andrew grew up near Philadelphia, in Wyndmoor, PA, and studied jazz guitar with Philadelphia shredder Ed Scott. He attended Oberlin College, emerging with a bachelor’s degree in jazz guitar. Andrew is a much-sought-after bassist; besides gigging with The Right Hands, he performs with other Bay Area acts, including Quinn, Timosaurus, and Host Family.