STORY SONGS WITH ERNIE HILL
While thinking about events for the 2015 John Hartford Memorial Festival, I came up with this concept purely out of curiosity. What if I selected three or so songwriters who specialize in story songs, and host a presentation/panel discussion consisting of original story songs and individual processes? The idea being, give the audience (and me) an idea about the individual creative process. I have an idea how mine works and I am curious to the extreme that I wrote a book about it.
I presented the idea to the committee and got the green light. They decided to call it a Story Songs Workshop. I explain in the program that is not a "hands on" workshop. The first year was a hit and each year since has grown in popularity as folks who love stories are given a look inside the heads of folks who "make them up". Now we are on our 5th JHMF Story Songs Workshop. In 2017, I premiered Story Songs at the Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield Kansas and am I ever tickled to return to Walnut Valley this September with Story Songs and very special guests, Chris Jones and Gina Furtado (Clowes)! Past participants have included Chicago Farmer, Ryan Spearman, Juni Fisher, Wil Maring, Colin O’Brien, Old Man Luedecke, Ginger Boatwright, Nathan Blake Lynn, Giri and Uma Peters, Micahlan Boney, Kenny Cornell, and Mike Oberst.
How does it work? I start the set with an original story song and then open up a discussion. We pass it on down the line and in the time allotted we each perform original story songs with enlightening discussion.
Aren't all songs Story Songs? Well, no. A large percentage of top 40 mainstream songs are "feeling" songs. Songs that express love or the opposite. A story song is just that. It tells a story, sometimes taking you to a different environment. It's that simple, but where do they come from? How does a songwriter "get" their story? That's what these sets are all about. It really is different with each songwriter. I've written a book, a short introspective look inside my own mind, the minds of a few others, and some research opinions. It's called "The Cosmic Path to Melody and Lyric". Click here to read more about it. This little mind journey is illustrated by the artist Jon Griffin. Please ck it out and consider talking with me about presenting this concept at your event.
Story Songs at the 47th Annual Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield KS with Gina Furtado (Clowes) and Chris Jones!
Gina Furtado (Clowes) and Chris Jones
Gina Furtado (Clowes) is one super fine banjo picker, nominated for this year’s IBMA Banjo Player of the Year. She’s an insightful and freshly original songwriter too. Her album, "True Colors" reflects a broad range of styles and is super ear friendly. And...she, along with bandmate and multiple IBMA award winner himself, Bluegrass Icon, Chris Jones, will be my guests for Story Songs at the Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield KS, coming up in just a few more weeks! Yep, I’m stoked!
Gina Furtado (Clowes), hails from Winchester, VA. As a young banjo player, Gina was a frequent finalist in the prestigious Galax banjo contest. Gina joined Chris Jones and The Night Drivers after a long stint with the popular West Virginia/Virgina band, “Bud’s Collective.” Gina’s innovative and unique musicianship and songwriting opens up and redefines the usual “can” that is normally generalized in bluegrass and particularly banjo music. She has her own distinct and masterful flavor.
Although Gina is known mainly for her work as the banjo player for Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, she has a long history with her banjo and is making huge waves as a songwriter. Born and raised in Front Royal, Virginia, Gina began touring up and down the east coast in her tween years with her siblings, earning countless ribbons from fiddlers conventions, a strong reputation in the regional bluegrass scene, and a stamp from Bluegrass Today as “absurdly talented”. She later played in a number of regional acts (Blue Light Special, New Girls Nite Out, On the Run, Bud’s Collective) and has made her international touring exposure with Chris Jones and the Night Drivers soon after joining the group. Gina is sought after as a teacher privately and at camps across the country. Her new album, "True Colors" was released in September 2017 and debuted at #13 on Bluegrass Billboard Charts. Gina was featured on the cover of Banjo Newsletter in the December 2017 issue, along with her original tune "Saylor's Creek".
“An exceptionally well-rounded artist! It is no surprise that her songs would showcase her swift and graceful picking, but [True Colors] also reveals her to be a graceful singer and insightful songwriter.” -The Bluegrass Situation
"True Colors", the first album release from Gina Clowes, is a wonderful opening to the solo career of this gifted songwriter/ banjo player. The Virginia native, and member of the wildly talented Furtado family, astutely mixes traditional numbers among her more current interpretation of bluegrass music and strands of swing and jazz even work their way into the performances but this album is an assortment of instrumentals and her deep lyrics. Gina is gifted as a melodic songwriter. Gina’s’ album features only one cover. The eleven originals touch on familiar genres while showing unquestionable individuality. "True Colors" is an album I will load onto the old ipod and put on loop over and over. It’s pleasing and encouraging to hear folks like Gina Furtado keeping it fresh and real. Keep up with Gina Furtado (Clowes) at www.ginaclowesbanjo.com
Chris Jones is no stranger to the Walnut Valley Festival having headlined the event with his band, Chris Jones and the Night Drivers five times. Chris Jones is a quadruple threat as a singer, a songwriter, a guitarist—and, thanks to his role hosting SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction, as one of the most widely heard broadcasting voices in bluegrass music. His immediately recognizable voice, warm sense of humor and abundance of talent have combined to make him one of the music’s most distinctive personalities, and one of its strongest artists. Chris Jones is literally a household name in the world of bluegrass and beyond having garnered IBMA award after award including taking center stage at the IBMA’s Awards Show in 2007, where he earned both a Song Of The Year award as a co-writer of “Fork In The Road,” the title track of the year’s Album Of The Year by the Infamous Stringdusters, and the organization’s Broadcaster Of The Year trophy. The occasion marked the first time that both music and industry awards have gone to a single person. Chris had previously won an IBMA award for Recorded Event of the Year for his role in the album Larry Sparks 40.
Since then, Chris has continued to draw attention for all aspects of his multi-faceted career, including a 2014 IBMA award for Print/Media Person of the Year for his widely read humor column for the bluegrass web site Bluegrass Today, and a second award for Broadcaster of the Year in 2015.
Following apprenticeships with bluegrass legend Dave Evans and Chicago’s durable Special Consensus, Chris moved to Nashville in 1989 as a member of the band Weary Hearts, where his colleagues included Ron Block (Alison Krauss & Union Station), Mike Bub (Del McCoury Band, 18 South) and acclaimed mandolin master, the late Butch Baldassari. Forming Chris Jones & The Night Drivers in the mid 1990s, he’s led the band through a set of stellar recordings and tours while appearing and recording with some of the world’s most respected musicians including The Chieftains, Earl Scruggs, Vassar Clements and Tom T. Hall. He has performed on the The Grand Ole Opry with Laurie Lewis, Lynn Morris, and The Whitstein Brothers. And, while the Night Drivers have made extensive use of his original songs, Chris’ songs have also been recorded by a range of other artists, including the Gibson Brothers, Lou Reid & Carolina and The Chapmans.
Chris’ album, A Few Words, features 16 tracks of original songs, and gives the listener a good idea of Chris songwriting skills. He is quite a story teller and his progressive bluegrass arrangements are top notch in proficiency and the beauty of the craft. Read more about Chris Jones at http://www.chrisjonesgrass.com/
Left to right- Ernie Hill, Ryan Spearman, Cody Diekoff a.k.a. Chicago Farmer
To read more about past Story Songs sets, click here.