Tag Archives: singer/songwriter

Donna Lynn Caskey: Accidental Banjo Gal

If someone had told the teenage Donna Lynn Caskey that one day she would play banjo and perform original music in public, she would’ve thought they were joking. Born in the Tidewater region of the Virginia coast, the youngest of ten children in a family of music makers and music lovers, Donna Lynn came to believe early on she would have to make do in the “music lover” camp only.

Donna Lynn’s early experiences with formal music education left her feeling insecure. She felt dyslexic when it came to reading standard musical notation during piano lessons, so she doubted she could ever be a real musician. Nontheless, she continued in the role of music fan and appreciator by devouring eclectic public radio broadcasts, checking out stacks of recordings from the library, going to concerts, compulsively making mix tapes comprised of beloved songs and new musical finds and sharing them with friends. She eventually realized that some of her favorite songs and voices were often rough around more than just the edges, yet were tremendously affecting. She was also encouraged by stories of musicians who couldn’t read a note, but who could touch hearts with their gifts just the same. She began to think maybe she could make music, after all. It didn’t have to be pretty and perfect. Simple, homemade music could be powerful music.

Music also started to feel more within reach while Donna Lynn studied art at Hollins University in the Blue Ridge Mountains. College years were also the time when she discovered a deep love of the banjo. A regular attendee of the local Roanoke Fiddle & Banjo Club, she found herself weeping with joy more than once during banjo solos. On Saturday mornings, she would go listen to old-time and bluegrass jams at an acoustic music store inside Happy’s Flea Market. Before long, she had her eye on a lovely banjo hanging on the wall. As her college days waned and she was unsure what was next, she bought herself that banjo for graduation.

Donna Lynn proceeded to spend the next two years traveling, moving from job to job and place to place. The banjo gathered dust at her parents’ house, and she felt guilty letting that beautiful instrument go unplayed. She took it to a local music shop for consignment. The woman behind the counter convinced her not to, however, and Donna Lynn ended up paying to have the banjo set up and restrung instead.

Soon after, a friend was heading to Brasstown, North Carolina for an internship at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Donna Lynn looked at the course catalog, which listed a class called “Beginning Clawhammer Banjo by Ear” taught by Diane B. Jones. The catalog also indicated scholarships were available. The week before class was scheduled to start that summer of 2001, Donna Lynn was notified she was awarded a scholarship. Three days in to that week-long, intensive class, the basics of playing clicked.

The following week, Donna Lynn and her banjo moved to California by train. She was afraid she’d left the music community behind her in Virginia, but within days of arriving, she met a fiddler at the farmers’ market who invited her to a weekly old-time jam. Through the jam, she was connected to local music festivals, banjo workshops, lessons with master old-time musician Brad Leftwich while he lived in the area, and to her first paying gigs. She remains friends with members of that group to this day.

Within months of starting banjo, Donna Lynn also began writing songs and performing. Her debut album of original material, Nameless Heart, was released in 2014 to glowing reviews for innovative clawhammer-style playing and strong writing that simultaneously acknowledges life’s difficulties while offering a genuine message of hope. The Ventura, California based artist recently completed her second album, The Love Still Shows.

Recently, KC Cafe Radio Music Director Kathy Forste spoke with “Banjo Gal” Donna Lynn Caskey via Skype. They talk at length about Donna’s upbringing being surrounded by music, the significance of her challenges, and how those challenges shape the music she writes and performs today.

Listen to the interview here:

Download the interview here: Interview: Donna Lynn Caskey 9/27/2017

Music by Donna Lynn Caskey on KC Cafe Radio:

New Music on KC Cafe Radio: August 29, 2017

Monet9 - Bandwidth 11 Monet9 – Bandwidth 11

  • Pop Rock

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Ivar Sigurbergsson (singles) Ivar Sigurbergsson (singles) ~New Artist~

  • Rock

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Bittersweet Highway -It All Falls Away Bittersweet Highway -It All Falls Away

  • Folk

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Come Back Calamity - Six Shots Later Come Back Calamity – Six Shots Later ~New Artist~

  • Alt Folk

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Evan Silva - Ain't No Two Ways About It Evan Silva – Ain’t No Two Ways About It

  • Soul Blues

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Evan Silva - Chance & Time Evan Silva – Chance & Time

  • Latin Jazz

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The Tearaways (singles) The Tearaways (singles)

  • Rock

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Lucas Rabel - Western Amber Skies Lucas Rabel – Western Amber Skies ~New Artist~

  • Country/Rock

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Ryan Totten - Underneath The Sky Ryan Totten – Underneath The Sky

  • Rock

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Dustin Hovermale (singles) Dustin Hovermale (singles) ~New Artist~

  • Country

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Synners of Truth- It's Going To Change Synners of Truth- It’s Going To Change ~New Artist~

  • Alt Rock

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JJ's Music Retaliation - Many More Years With you JJ’s Music Retaliation – Many More Years With you ~New Artist~

  • Rock

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Surreal Realm - Winter Dreams of Spring (single) Surreal Realm – Winter Dreams of Spring (single)

  • Instrumental

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Paul Arnoldi - Let's Go (Testing, Hear, We're Goin' Down) Paul Arnoldi – Let’s Go (Testing, Hear, We’re Goin’ Down)

  • Folk

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Art Podell - Blame it on the Russians Art Podell – Blame it on the Russians (single)

  • Singer/Songwriter

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Raveis Kole: A unique musical duo born out of unique synergy

Perhaps it was luck. Perhaps it was some kind of divine intervention. Or maybe it simply was a case of being in the right place at the right time. What is absolutely certain, however, is at the moment when Laurie Raveis and Dennis Kole first met, a synergy was born that would blossom into one of the most talented singer/songwriter duos around today.

