Laurie Lewis

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Laurie Lewis
Laurie Lewis 2.jpg
Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival
September 3, 2005
Image by Jan1020
Background information
Born (1950-09-28) September 28, 1950 (age 63)
Origin Long Beach, California, United States
Genres folk, bluegrass, country
Occupations singer/musician
Instruments vocals, fiddle, guitar, upright bass
Years active mid '70s—present
Labels Hightone Records
Associated acts Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands
Website Official Website
Notable instruments
fiddle, guitar

Laurie Lewis (born September 28, 1950, Long Beach, California), is an American bluegrass musician.

History[edit]

Lewis fell in love with American folk music as a teenager, at the sunset of the 1960s folk revival. She says of the Berkeley Folk Festivals where she first caught the folk bug:

"Oh, it was so exciting. Every night there were concerts, and during the day you'd be in a eucalyptus grove listening to someone making music with nothing between you and them. Every day I'd hear something new, Doc Watson or the Greenbriar Boys. Something about it just invited me to start playing it."[1]

She began picking simple songs on the guitar, then the fiddle. After high school, she drifted away from the music, but always kept her fiddle under her bed, not knowing exactly why.[1]

In her early 20s, she discovered the Bay Area bluegrass scene. To her, it was . .

"like opening that door all over again. Here were all these people making music together, and I could immediately see myself as part of it. It woke up all that excitement I felt as a teenager, and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life."[1]

The bluegrass scene of Northern California was a powerful mix of the region's historic progressivism and ardent devotion to musical tradition. Nobody minded that young Laurie was a woman, a non-southerner, or a novice. They didn't mind if she didn't want to learn, chapter and verse, the gospels of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. The scene gave her a rock-ribbed foundation in the rudiments of American roots music.

"It really was a different deal coming to bluegrass in the San Francisco Bay area. There weren't a lot of cutting contests; it was all about making music together, a focus on interdependency rather than individual prowess."[1]

In the early 1970s she played with The Phantoms of the Opry, a Bay Area bluegrass band[2] that also included Pat Enright (later of the Nashville Bluegrass Band). When the Phantoms broke up she co-founded the Good Ol' Persons, an all-female bluegrass band with Kathy Kallick. In 1979 she founded the Grant Street String Band, also including Beth Weil, Tom Bekeny, Greg Townsend, and Steve Krouse, in which her own songwriting came to the forefront. In the late 1980s, she formed "Laurie Lewis and Grant Street". Since then, she has recorded solo and duo albums, usually accompanied by mandolin artist and singer, Tom Rozum. Nowadays, she often plays under different names with a fairly regular roster of musicians, calling themselves "Laurie Lewis and her Bluegrass Pals," "the Guest House Band;" in 2006, she renamed her group "Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands."

Many years ago, Lewis twice won California's Women's Fiddling championships. She is a versatile musician, having for many years played bass and sung with Dick Oxtot's Golden Age Jazz Band, as well as with the Bay Area band the Arkansas Sheiks. Lewis plays guitar and other string instruments. As a crossover artist, Lewis is comfortable with folk music and some pop music. She writes her own lyrics as well as composing the music. Her Songbook contains most of the songs she wrote in the twentieth century, as well as photographs from her from early life and the early days of her career. She has received a Grammy, and was previously nominated for that honor.

Laurie Lewis with band at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival, September 3, 2005.
Image by Jan1020

Recordings and performance[edit]

Lewis, accompanied by Tom Rozum, has appeared at the Grand Ole Opry and several times with Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion. She is also the program director for a Music Camp on the Oregon Coast called Bluegrass at the Beach[3] which she has done with Tom Rozum since 1992.

Lewis's songs have been recorded by others, including Kathy Mattea, and she has accompanied Holly Near. She has been invited to accompany many other artists, including Kato Sanden, a Norwegian pop star, and the legendary (but still active) Ralph Stanley. Besides producing her own CDs, Lewis's skill in the recording studio has resulted in her being asked to produce recordings for a number of other artists. She is also in demand as a teacher on fiddle and guitar.

Lewis has toured widely in many parts of the world, including most European countries, China, and Japan. When not on tour, she makes her home in Berkeley, California.

Style and sound[edit]

"She is newgrass in the truest sense of the word, in that she uses bluegrass instruments to create new original music: it's music for now. As a fiddler, she could be from the 1940s or from 2010; it's timeless. As a singer, she knows the rules of bluegrass and how to sing in her own voice. She's probably one of the few female singers who really knows the nuances of the Ralph Stanley vocal style."

Personnel[edit]

Laurie Lewis and the Right Hands comprises:

  • Laurie Lewis: Fiddle, Guitar, Vocals
  • Tom Rozum: Mandolin, Vocals
  • Scott Huffman: Guitar, Vocals
  • Craig Smith: Banjo
  • Todd Phillips: Bass

Distinctions and awards[edit]

  • Laurie Lewis twice won California's Women's Fiddling championships.
  • She won a Grammy for True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe 1997.
  • She was nominated with Tom Rozum for a Grammy for their collection of duets, The Oak and the Laurel, in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album of 1995.
  • Twice named Female Vocalist of the Year by the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association), in 1992 and 1994.[4]

"Judging by the respect she has among fans and peers in the industry, Laurie is one of the pre-eminent bluegrass and Americana artists of our time. She spreads her talent over several genres - bluegrass, folk, country - and with the recognition she has within all those fields, I would certainly say she's one of the top five female artists of the last 30 years. And she continues to make great music."

—Dan Hays, Executive Director, IBMA

Discography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]