Between Brett Dennen, Joy Kills Sorrow singer Emma Beaton, and retro-inspired diva Dominique Pruitt, it's safe to say that redheads run this week's broadcast of Mountain Stage. With that in mind, we thought this was a great excuse to take a look back at powerful performances by redheads on Mountain Stage. First though, two from this week's broadcast.
First up, Brett Dennen. His songs often range from thoughtful folk to big, loud, pop fun. And what we like in particular about this performance is the way he strips his song "When We Were Young" of its lush, bouncy studio treatment to reveal the strength of the writing underneath. In the same way that not just any singer-songwriter is capable of writing a pop song that has the potential to connect with the masses, not just any pop song works when reduced to a guitar an voice.
Next up is progressive bluegrass group Joy Kills Sorrow. The band's name is a play on the call letters of the Indiana radio station that first broadcast Bill Monroe in the 1930s, but Joy Kills Sorrow draw influence from the worlds of jazz, pop, and rock in their innovative arrangements and song choices. Their cover of The Postal Service's electro-pop classic "Such Great Heights" is handled with a mastery that makes it sound as if the song belonged to Joy Kills Sorrow all along.
Irish singer and folk-music great Paul Brady grew up listening to R&B and soul, playing in rock bands throughout his early 20s. Later, when Brady began making a name for himself as a folk and traditional singer, that background in soul and rock added a unique dimension to his sound. Brady told host Larry Groce that, coming from an Irish background, it's not considered out of the ordinary for a pop musician to whip out a traditional song, whereas in America, playing traditional music is "something of a lifestyle choice." Here he plays his high-energy tribute to the can-do spirit, "The World is What You Make It." It's also worth mentioning that Brady wrote the title track of notable redhead Bonnie Raitt's classic album "The Luck of the Draw."
The daughter of a Canadian diplomat, Edwards was born in Ottawa but grew up traveling the world. Removed from the influence of mainstream North American pop, Edwards immersed herself in her older brother's record collection, which included fellow Canadian Neil Young, along with Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. After high school, she landed back in Ottawa, where she fell under the influence of the exploding American scene, and most notably, Lucinda Williams. Her performance of "Change the Sheets" was recorded on Super Bowl Sunday, 2013.
If you think that the dual redhead attack of The Spring Standards provides an unfair musical advantage, you may be correct. They were mostly unknown to Culture Center audience when they took to the stage in fall of 2010, but won the crowd over in mere seconds with their song "Goodbye Midnight." All three members of the group — James Cleare, James Smith, and Heather Robb — began playing together as high school students, then later found themselves living within a few blocks of one another in New York City. They picked up right where they left off, finding their infectious harmonies still intact.
Finally, returning champion Patty Griffin needs no introduction to Mountain Stage listeners. Known for her gutsy lyrics and powerful vocals, Griffin emerged in 1996 with her confessional Living With Ghosts, and has since been covered by The Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride, and Emmylou Harris and more. She has released seven more albums since, including Silver Bell just last year. Originally recorded in 2000, Silver Bell managed to reach mythical status with Nashville insiders in spite of being shelved by various record companies for nearly 15 years. Here she performs "Heavenly Day," recorded on Mountain Stage 2007. Her latest appearance, which includes songs from Silver Bell hits the airwaves this September.