Jonathan Byrd and Chris Kokesh
"Jonathan Byrd doesn't sing songs;
he sings truth."
- performingsongwriter.com -
"Jonathan's delightful, substantive songs are rich with imagery and textures of influences from Appalachian, country, early American balladry, modern atmospheric Mideastern, urban and old timey folk music. A stalwart of modern folk music, Jonathan is constantly evolving in new musical directions and each incarnation has proven to be masterful. Like a gourmet chef, Jonathan does not create the same dish twice, so we're not sure what he will bring to the table tonight. But if music were a meal, Jonathan would prepare us a banquet. Catch this Kerrville New Folk winner as often as you can; you'll never get 'full', your appetite will only grow."
-Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse, Dallas, TX
Folk legend Tom Paxton discovered Jonathan Byrd's music and sent him a quick email, saying, "What a treat to hear someone so deeply rooted in tradition, yet growing in his own beautiful way." He had just released "Wildflowers," in late 2001, simple tales of love and death that seemed to be a hundred years old or more. In 2003 Byrd released his second album, "The Waitress" and won the prestigious New Folk competition in Kerrville, TX. That year, he set CD sales records at the festival.
For his third album, Jonathan approached his friends, the critically acclaimed world-music duo known as Dromedary, often featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. "The Sea and The Sky" is the result, a vast, poetic suite of music that weds world sounds to deeply rooted folk balladry.
A native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Jonathan grew up singing in the Southern Baptist church, where his father preached and his mother played piano. After four years in the Navy, he returned to Chapel Hill to play in rock bands in that legendary underground music scene. A friend of Jonathan's invited him to an old-time fiddle festival in the mountains of southwest Virginia, where his writing began to change. Assimilating the sounds of southern traditional music, Byrd wrote new songs in an ancient style.
One of those first songs was "Velma," a murder ballad based on the true story of Velma Barfield, the last woman to be executed in North Carolina (in 1984) and the murderer of Jonathan's own grandfather. This was the track that prompted Tom Paxton to respond so eloquently to Byrd's music.
As Jonathan grows into a contemporary artist of increasing influence, his traditional roots are always evident in his simple, poetic storytelling and classic flatpick guitar style. But, as quoted in a recent interview for Dirty Linen magazine, Jonathan says, "Everything I do is a departure from what I've done." "The Sea and the Sky" is certainly evidence of that. Keep an ear out for an upcoming electric album, sure to take us further out on a limb without forgetting our roots.
"I thought I was listening to a young
- Jay Moulon, Southeast Performer Magazine -
Chris Kokesh is a songwriter with an eye for the hard detail, the grit and dirt of real life. A renowned fiddler and singer, Chris has been touring festival stages with northwest folk stars Misty River for years. Back stage and back home, she has been developing her own songwriting voice and guitar chops- much to her own surprise. She didn't even expect to be a professional musician.
"I was two years old when I started playing violin, but my training was completely classical. I had dropped it altogether, once I took off for college." Chris studied biology at Pomona College, in southern California. At a field station during the summer, other students were playing guitars and singing songs. There was an old fiddle there and Chris was coaxed into playing along.
After graduation, she and a friend took off and traveled up the coast, to take a break and think about graduate school. Kokesh says of Portland, Oregon, "I remember it was cold and raining and the weather was just miserable. And I fell in love with it."
Soon after moving to Portland, Chris was waiting tables and wondering what was next. In walked the founding members of Misty River and they invited her to play with them. Chris dug into roots music with a new fervor and her band members encouraged her to try her hand at songwriting. The results have been amazing.
* Runner-Up, Portland Songwriter's Association 2009 Performing Songwriter of the Year
* Judges Choice 2008 NW West Coast Songwriters Performing Songwriter Competition
* Winner: 2003 Maryhill Winery Amphitheaters Singer/Songwriter competition
* Americana Song of the Year nomination, 2001 Just Plain Folks
* Best Song and Best Songwriter at the 1999 Columbia Gorge Bluegrass Festival
* Best Song from the Portland Songwriters Association, April 2000
"My favorite kind of music has always been songwriters like Shawn Colvin and Joni Mitchell. I love the craft."
In July 2005, on a break from touring with Misty River, Chris recorded her first solo project, "I Never Knew." With a nod to her band mates, Chris takes off into territory that is more visceral than anything you've heard from her as a band member. "Misty River is very folk-y, very gentle, and I had written things that didn't fit with them."
Just like a wreck he crashes with you
He says, not for long babe, just a week or two
11 years after giving up biology for music, Chris is a veteran of stages like the Strawberry Music Festival, the Walnut Valley Festival, Sisters Folk Festival, and Wintergrass. The challenge now is to do it alone, to put her own sense of style and musicianship up front and take us on a journey. How is it going?
"Misty River has a certain amount of recognizability, and I miss that. At the same time, it's pushing me as a writer and a musician. In the band, every one has their strengths. Now I'm responsible for all of it. I have to be able to create all the moods that a show needs." What are other people saying about Chris Kokesh's solo side?
Chris Kokesh is a super mix of talent... a stunning solo artist." Kate Power, Artichoke Music
...Chris Kokesh is writing songs that stand up with the best. Keep an ear out..." Jeff Douglas, Oregon Public Broadcasting
6922 Preston Fall City Rd
Issaquah, WA 98027
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