Today on Music City Roots: Live From The Loveless Cafe, host Jim Lauderdale is excited to bring you the sounds of Casey Wasner, Sara Syms, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, and Striking Matches.
About the artists:
Many images come to mind when you hear about a kid setting up a drum kit and a mirror in the basement of his parent’s house. Attempting to keep time with The Meters, playing Cissy Strut, over and over again, until he gets it right. Loving, long suffering parents without ear plugs would be a bit of an understatement, but that’s how Casey Wasner learned to play along with several other instruments, while developing his ear and defining his voice. Self taught, determined and passionate about creating music, Casey writes and records what he feels. Clearly the true definition of a musician surrounded by music growing up.
Done with high school and passing on a sports scholarship, Casey moved to Nashville from Minnesota to try and find a gig playing drums. Working construction to make ends meet, Casey searched his soul and the neck of his guitar for the most logical path, when one day his eyes were opened to the idea of creating his own style of music instead of just playing other people’s songs. Today, Casey’s unique slant on melody and the arrangements within his music has earned him the respect of the same musicians he grew up emulating.. A privilege and acknowledgment Casey does not take lightly.
Part of Casey’s drive and slant on music comes from traveling the world. Working behind the stage, tuning guitars and using his skills as a multi-instrumentalist to fine tune sound checks for the artists that he works for. Casey’s real world musical education has afforded him with a glimpse into the life of touring professional musicians and what it takes to move a crowd, as well as, the types of songs that bridge the gap emotionally between artist and music lover. This sort of real world apprenticeship has also afforded Casey with the luxury of being able to record his debut record in between touring schedules. Armed with a creative vision and and a vigor for music upon his return from the road, Casey put the lessons to tape and delivered ‘Casey Wasner’ his debut record, a love of words and chords.
While Casey loves being in the studio, he’s even better live where he can connect with the crowd and support the very themes he records.
Casey’s own music is heavily influenced by the sounds he grew up with, the writing is creative and inventive and comes from lessons learned and unforgettable moments: good and bad. Songs about life with lyrics that match the fusion of his melodic influences. You listen and feel like he’s singing about a conversation you had with him even though the two of you have never met. A collection of songs you can identify with, that will remain in your own catalog of favorites.
Raw, organic and heartfelt, roots/americana artist Sara Syms writes from the most honest, intimate and vulnerable place in her soul.
Influenced by artists such as Ryan Adams, Ray Lamontagne and Patty Griffin, she is currently finishing her upcoming album Fade To Blue recorded upstate with engineer Matthew Cullen (Ray LaMontagne, Rachael Yamagata, Martha Wainwright, Madeline Peyroux, My Morning Jacket) at Dreamland Studios, a 19th century country church which has been host to such legendary artists as Pat Metheny, The Band, Herbie Hancock, The B-52s, 10,000 Maniacs, John Hall, and current artists Beach House and Fleet Foxes.
Originally from Chicago, Sara Syms has been playing music for as long as she can remember. Exposed to music at a very young age, her studies included piano and violin, and a member of world renowned choir: The Glen Ellyn Childrens Chorus. Though she has performed all over the US with various bands including Dirty Water, Darren Gaines and the Key Party and The Ashen, her heart is most at home in Americana.
At the highest levels of acoustic musicianship exists a mystery — the mystery of tone, taste and timing… It can best be illustrated by giving a good musician a good instrument and asking him to briefly strum, pick, bow, — whatever is required to produce the best sound. Then, by way of comparison, hand that very same instrument to a GREAT musician and ask for the same.
It is a phenomenon that manifests itself every time that Frank Solivan picks up a mandolin, guitar or violin. What you see may be the same pick or bow, on the same strings, on the same fretboard that the good player demonstrated, but the sound… Ah… there’s the difference!
In Frank’s hands, these instruments take on a life of their own. You hear power. You hear volume. You hear crispness, clarity, timing and taste. All combined with passion and drive. A physicist might slow it down to analyze the strum against string — but he wouldn’t find the answer. For that, you have to know Frank Solivan, a man who has a powerful life force that’s as raw, natural and pure as the place he spend much of his youth, Alaska. Frank is a hunter, a fisherman, a gourmet chef, a beautiful singer, a poet and songwriter of tasteful ballads and of blazing instrumentals. A man of sturdy build who is known to holler out out a powerful, “Son!” whether it be in response to a hot solo, or some hot sauce he concocted in kitchen. It’s as if all these things for him are an affirmation of life. An awareness that all five senses are humming along on overdrive. That life is short and all these gifts are not to be wasted.
Those who are privileged enough to be around it, are richer for it. Musicians, especially, in his presence step up their game, but I suppose you could say the same about gourmands, or fishermen. People sense that life force around Frank and they want a piece of it.
The physicist curious about the mysteries of tone, timing and taste would do well to spend some time around Frank. He would find no definition, no explanation of how it happens but he would see it right there. And you should, too.
