A benefit concert in support of the National Council for the Traditional Arts
MASTERS OF AMERICAN MUSIC featuring JERRY DOUGLAS, AMANDA SHIRES, JASON ISBELL AND MORE
Wednesday Mar 14
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 7:30 pm
This event is all ages
Proceeds will support the National Council for the Traditional Arts’ work on behalf of folk and traditional arts and artists across the U.S. and are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at The Hamilton
$100 General Admission Seated Ticket: 100% is deductible
$50 General Admission Bar Area Ticket: 100% deductible
Thanks to General Dynamics for its generous support of Masters of American Music.
For any wheelchair or ADA needs, please contact the Box Office in advance of the performance at (202)-769-0122.
MASTERS OF AMERICAN MUSIC
Celebrating and supporting the work of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, Masters of American Music brings together a group of exceptional musicians whose artistry is rooted in the American experience. Featuring Jerry Douglas, Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell, artists that stand at the artistic apex of their respective musical worlds, the concert also introduces some amazing younger musicians: 19-year-old Maryland jazz guitarist Jan Knutson and the brother-sister old-time duo, Giri and Uma Peters (aged 12 and 10 respectively) joined by special guests D.C. area jazz master Steve Abshire, and blues harmonica wizard Phil Wiggins.
Jerry Douglas, the evening’s musical host, is widely recognized as the greatest innovator on the Dobro in the last 50 years—possibly the greatest ever. He’s been described as the Jimi Hendrix and the Charlie Parker of acoustic music. The New York Times has called him "dobro's matchless contemporary master." He has won 14 Grammy Awards, 3 CMA (Country Music Association) Musician of the Year citations, 27 IBMA honors (International Bluegrass Music Association), and received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Though he got his start in bluegrass, Douglas has made an impact in ﬁelds ranging from rock ‘n roll to jazz, from blues to Celtic, from mainstream country to contemporary classical, world music and beyond.
Amanda Shires - To The Sunset
“It’s all rock & roll – no golf!” is how singer/songwriter/violinist Amanda Shires describes her electrifying fifth album, To The Sunset. She’s borrowed a lyric from the track “Break Out the Champagne,” one of ten deftly crafted songs that comprise her powerful new recording. The Texas-born road warrior, new mom, and recently minted MFA in creative writing has mined a range of musical influences to reveal an Amanda Shires many didn’t know existed. “Isn’t it refreshing?” Shires asks. Indeed. Distorted electric guitars, effects pedals, swirling keys and synths, and rockin’ rhythms certainly suit Shires’ visceral songcraft and lilting soprano.
It’s been a jam-packed since the release of Shires’ critically hailed My Piece of Land: constant touring with her band and as a member of husband Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit; finishing her MFA; and winning the Americana Association’s 2017 Emerging Artist award. Armed with stacks of journals, she wrote a batch of new songs in a flurry of focus and solitude – in a closet at the Shires/Isbell abode. “With a two-year-old running around, there’s nowhere to hide,” Shires explains. While Isbell watched their daughter, she wrote all night: “I just started writing and tearing apart my journals and taping the parts I liked to the wall, and shredding the rest and putting it into my compost, which I then feed to my garden.”
She reconvened with Land’s producer Dave Cobb (Isbell; Sturgill Simpson) at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A. While writing such stunners as the enchanting “Parking Lot Pirouette,” haunting “Charms,” and raucous “Eve’s Daughter,” she thought about their sonics. “I explained to Dave that I wanted the songs to have atmosphere,” Shires recalls. “That the album was going to be sort of poppy, and that I was doing that to bring some sunshine into the world, cause it’s pretty dark right now.” As she sings in “Take on the Dark,” buoyed by bouncy bass, machine-gun drumming, and swirling synth: “Worry can be a tumbling tumultuous sea/with all its roaring and its breaking/How ‘bout you be the waves/too unafraid to even be brave/and see yourself breaking out of this place.”
Shires is renowned for her carefully crafted songs. Her influences include Leonard Cohen and John Prine, the latter of whom has been a mentor. “I was talking to John Prine while I was writing this record,” says Shires, “and he was talking about how using images that actually happened to you makes the songs true. Also, if you use images that you can see daily, it’s more relatable.” Shires took his advice in such tracks as “Break Out the Champagne.” “It’s all true!” says the resilient Shires. The near-plane crash over Newfoundland, her BFF Kelly’s fears about our apocalyptic times, another friend’s heavy breakup.
