bluegrass/country/folk

Courtesy Mudstomp Records

As a child prodigy on harmonica back in the 1990s, Brody Buster was once one of Kansas City’s most notable musical exports. He appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and on an episode of the sitcom “Full House.”

But Buster's fame was as fleeting as his youth. The disturbing 90-minute documentary "How Did This Happen" documents Buster’s decline from child star to relatively obscure bar band musician.

3 reasons we're listening to Brody Buster this week:

Clarke Wyatt

Musicians Betse Ellis and Clarke Wyatt started playing as Betse & Clarke, a fiddle and banjo duo, in late 2014. Their latest album is called River Still Rise.

KCUR 89.3

It was a rainy night in April in Lawrence, Kansas. 

Liberty Hall was hosting the twelfth stop on Jónsi Birgisson’s solo live experience tour of 2010. During Sigur Ros’ indefinite hiatus, lead singer Birgisson set out to craft an experience all his own.

Danny Clinch Sax and Co.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear made a minor international splash in 2015. The mother-and-son folk duo from Independence plays a free outdoor concert at Johnson County Community College on Friday, which gives us an excuse to listen again this week.

3 reasons we're listening to Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear this week:

Courtesy The Brad Cunningham Band

The Brad Cunningham Band
Every Inch of Texas

It’s too easy to forget that Kansas City’s traditional country music is still out there.

Part of the blind spot is the residual glow from the flash of contemporary country acts that, to their credit, regularly land in town. Some of the neglect comes from music so stratified that acts without a hyphen (i.e., not alt-country, bro-country, etc.) have trouble persuading audiences to bridge beyond their favorite sub-genres.

Carlo Pascolini / thecountryduo.com

Kansas City's Kasey Rausch and Marco Pascolini are both veterans of the regional music scene. Combining their love of classic country standards with Rausch's folksy songbook, they've formed The Country Duo. The two were recently invited to Memphis to film an episode of PBS's "Sun Studio Sessions."

Under the Big Oak Tree

Under the Big Oak Tree
Local Honey (MudStomp Records)

Some albums take a while to tell their secrets.

Local Honey was released by a St. Joseph-based band called Under the Big Oak Tree back in February. Kristin Hamilton and multi-instrumentalist Simon Fink alternate songs, blending brittle, delicate harmonies, all of which are confidently anchored by Doug Ward’s bass.

Paul Andrews Photography

For the past six years, Victor & Penny — aka Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane — have traveled the country performing original music, as well as jazz and pop standards. Starting as a duo, playing tight harmonies on guitar and ukulele, they’re now backed by their Loose Change Orchestra.

Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to Victor & Penny about their latest album, Electricity, and the creative process:

Paul Andrews

Victor and Penny
Electricity

Victor and Penny’s latest gambles aren’t obvious when the curtain rises on their newest release, even for fans who’ve loved their “prohibition-era” music from the start. But with this one, Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane have taken big risks — and made them work.

Jen Chen / KCUR 89.3

His music has been described as “guitar and growl” and “avant-garde folk.”

He also plays a mean kazoo on his new album, Theatres.

But Nicholas St. James says that “folk” is probably the easiest way to characterize his music — with a lot of blues influence as well.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Florence Hemphill grew up in a small town in Kansas, and saw the horrors of World War I up close when she served as a nurse in France. She wrote more than a hundred letters, sharing her experiences with family members. 

Singer-songwriter Joe Crookston recently teamed up with the National World War I Museum and Memorial to tell her story – through art and music — at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Story of a Song is a monthly segment on KCUR's Central Standard, in which local musicians tell the story behind a recent song, and explain how it was constructed musically.

The Musician: Julian Davis

The Song: “Maybelline”

Hannah Copeland / KCUR 89.3

The largest Folk Music Conference in the world, Folk Alliance International, brought more than 1,000 musicians to Crown Center in Kansas City last week. Musicians and fans crowded into hotel rooms to play and watch hundreds of small concerts hosted during the five day event.

Here are the sounds from those concerts, including a tuba player practicing by a waterfall, and a room organizer stashing his guitar and beer in a bathtub.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Three songs into her official Folk Alliance showcase on Thursday night, Kansas City musician Jessica Paige had words for the music industry.

“Recently I was on ‘American Idol’ and they sent me home for a bunch of younger girls, which I’m OK with,” Paige told an audience of about forty other musicians, industry professionals and folk enthusiasts in the Brookside room on the first floor of the Westin Hotel.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The sound of picking banjos, strumming guitars and fiddling fiddles permeated the air Thursday night as some 3,500 musicians, agents, promoters and other industry representatives from all corners of the globe descended on the Westin Crown Center for Folk Alliance International.