Mike is one of the hidden treasures of the five string banjo world. Mike grew up in the sixties and seventies in the bluegrass hotbed of Baltimore and D.C. and assimilated just about everything that all the great players in that area could offer. Then he took off on his own. How best to describe him? Imagine this conversation among banjo players huddled around a fire at some pickin’ party or festival.
“How did J.D. do that lick? ”
“I dunno, but Munford’s over there, ask him.”
“I just got a “37 Granada but it ain’t sounding like it should…”
“Have you taken it to Munford? Best set-up guy around.”
“Damn! Why can’t I get that tone?”
“I dunno… go watch Munford, He’s right over there.”
Now well past forty years old — the age at which, they say, life begins, Mike Munford retains a child like enthusiasm and curiosity for all things banjo. He has no qualms about driving hours through rush hour traffic to go see J.D. Crowe play at some obscure club… then rave about the performance even though he might have seen it or heard it dozens, maybe hundreds or times. He has imbibed everything that J.D., or Earl, or Bela, has thrown his way — and can mimic those players with uncanny accuracy, but has found his own style, too.
It can best be described as hard-driving melodic… but such a description diminishes what’s actually going on. When Mike Munford plays you hear all things that great banjo player strive to achieve. Power, drive, impeccable timing, exquisite tone and jaw-dropping technique.
Mike is also, indeed, about the finest set-up or fret job guy around, and is a walking encyclopedia of banjo trivia. He is an inspiration to countless players in the mid – Atlantic region.
Most of the country hasn’t really seen all that much of Mike’s playing. He, throughout most of his career, has preferred the comforts of home to the road. It is testament to Frank Solivan’s powers of persuasion ( i.e. talent) that Mike is hitting the road as a part of this fine ensemble.
Hailing from the Chugach mountains near Anchorage, Alaska, Danny Booth grew up in a thriving bluegrass and country music family and community. His first “gig” was at age 12 with Doug Dillard and Ginger Boatwright at a bluegrass camp concert. Heavily influenced by his father Greg, a master of pedal steel, dobro and banjo, Danny soon graduated to join his dad in the seminal Alaskan bluegrass band, Rank Strangers. There he met an 18 year old fiddler/mandolinist named Frank Solivan. To most people, growing up in Alaska doesn’t suggest a strong musical background, but they haven’t heard Dan or Frank!
Danny’s own style and sound has been influenced by some of the greatest bassists of acoustic music: Todd Phillips, Mike Bub, Mark Shatz, Barry Bales, Byron House and Edgar Meyer. His supportive bass lines are laden with excellent timing, feel, powerful tone and fluid technique. Danny recalls, “My dad was never shy about telling me when something didn’t work… that gave me the perfectionist attitude I have today.”
In addition to Danny’s impeccable bass playing, he is a remarkable singer. He’s known for his powerful lead and seamlessly blended harmony vocals. “Working with Kathy Kallick taught me a lot about blending harmonies. Combining voices is like rubbing two sticks together – when done correctly it can catch on fire!”
Danny has toured with the Kathy Kallick Band, Spring Creek, Bearfoot, and even performed with one and only Dr. Ralph Stanley. He is the newest member of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen and brings his own musical voice and vision to this rising band. Stand by to be blown away when Danny Booth gets up to the mic.
Chris is one of the hardest working musicians in the Seattle music scene today. You’d be hard pressed to find another 21 year old seamlessly switching from International Music to Jazz and from Rock to Bluegrass so comfortably. He has even studied Brazilian Jazz with Seattle based Brazil music legend, Jovino Santos Neto. Chris’ musicianship reflects the multitude of musical influences he turns to for inspiration. His acoustic guitar playing really stands out, but this virtuosic, multi-instrumentalist is equally at home playing mandolin, drums, bass, electric guitar, banjo, and Greek bouzouki! In addition to his own Seattle based band, Northern Departure, Chris plays with Folk Voice band, Michael O’Neill and is a first call freelance musician. Don’t miss an opportunity to hear him shred his Martin guitar in half!
Simply stated, Striking Matches, made up of Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis, came to Nashville to play music. Sarah, a Philadelphia native and Justin from Atlanta met when a professor at Belmont University paired them at random to play for a classroom full of guitar majors. Consequently, their first performance was the first time they had ever played together. The pair has been writing and performing ever since. Their influences range from Jerry Reed to the Beatles, John Mayer to Patsy Cline, and back again. It becomes more obvious every day that they were born to play music together. Their debut self-titled EP was produced by Luke Wooten (Dierks Bentley, Dustin Lynch) and was all co-written by the band. It was released in October of 2012. Career highlights include their December 2012 debut on the Grand Ole Opry and placement of their songs “When The Right One Comes Along” and “Hangin’ On A Lie” on ABC’s hit show “Nashville.”