To The Sunset, says Shires, “is meant to be a positive thing. Acknowledging your past, and at sunset, your hope for a new day. ‘To The Sunset’ sounds like a toast: This day is over, we don’t know what’s in the future, but it’s hopeful, I think.” Shires has drawn from her own past on To The Sunset – and pointed the way to her future. She has set the bar high – sonically and lyrically – and she’s jumped over it.
Acclaimed singer, songwriter and guitarist Jason Isbell hails from Green Hill, Alabama, not far from Muscle Shoals. After six years with the Drive-By Truckers, he launched a solo career, and subsequently formed The 400 Unit band. Isbell has won six Americana Music Awards and four Grammy Awards, most recently the 2018 Grammys for Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song. His grandfather and uncle taught him to play the mandolin when he was six, and the family made music together regularly. Isbell started playing in bands in his early teens, and performed at the Grand Ole Opry when he was 16. He emphasizes the importance of his northern Alabama roots. "I definitely don’t feel like I would be the musician that I am, or the type of songwriter, had I not come from that particular place.”
Jan Knutson of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, recently turned 19. But the tunes this young musician plays with such virtuosity and subtlety express the history of American vernacular guitar traditions. Knutson’s repertoire draws from the Great American Songbook, Gypsy jazz, and jazz’s heritage of guitar improvisation. Such is the level of skill he exhibits that one of his mentors, jazz guitarist Frank Vignola, says Knutson “is destined to be one of the next generation’s great guitarists.” Jan took to music early, trying piano and violin before adding guitar at age 10. His first guitar teacher introduced him to the work of legendary Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. “From that moment on,” Knutson says, “I knew I had to play jazz guitar.” Joining Jan is another of his teachers, the acknowledged dean of jazz guitar in the D.C. area, STEVE ABSHIRE.
GIRI AND UMA PETERS
Giri and Uma Peters, ages 12 and 10 respectively, are an Indian-American brother-and-sister duo from Nashville that plays bluegrass and old-time music. Awestruck the first time he saw a mandolin at age 8, Giri was soon learning mandolin and fiddle, mentored by such noted players as fiddler Deanie Richardson. Soon after, his younger sister, Uma, took up the clawhammer banjo. Together they immersed themselves in old-time music, with encouragement and support from the local music community, which happens to include neighbor Jerry Douglas. In 2016, Giri and Uma were featured in the IBMA World of Bluegrass showcase, “Shout and Shine: A Celebration of Diversity in Bluegrass.” What’s next for these next-generation masters: an EP of more old-time classics alongside originals composed in the tradition.
Phil Wiggins of Takoma Park, Maryland, is arguably America’s foremost blues harmonica virtuoso, and a master of the unique blues traditions of the Piedmont. He achieved worldwide acclaim over three decades as one half of the premier Piedmont blues duo of Cephas & Wiggins. Blues from the Piedmont, the hilly region between the mountains and the coast that stretches from Georgia to Maryland, is one of the oldest forms of the blues. It draws heavily on earlier ﬁddle-and-banjo string band music that was equally popular among rural blacks and whites. Although Phil Wiggins’ harmonica playing is rooted in the melodic Piedmont or “Tidewater” blues of the Chesapeake region, his mastery of the instrument now transcends stylistic boundaries. In 2017, Phil was awarded an NEA National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.
Special Thanks to General Dynamics
Thanks to General Dynamics, lead sponsor of the Masters of American Music Benefit Concert.
ABOUT THE NCTA
The National Council for the Traditional Arts (NCTA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the presentation and documentation of folk and traditional arts in the United States. Founded in 1933, it is the nation’s oldest folk arts organization. Its programs celebrate and honor deeply rooted cultural expressions - music, dance, crafts, rituals and stories passed on through time in families, communities, tribal, ethnic, regional, religious, and occupational groups. Stressing excellence and authenticity, NCTA presents the nation’s finest traditional artists in festivals, tours, international cultural exchanges, workshops, demonstrations and exhibitions, media productions, school programs, and other activities. It works in partnership with communities across America to establish new, sustainable traditional arts events that deliver lasting social, cultural and economic benefits. The NCTA champions the interests of folk and traditional artists and organizations in the arena of public policy.