Folk Alliance International

At 76, you might think that folk singer Judy Collins is getting ready to slow down. 

You would be wrong. 

The folk legend, who has released more than 50 records since her debut album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961, is still on the road — performing as many as 120 shows a year.

Her latest album, Strangers Again, came out in 2015.

She's been candid about her struggles with addiction and bulimia and continues to fight for various social causes, including mental health. 

Little Class Records

It’s impossible not to hear the life experience in Billy Beale’s time-worn voice.

As the Kansas City blues-staple sings the lyrics, “the only time I’ve been successful’s when I fell,” local record producer Jody Hendrix is reminded of why he felt compelled to document that singular sound.

“Billy is a legend in the bar rooms, the juke joints, and the courtrooms,” Hendrix told Steve Kraske on KCUR’s Up To Date.

From the singular twang of a flat-picked guitar to the tight harmonies of a bluegrass band, folk music is more than a sound — it’s an essence. Local labels Mud Stomp Records and Little Class Records work not only to preserve that essence, but to show the rest of the world what Heartland artists have to offer. 

Guests:

In this encore presentation, we revisit our conversation with Scott Hobart, AKA "Rex", on the occasion of his country band's first new album in ten years.

Music Man (R)

Dec 30, 2015

In this encore edition of Central Standard: A Portrait Session with Danny Cox. He's a legendary musician, a Civil Rights activist, an actor ... and the talent behind the Grass Pad's "High on Grass" jingle.

Guest:

Beth Lipoff / KCUR

Sam Baker calls himself “the worst guitarist who ever stood on a public stage.” Yet, the combination of the singer-songwriter's raspy voice and simple guitar melodies "just works," according to Up to Date host Steve Kraske. Baker reflects on his personal journey and performs live at KCUR studios.

A founding member of the Grammy-winning, old-time string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens is out with her first solo album, "Tomorrow Is My Turn." She discusses her resistance to being called a "star" and how she's handled her sudden rise in fame. 

Cyprus Avenue Live at The Folly presents Rhiannon Giddens at 7 p.m Sunday, October 11 at the Folly Theater. For more information go to www.follytheater.org.

Kate Reeder

A song recorded in a hotel room at the Westin during this year’s Folk Alliance International Conference is now raising money for a cause, and the musicians who championed the project are back in Kansas City for a show this week.

As the second Folk Alliance International conference kicked off in Kansas City in February, Central Standard explored the question: “What is folk music today?” 

Jake Jacobson

Louis Meyers has heard a lot of music.

He's a banjo player. He’s also one of the co-founders of Austin’s South By Southwest music, film and tech festival, and he spent ten years as director of Folk Alliance International – he was the one responsible for moving the organization and its annual conference to Kansas City. But there’s one record he’s heard only in his imagination: a bluegrass version of The Who's classic rock opera "Tommy."

Paul Andrews

The first time Danny Cox visited Kansas City, it was not a pleasant experience.

It was 1963, a year before the Civil Rights Act banned racial discrimination in public places, and Cox was a nationally touring musician arriving for a show. When he walked in the door at the Muehelbach Hotel, the clerk told him that black people couldn't stay at the Muehelbach.

Though the word he used for "black people" was not quite so polite.

Most of Cox's fellow musicians and road crew were white, but they refused to stay in a place where their vocalist wasn't welcome.

Sylvia Maria Gross -- KCUR

For nearly 20 years, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys have created songs about love, love lost and heartbreak. This Saturday, the band releases its first album in 10 years, "Long Shot of Hard Stuff."

After a decade-long hiatus, Scott Hobart (Scott is his real first name) didn't think they'd have a new album.

"I just thought we'd kind of ride our own western-cut blazers into the sunset or something, but we did it," he said. "When the opportunity came up, we just said, 'well, why not, let's try it.' The worst thing that can happen is that we get three songs out or something."

PHOTOS: At Folk Alliance, Kansas City Musicians Represent

Feb 24, 2015
Hannah Copeland / KCUR

Dozens of Kansas City bands performed at Folk Alliance International's 27th annual music conference and Winter Music Camp, Feb. 18-22 at Crown Center. Local musicians were among the thousands of musicians, concert promoters, industry representatives, folk DJs, and other supporters occupying the convention hotels for what Folk Alliance called "Planet Folk."

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