Bruce Cockburn - One of Canada’s best loved - and most awarded - artists, Bruce Cockburn has 20 gold and platinum releases and has won 13 Juno Awards in Canada. In addition to being an excellent guitarist and a distinctive singer, Cockburn is one of contemporary music’s more consistent and prolific songwriters. Beginning as a melodic and meditative folkie, he gradually progressed to constructing beautifully textured compositions that champion political, environmental and Native American causes. 2005's “Speechless,” Cockburn’s first-ever instrumental release, showcased his outstanding guitar work next to guests including Gary Burton, Edgar Meyer, Mark O’Connor and producer T-Bone Burnett. Issued in 2006, “Life Short Call Now,” boasted horns, a 27-piece string section and backing vocals from Ani DiFranco while 2011's “Small Source of Comfort” included the track “Call Me Rose,” written from the point of view of former President Nixon who receives a chance at redemption after being reincarnated as a single mother living in a housing project with two children.
Iris DeMent - Born in Arkansas and raised in Southern California, DeMent grew up immersed in gospel music and traditional country. Her 1992 debut, “Infamous Angel,” quickly established her as an artist to watch. Her 1994 follow-up, “My Life,” earned a Grammy nomination in the “Contemporary Folk” category while 1996's “The Way I Should” addressed political as well as personal themes and also earned a Grammy nomination. In the meantime, her song “Let The Mystery Be” was sung by David Byrne and Natalie Merchant on MTV Unplugged. Her song “Our Town” was featured in the series finale of “Northern Exposure” and Merle Haggard - who called DeMent “the best singer I've ever heard” - asked her to be his pianist on a tour with his band The Strangers. DeMent sang four duets with John Prine on “In Spite of Ourselves” and had a minor role in the motion picture “Songcatcher” as well as contributing a song to its soundtrack. In 2004, she recorded an album of gospel songs, “Lifeline,” which included her rendition of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” In 2010, the Coen Brothers chose that song for the closing credits in their remake of “True Grit.” Now, 16 years after the last collection of DeMent originals, “Sing The Delta” features a dozen of her songs.
Brooke Waggoner - After studying classical piano for nearly 20 years, Brooke Waggoner earned a degree in music composition and orchestration, hoping to score films and orchestrate her own projects. With a sweet voice and piano playing that’s a cross between Little Richard and Rachmaninov, the Louisiana native’s songs tell of a "lone 22-year-old girl, sagas of daily life and bits of poetry." Influenced by artists as diverse as Simon and Garfunkel, Electric Light Orchestra and Rodgers & Hammerstein, she attempts to “connect the 'classical world' with the 'mainstream world'.” Waggoner was a finalist in MTVU's “Best Music on Campus” competition and was a semi-finalist in the “John Lennon Songwriting Contest.” Her 2008 release, “Heal for the Honey” was nominated for “Best Folk/Singer Songwriter Album of the Year” at the Independent Music Awards. In 2009, after moving to Nashville, Waggoner received the “Emerging Artist” award at the Nashville Music Awards. Her latest release, “Go Easy Little Doves,” gathers melodies and compositions that she’s collected over the past decade.
Carrie Rodriguez - After collaborating with veteran songwriter Chip “Wild Thing” Taylor on four albums of duets, singer/violinist Carrie Rodriguez struck out on her own. Attending both Oberlin College and Berklee School of Music, Rodriguez immersed herself in Boston’s bluegrass-jazz scene. In 2001, she was “discovered” by Taylor while playing at an Austin record shop. In addition to her work with Taylor, Rodriguez has toured with Lucinda Williams and Alejandro Escovedo, and released eight records in as many years. Issued in 2010, “Love & Circumstance” was a set of cover songs by artists that influenced her and featured cameos by Bill Frisell, Buddy Miller, Greg Leisz, and Crooked Still vocalist Aoife O'Donovan. That same year, Rodriguez released a “greatest hits” compilation of her work with Taylor titled “The New Bye & Bye.” The following year she and Romantica frontman Ben Kyle released “We Still Lover Our Country.”
Trixie Whitley - Born Belgium into a family immersed in art and music, Whitley’s early years were split between Belgium and New York City. At age 11, she was touring Europe with several theater companies and, at age 14, with the renowned dance company, “Les Ballets C de la B,” as an actor, singer, dancer, and musician. At the same time, Whitley became the youngest resident DJ in Europe, embraced by Belgium’s Museum of Modern Art and spinning at raves, festivals, and parties in Brussels, Paris, New York City, and Amsterdam. Returning to New York, she recorded her first EP, “Strong Blood,” produced with Me’shell Ndegeocello and Dougie Bowne, in the spring of 2008. That summer, she performed at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. In 2010 and 2011, Whitley toured with Daniel Lanois’ group Black Dub. During the “Black Dub” recording sessions, she recorded her second EP, “The Engine.” In late 2011, she released “Live at the Rockwood Music Hall.” She continues to collaborate with some of the world’s finest musicians and producers, including Marc Ribot, Robert Plant, Stephen Barber, Marianne Faithfull, Joe Henry, Craig Street, and Malcolm Burn.
This episode is scheduled for NPR distribution on Friday March 15th, 2013. A complete list of stations that carry Mountain Stage can be found at mountainstage.org .