bluegrass/country/folk | KCUR

bluegrass/country/folk

Jenna and Martin / Facebook

Jenna Rae and Martin Farrell both grew up in cities. But when the two got serious about playing music together as the folk duo Jenna & Martin, they ended up living the life they were singing about.

Rae is from Merriam, Kansas, and Farrell is from Minnetonka, Minnesota. The two met four years ago on the sprawling campgrounds of the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival in Winfield, Kansas. They soon started performing together, and onstage, they’re young and carefree with a chemistry that’s easy to see and hear.

Segment 1: New poll data suggests Americans don't know much when it comes to gun-related deaths.  

The results of the latest survey by Guns and America asked people about the causes of gun deaths. Their answers show that more Americans believe it be “murders other than mass shootings" than the actual cause – suicide. Two reporters for the project broke down the survey results and what it means for gun policies in this country.

Country Music

Sep 27, 2019

Ken Burns' Country Music series inspires interviews with Kansas City musicians about what country music means to them.

Segment 1: "All genocides ... begin with words," says one Emory professor concerned about a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric. 

Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world, concerning scholars and Jewish communities. Money that could be spent in programming and outreach is being redirected to security measures for area Jewish Centers. "The fear in the community is palpable," says Gavriela Geller, executive director for Jewish Commuity Relations Bureau-American Jewish Committee.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3FM

People who live around Kessler Park, just a few blocks from the Kansas City Museum in the Historic Northeast neighborhood, say it's the city's biggest front porch for listening to music in Kansas City.

“We have a lovely view of this day after day," said David Joslyn, who has lived in the neighborhood with his wife Elaine for more than 30 years. "The beautiful Concourse, the Esplanade, the wonderful playground and the fountain. We’re very blessed.”

Matthew Hawkins

Commercial artist Matthew Hawkins is in his mid-40s and feeling like more of his life is behind him than ahead of him. So, he took some time off from his paying art jobs to nail down a personal project he’s worked on for the past four years.

Hawkins, who lives in Overland Park, calls Walt Disney one of his clients. His art, largely paper sculptures, is sold in Disney’s theme park art galleries, but he's also designed do-it-yourself paper toys for GameStop, Arby's, Steak ’n Shake, GE, Newsweek, Crayola and Barnes & Noble.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Stage names aren't just for actors. Scott "Rex" Hobart and the members of his honky tonk and country band, Rex Hobart and the Misery Boys, have used other people's names on stage since they started playing together in 1997.

But Hobart has another career, one that's off-stage.

Segment 1: With only three weeks left in the regular legislative session there are still major issues to be addressed.

From asking Missourians to vote again on the Clean Missouri intitiative to redefining blight in order to curtail the use of TIF to a strict abortion bill, state lawmakers have their hands full for the rest of the session. A review of these and other major issues offered insight into the bills connected with each.

Sky Smeed

When Lawrence songwriter Sky Smeed starts his new album lamenting that he’s leaving yet again, he sounds sad, like we're about to hear a story of one more time when things just didn’t work out.

In reality, it's just the opposite.

"I'm the happiest I've ever been right now in my life, which is pretty amazing for me," Smeed says. "I got married in May of last year, and everything's just really clicking."

Segment 1: Panel discussion with recent retirees of The Kansas City Star. 

Three senior journalists who accepted the most recent buyout offer from The Star's parent company McClatchey discussed reduction of staff and coverage at the newspaper, how journalism and the city they covered for decades have changed as well the continuing need for basic community news.

Jenny Wheat

When singer/songwriter Kelly Hunt arrived in Kansas City from Memphis three years ago, the relocation came with a surprise: There was already a well-known musician in town who had the same name — or practically the same. Kelley Hunt (who spells her name with just one more e than Kelly Hunt) is the R & B pianist who’s been rocking this region for a few decades.

Now, the newcomer says with a laugh, “I’m ‘Banjo Kelly Hunt’ in these parts.”

J Aeionic / Flickr

Folk singer and songwriter Danny Cox has been a fixture of the Kansas City music scene since he moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1967. Cox played at classic venues like the Vanguard Coffee House in the 1960s, and the Cowtown Ballroom in the '70s. 

And he's still performing. When Cox recently turned 75, KCUR's Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix spoke with Cox about his life and career, starting with his song "Kansas City":

Anne Kniggendorf / KCUR 89.3

A somewhat mysterious, and certainly enduring, fact of the music industry is that male musicians far outnumber female musicians. A group of women wants to change that, in Kansas City at least.

Singer-songwriters Julie Bennett Hume, Leah Watts and four others have started a new organization called Women on the Rise.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Phillip Jackson — better known by his stage name, Eems — grew up in what he reluctantly calls "the hood."

"I mean, single-parent household, went to Kansas City, Missouri, public schools, and just living in, I don't want to call it the hood, but, the hood," he said on Central Standard on July 6.

Now, he's a touring musician with fans all over the country, a new EP and a unique sound that defies genre: a mix of hip-hop, R&B and lots of ukulele. That's right: ukulele. 

Tanner Martine

In 2016, Simon Fink and his band, Under the Big Oak Tree, performed a holiday concert in their hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri.

