Robert Cray Band - When bluesman Albert Collins played Robert Cray’s high school graduation, his fate was all but sealed. Before long, Cray was a member of Collins’ backing band. Cray’s recordings helped fuel the ‘80s blues revival and, using the blues as a foundation, he has since explored R&B, soul, jazz and gospel. Cray’s five Grammys include back-to-back awards for 1985's “Summit” (which also featured Albert Collins and Johnny Copeland) and another for 1986's “Strong Persuader.” After venturing into R&B (with the help of the famed Memphis Horns), 2009's “This Time reunited him with longtime friends and bandmates Richard Cousins and Jim Pugh. A year later. Cray released his third live album in four years, “Cookin' in Mobile.” His current release is titled “Nothin But Love.” Triva: Observant fans may have spotted Cray as bassist of the frat party band Otis Day & the Knights in “National Lampoon's Animal House.”
Shemekia Copeland - The daughter of Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, Shemekia Copeland has been performing since she was eight - when she appeared onstage with her father at Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club. Years later, she served as the opening act for his band, eventually inking a deal with Alligator Records and issuing her debut when she was just 19. 2002's Wicked featured a duet with R&B diva Ruth Brown and earned her W.C. Handy Blues Awards for “Song of the Year,” “Blues Album of the Year” and “Contemporary Female Artist of the Year.” In 2008, Copeland was part of a 12-day “Bluzapalooza” tour of Iraq and Kuwait where she and artists including Michael Burks and Deanna Bogart entertained U.S. troops. “Never Going Back,” issued in 2009, featured members of the Derek Trucks band and eclectic guitarist Marc Ribot and found Copeland expanding her musical pallette. Her current CD, “33 1/3” - her age at the time the disc was released - was produced by The Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood.
Kelly Hogan - With a resume that includes fronting bands The Jody Grind and Rock*A*Teens, as well as singing alongside artists including Neko Case, Mavis Staples, Jakob Dylan, Andrew Bird and the Drive-By Truckers, the Chicago-based Georgia native has become an in-demand singer. In 2000, she released “Beneath the Country Underdog” which featured Jon Langford's Pine Valley Cosmonauts as her backing band. Her current release, “I Like To Keep Myself In Pain,” features Hogan interpreting tunes written for her by M. Ward, Vic Chesnutt, Magnetic Fields, the Mekons' Jon Langford, the Handsome Family, Bird, Freakwater's Catherine Irwin, John Wesley Harding, Robbie Fulks, Gabriel Roth and Robyn Hitchcock. She is backed on the album by an all-star band that includes R&B legends Booker T. Jones and James Gadson as well as younger talents like the Dap-Kings’ Gabe Roth and current NRBQ guitarist Scott Ligon.
Caravan of Thieves - Based around the husband-wife team of Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni, Caravan of Thieves began as “a romantic, bohemian vision of a couple making music on the road and avoiding responsibility as much as possible.” Expanding the group to include violinist Ben Dean and double bassist Brian Anderson, the band quickly won praise for its unique blend of gypsy swing and popular music. In 2009, Caravan of Thieves issued its full-length debut, “Bouquet.” With driving gypsy jazz rhythms, mesmerizing harmonies and fantastic stories, the quartet quickly landed opening slots for the likes of Emmylou Harris, Dan Hicks, Glen Campbell, Nanci Griffith, The Decemberists, Keb Mo, Tom Tom Club, Iron and Wine, Punch Brothers, Tony Trischka, John Hammond, and John Jorgenson. According to the band’s promo, “If Django Reinhardt, the cast of Stomp and the Beatles all had a party at Tim Burton’s house, Caravan of Thieves would be the band they hired.” As theatrical as it is humourous, the group’s current release is appropriately titled, “The Funhouse.”
This episode is scheduled for NPR distribution on Friday, March 22, 2013. A complete list of stations that carry Mountain Stage can be found at mountainstage.org