North Mississippi Allstars - North Mississippi Allstars are back with PRAYER FOR PEACE and couldn’t we all use one of those right about now? Founded in 1996 by brothers Luther (guitar and vocals) and Cody Dickinson (drums, piano, synth bass, programming and vocals), the now venerable band are entering their third decade with perhaps the most vital album of their career. Recorded in studios across America during North Mississippi Allstars’ 2016 tour, PRAYER FOR PEACE sees the Dickinsons weaving their bred-to-the-bone musical sensibility with unstoppable energy, rhythmic reinvention, and a potent message of positivity, family, and hope. As ever, songs like R.L. Burnside’s “Long Haired Doney” and the impassioned title track pay homage to the country blues legacy while simultaneously pushing it into contemporary relevance with fatback funk, electronic innovation, slippery soul, and pure unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. “This is a very exciting time for North Mississippi Allstars,” Cody says. “There’s been this explosion of creativity lately and it’s encouraging that for a band who has been around for twenty years now, our music is as vital and fresh as ever. It’s like the opposite of burnout – I can’t explain why but it feels totally brand new again.” “The blues is not children’s music,” Luther says. “We get better at it, the older we get. We’re so fortunate to be able to do it.” PRAYER FOR PEACE continues the burst of inspiration begun with 2013’s Earth-shaking WORLD BOOGIE IS COMING. That album, the band’s seventh studio recording, proved the planetary sensation its title promised, with The Guardian simply declaring it the North Mississippi Allstars’ “best yet.”
Paul Thorn’s Mission Temple Fireworks Revival - "In the past, I've told stories that were mostly inspired by my own life," the former prizefighter and literal son of a preacher man offers. "This time, I've written 10 songs that express more universal truths, and I've done it with a purpose: to make people feel good." Which explains numbers like the acoustic-electric charmer Don't Let Nobody Rob You Of Your Joy, where Thorn's warm peaches-and-molasses singing dispenses advice on avoiding the pitfalls of life. The title track borrows its tag from a familiar saying among the members of the African-American Baptist churches Thorn frequented in his childhood. "I'd ask, 'How you doin', sister?' And what I'd often hear back was, 'I'm too blessed to be stressed.'" In the hands of Thorn and his faithful band, who've been together 20 years, the tune applies its own funky balm, interlacing a percolating drum and keyboard rhythm with the slinky guitar lines beneath his playful banter. Thorn's trademark humor is abundant throughout the album.
Bonnie Bishop - It’s only a matter of time until Hollywood snaps up the story of how singer-songwriter Bonnie Bishop connected with Dave Cobb, one of the hottest producers in the business, to unlock her inner soul singer and record the best album of her career: “Ain’t Who I Was” (May 27; Thirty Tigers/RED). Even though Bishop can barely believe it herself, it’s a story that will need no dramatic embellishment, because every twist of fate — and faith — is absolutely true. Before landing with Cobb, whose credits include Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, Bishop had thrown in the towel on her country-leaning career, too frustrated, beat-up and broke to go on after 13 years, five albums and one failed marriage. It landed on the rag pile despite monogramming by her idol, Bonnie Raitt, who recorded a Bishop/Big Al Anderson co-write on her comeback album, “Slipstream.” The song, “Not Cause I Wanted To,” topped the New York Times’ year-end best-of list, then “Slipstream” won 2012’s Best Americana Album Grammy. Bishop also popped onto iTunes’ country chart in 2013 with a song delivered by Connie Britton, the star of ABC-TV’s hit series “Nashville.”
Declan O’Rourke - Declan O’Rourke is a highly successful Irish artist, acclaimed by his peers, and having achieved many plaudits with his five albums released to date. Declan’s soulful music, rooted in folk and trad, has attracted the praise of countless industry giants, including John Prine, and Paul Weller, among others. The Dubliner’s legend John Sheahan, declared recently that, “after 50 years I have decided it’s time to put a lid on the ‘The Dubliners,’ but I’m sure you’ll all agree that with Declan, and Damien (Dempsey), the future is in good hands.” O’Rourke’s songwriting style moves faultlessly between impressionism, and story telling, and can be at home in almost any form. A dynamic performer, he is at once as comfortable fronting a 50-piece orchestra, as playing solo with a guitar. Songs of Declan’s have been covered by a growing list of established artists ranging from Christy Moore, to Eddi Reader, and Josh Groban.
Bil Lepp - Growing up in a family where the truth was fluid, Bil Lepp became adept at spinning tales and exaggerating circumstances at an early age. A nationally renowned storyteller and five time champion of the West Virginia Liars’ Contest, Bil’s outrageous, humorous tall-tales and witty stories have earned the appreciation of listeners of all ages and from all walks of life. Though a champion liar, his stories often contain morsels of truth which shed light on universal themes. Be it a hunting trip, a funeral, or a visit to the dentist, Bil can find the humor in any situation. Lepp explains that while his stories may not be completely true, they are always honest. Bil is the author of six books and sixteen audio collections. His first children’s book, The King of Little Things, won the PEN Steven Kroll Award for Picture Book Writing, received a Kirkus Starred review, and favorable reviews from The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, The School Library Journal and other publications. It also won the Zena Sutherland Award, the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, was a finalist for the Irma Black Award, and was chosen to be West Virginia's book at the National Book Festival. A storyteller, author, and recording artist, Lepp’s works have received awards and recognition from The Parents’ Choice Foundation, The National Parenting Publications Assoc., and the Public Library Assoc. In 2011, Bil was awarded the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award. Lepp has been featured 15 times at the National Storytelling Festival, and performed at major storytelling festivals, at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and at corporate events and functions across the country. He performed at Comedy Central’s Stage on Hudson in Los Angeles, CA. Bil lives in Charleston, WV, with his wife, two children and his dog, Apollo.