One of the songs they played was “The Little Drummer Boy,” which was composed by Katherine K. Davis. As it turned out, she was born and raised in St. Joseph.

Howard Iceberg

Howard Eisberg is a Kansas City attorney who creates wry music under the pen name of Howard Iceberg.

Witty, self-deprecating and often profound, he's Kansas City's equivalent of the revered singer-songwriter John Prine.

Eisberg performs and records with a folk-based aggregation of musicians named the Titanics. On his new album "Netherlands," they're supplemented by a handful of Kansas City jazz cats including Rich Hill, Charles Perkins and Doug Auwarter.

Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear

Three years have passed since the release of “Skeleton Crew,” the breakout debut for Independence, Missouri, mother-and-son folk duo Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear.

In that time frame, they've toured Europe, been guests on The David Letterman Show and collaborated with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to create a music video for “Childhood Goodbye,” their latest single.

Segment 1: Kansas City ranks as one of the top cities for women working in tech. 

For the fourth year in a row, Kansas City has been listed as the second best city for women working in the tech industry according to the website Smart Asset. Today, we find out how our city earned that title as well as learn how we can continue to improve. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City singer Jim Cosgrove has spent the past two decades performing songs about dancing dinosaurs and other kid-friendly topics all over Kansas City. His youngest fans know him as “Mr. Stinky Feet.”

Which makes him a perfect act for the family stage at this weekend's Kansas City Folk Festival.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR 89.3

Segment 1: How Missouri schools prepare for an active shooter situation.

In the wake of Wednesday's mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, the 18th shooting at a school in 2018, we found out what Missouri requires for its schools to be ready to deal with similar situations. We also asked how parents can discuss these tragedies with their children before, during and after they occur.

Olivia Fox

Olivia Fox is the Kansas City-based folk-pop trio of Aubrey Callahan, Lauren Flynn and Tiffany Smith. Formed in 2016, it's one of the most fully realized musical acts in Kansas City. The polished group is radio-ready and eminently marketable.

That's clear on “Play the Game,” the lead track of the group’s self-titled 2017 EP. As synthetic beats contrast with traditional folk harmonies, the hushed song becomes a wondrous combination of tension and tranquility — as enticing as a romantic whisper.

Luke X. Martin / KCUR_89.3

Segment 1: Kansas' Third-Biggest School District Picks A New Leader

After a months-long hiring process, the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education has decided on a new superintendent. We heard about the move, and about the future of one of the largest districts in Kansas and the metro.

YouTube

Imagine a lamp-lit honky-tonk band weaving those joyfully depressing cheatin’ songs, with round-robin vocalists taking just the right tune for each voice. Imagine an audience whooping and pushing them forward from their seats on wooden benches and random household chairs, or just standing.

Protest Music (R)

Dec 26, 2017

Three musicians discuss the influence of protest music, what makes a song political and how protest songs of times past compare (or differ) to today's.

Guests:

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Every once in a while, a Kansas City band releases an original Christmas song. But it’s unusual for area musicians to put out an entire album of holiday standards.

That’s what the bluegrass band Old Sound did this year, but making it happen involved something like a Christmas miracle.

“This is one those instances where the universe starts kind of opening up and giving you signs,” says guitarist Chad Brothers.

Courtesy Loaded Goat / Facebook

When The Matchsellers’ Julie Bates sent out the word that she was organizing Cover Me, Kansas City Folk, an evening of local roots and acoustic songwriters covering each other’s songs, nearly every songwriter leapt at the chance.

“People were really excited about it,” she says. “If they could make it, they signed up right away.”

Mathias Kang

Andrew Morris, a guitarist and vocalist from Indiana, and Julie Bates, a fiddler and vocalist with roots in the Kansas City area, have released two albums as The Matchsellers.

They're an old-timey, folk and country duo whose between-song banter is as entertaining as their music. Among their two shows in upcoming days is the “Cover Me, KC” benefit for the Midwest Music Foundation, which Bates organized, with a roster of well-known area musicians covering one another’s compositions.

Courtesy Fred Wickham

Fred Wickham has clearly absorbed the spirit of the Hadacol Caravan.

Back in the early ‘50s, the Caravan, named for an alcohol-laden “medicine” designed to ease good country people through dry county weekends, needed as many as train cars to tour the country. Originally hosted by Hank Williams, the Caravan featured performers as varied as Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Milton Berle and Judy Garland.

Courtesy Fred Wickham

Named for an elixir advertised on Hank Williams’ radio broadcasts, Hadacol was once among Kansas City’s most notable bands, attracting national attention in the late 1990s. 

This week, brothers Fred and Greg Wickham (vocals and guitars) and bassist Richard Burgess reunite, with Matt Brahl on drums (the band's original drummer was Scott McCuiston) to celebrate the release of Fred Wickham’s new album "Mariosa Delta."

Mike Tsai / Kansas City Actors Theatre

It was a year ago when the Kansas City Actors Theatre decided to produce Sam Shepard's play “A Lie of the Mind” this season. When Shepard died in July, company members were shocked at first, but then their feelings evolved.

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