Live broadcast: May 5 with Courtney Barnett, David Rawlings, and Neal Brennan
This week: we’re heading to Nashville for a live broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium with Courtney Barnett, David Rawlings, and comedian Neal Brennan. Joining us in the band: Madison Cunningham, Rich Dworsky, Chris Eldridge, Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert, and Ted Poor. We’ll also have a bit of comedy from our acting company, Serena Brook, Tim Russell, and Fred Newman; Chris Thile’s latest Song of the Week; another week’s worth of musicians’ birthdays; and a word from Tom Papa, Out. In. America. Tune in down on the public radio end of the dial.
By the time Chris Thile turned 15, he had already been playing mandolin for a decade. He’d also started Nickel Creek with Sara and Sean Watkins, and released his first solo recording, 1994’s Leading Off. This Grammy winner and MacArthur Fellow teams up with numerous musicians in myriad styles and leads acoustic quintet Punch Brothers. His albums include Thanks for Listening (Nonesuch) 10 studio recordings originally written as Prairie Home Companion Songs of the Week. He is now in his second season hosting the show.
Richard Dworsky, Live from Here's keyboardist, composer, arranger, and music director, has collaborated with diverse musicians -- from Yo-Yo Ma and James Taylor to Brad Paisley and Kristin Chenoweth. For 23 years, he served as pianist and music director for Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Rich has also provided music for documentaries on HBO and PBS, and has released many recordings of original material, including his latest, All In Due Time.
Maybe it's the gene pool: Chris Eldridge's father was a founding member of the Seldom Scene, a group that guitarist Chris would join after earning a degree in music performance from Oberlin. He went on to start a bluegrass band, the Infamous Stringdusters, and later to critical acclaim with Punch Brothers. Mount Royal, his 2017 duo album with guitarist Julian Lage, is nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Contemporary Instrumental Album).
At 14, fiddler Brittany Haas began touring with Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings. Now Anger says: “Britt opens the window, gets out of the way, and the music floods through in a tide of joy.” The California-born Princeton University grad has performed with a number of bands, including Crooked Still and Hawktail.
Paul Kowert started on violin at age three, but by fourth grade he’d taken up bass, and he later graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music. The Nashville-based musician is a member of Punch Brothers and Hawktail, and has toured with Mike Marshall’s Big Trio and Dave Rawlings Machine.
"Adventurous, truly dynamic, and forward-thinking drumming," said Modern Drummer magazine of Ted Poor. An in-demand session player and sideman, this Eastman School of Music alum has toured worldwide with various bands, and he is currently an Artist in Residence at the University of Washington, Seattle. For the past few years, Ted has been a member of Andrew Bird's band and appears on Bird's 2016 release, Are You Serious.
Mild-mannered Tim Russell one minute -- Obama, Trump, or myriad others the next. It's almost impossible to stump this "man of a thousand voices." A longtime radio personality (veteran of WDBQ in Dubuque, WCCO and KJJO in the Twin Cities, in addition to his decades-long Prairie Home stint), Tim appeared in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and the Coen brothers' A Serious Man.
Actress Serena Brook has appeared off-Broadway, on the national tour circuit, and on regional theater stages. In the Twin Cities, her work includes productions at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, 7th House Theater, the Guthrie Theater's Dowling Studio, and the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis. The Eagan, Minnesota, native is also a voice-over artist who can be heard on national and regional radio commercials.
Sound Effects artist Fred Newman went from the storytelling of small-town Georgia to Harvard Business School and Newsweek magazine. He then veered left to become the author of MouthSounds, puppeteer for Jim Henson, and TV host of shows such as The New Mickey Mouse Club, creating voices and music for Nickelodeon’s cartoon series DOUG, a symphony celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge, and the sound of Old Faithful for Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Visitor Education Center — all with his mouth. He performs his own stories around the country.
From a musical family, Madison Cunningham first picked up a guitar when she was only seven. By the age of 12, the California native was singing in church, along with her four younger sisters. Now, less than a decade later, she has established herself as a solo singer-songwriter with a keen understanding of her craft. Her EP, Love, Lose, Remember, came out last year.
Rolling Stone praised Courtney Barnett as “one of the sharpest, most original songwriters around — at any level, in any genre.” At festivals like SXSW, Bonnaroo, and Lollapalooza, the Australian indie rocker has garnered fans worldwide since her 2012 debut EP. In 2016, she took Songwriter of the Year honors at the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) Music Awards and was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy. Her new album is Tell Me How You Really Feel. Katie Harkin (keyboards), Andrew Sloane (bass), David Mudie (drums).
Singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer David Rawlings began recording with Gillian Welch in the mid-’90s. His latest album, Poor David’s Almanack (Acony Records), marks the eighth studio collaboration between the two — who met while attending the Berklee College of Music. Said one reviewer: “[It’s] one of those wonderful albums that you can leave on repeat.” In 2015, Rawlings and Welch were honored with the Americana Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting; the following year, they were given the Berklee American Masters Award. Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert, Willie Watson, Gillian Welch.
Neal Brennan’s comedy career literally started when he got a foot in the door: he was a doorman at a comedy club. Now the director, writer, actor, and comedian is doing stand-up in major venues coast to coast. His long list of credits includes co-creating, co-writing, directing, and producing Chappelle’s Show, for which he received three Emmy nominations. He has written screenplays, material for the Academy Awards broadcast and the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, and he directed multiple episodes of Inside Amy Schumer. His off-Broadway special, 3 Mics, is on Netflix.