Fresno Folklore Society

A Non-Profit Corporation for the Traditional Arts

Fresno, California

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Artist Profile

Laurie Lewis!

Laurie Lewis

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In her early 20s, Laurie discovered the Bay Area bluegrass scene. "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."

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.
In the early 1970s she played with The Phantoms of the Opry, a Bay Area bluegrass band 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.

Lewis, accompanied by Tom Rozum, has appeared at the Grand Ole Opry and several times with Garrison Keillor on A Prairie Home Companion. She was the program director for a music camp on the Oregon Coast called Bluegrass at the Beach which she has done with Tom Rozum, from 1992 until 2005. She was the director of Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshops for 10 years, from 1986 until 1996.
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, Linda Ronstadt, and 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, including Scott Nygaard, Erica Wheeler, The T Sisters, Alice Gerrard, American Nomad, Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman, Ray Bierl, and Diedre McCalla. She is also in demand as a teacher on fiddle and guitar, vocals, and songwriting.

Laurie 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.  
From Wikipedia

 

 

   
"Long Long Road," by Laurie Lewis and the Right Hand "Who Will Watch the Home Place," Laurie Lewis & Friends