At the time, Dennis had been working in a law firm. There was something else nagging at him intellectually however, and music seemed a perfect fit. He was first introduced to music at age 8 when his teacher put a cardboard cutout keyboard in front of him. His mother had bought him a violin, but he was more partial to the guitar, and at 14 purchased his first guitar. He played mostly classical music, but occasionally made up his own tunes, mostly revolving around “primitive teenage” themes.

Laurie Raveis comes from a long line of teachers. She had been teaching marketing in Boston Massachusetts, but also felt the urge toward the performing arts. Her first introduction to music came about thanks to the piano lessons she took at a young age growing up in Connecticut. Later she would try her had at various performing arts, and found she liked music the most. Later in life she would perform in various bands, including an all-girl band.  Eventually she would be asked to sing in some of those bands.  Her singing would lead to songwriting, exposing her to a whole new world of expression.

The two met at a guitar festival in Montana.  They had both attended the same guitar jam, where Dennis found himself impressed with Laurie’s inventive and original style. It wasn’t  long before the two began playing together.  They would continue to collaborate their musical talents, which eventually lead to the dynamic musical duo we know today simply as Raveis Kole.

Their newest album, Electric Blue Dandelion is an excellent representation of the “chemical reaction that ignites the human spirit by melding Raveis’ caramel smooth, emotive vocals and percussive, groove driven acoustic guitar rhythms with Kole’s fingerstyle and harmonic explorations.” Indeed, it is the essence that is Raveis Kole.

Recently, KC Cafe Radio Music Director Kathy Forste talked with the duo via Skype. They discussed their lives growing up discovering their unique musical talents, that moment when they first met, and how they have grown together musically since then. They also talk about their contrasting approaches to writing music, and how that contrast is the “magic” behind their synergy.

Listen to the interview here:

Listen to the interview here: Interview: Raveis Kole, 5/10/2017

Music by Raveis Kole on KC Cafe Radio:

Allan Frank: A Songwriter’s Songwriter

Singer/Songwriter and KC Cafe Radio Performing Artist Allan Frank has been surrounded by music practically all his life. Growing up in the American Midwestern town of Peoria, Illinois, Frank was caught playing on his grandfather’s piano, making up stories as he played along, at the ripe young age of 3. It wasn’t until age 16, however, when Allan picked up his first musical instrument, a guitar his parents had given him.

As he got older, he became involved in musical theater, and eventually graduated from college with a theater degree. He also discovered his guitar playing skills were in high demand in theater, and he began toying with putting lyrics with song. It wasn’t long that Allan found himself writing for events and issues outside of the theater, and a new songwriter was born.

He later traveled to Europe, and eventually relocated to California, where he continued to hone his craft as a songwriter. His skill as a talented songwriter continued to develop, both in Los Angeles and in Nashville. He became involved in collaborative efforts with some of the most influential songwriters around, including Gary Burr and Chris Tompkins.

Allan’s first full-length album is called The Road So Far, and represents his journey as a genuine singer/songwriter. A blend of Americana, Country and Roots tunes, The Road So Far takes you on a heartfelt journey down the by-ways and back-roads of Middle America. Allan’s gentle down home manner is evident in his songs, reminiscent of the classic stylings of Burl Ives, Pete Seeger and Doc Watson.

Recently, KC Cafe Radio Music Director Kathy Forste spoke with Allan. He tells the story of growing into the art of songwriting, and how he has approached the craft over the years. They talk about the benefits of writing alone versus collaborating with other songwriters, and Allan discusses at length about songwriting as a craft, and the importance of connecting with the listener.

Listen to the interview here:

Music by Allan Frank on KC Cafe Radio:

Bill Abernathy still Finds a Way

Just 10 minutes. That’s all the time singer/songwriter Bill Abernathy needed to complete the task he was working on at the office. He had just received the call from the hospital informing him that his dad had taken a turn for the worse, and is not expected to live much longer. He figured it would take another 10 minutes to compete what he was working on, then he would be off to be by his dad’s side. When he arrived at the hospital, he found that he missed his dad’s passing by just 5 minutes.

“I think that everybody has this vision of how they would like to spend their last moments with people they love,” Bill said. “Mine was clearly being able to sit with my dad, hold his hand and tell him I loved him one more time and just watch as the lights of this world go away and the lights of the next come on. I didn’t get that chance, and it was because I had prioritized my time poorly. I had lost that balance.”

Bill Abernathy: Find A WayThat defining moment in Bill’s life would become the theme for his latest album, Find A Way. “The real theme of the album is based on something that my dad taught me,” he said. “His comment was always that if you want something bad enough in life and you’re willing to put in the blood, sweat, tears and toil, you could always find a way to make that happen.” The album cover artwork he commissioned with artist Damijan Fric, depicts the great chasm that exists for many of us in life, between the demands of work life and the things we cherish in life. Yet the message of hope inspired by his dad resounds clearly in the title song – that it is indeed possible to find a way.

Bill grew up in a musical family, so putting thoughts and feelings into song isn’t too difficult for him. He grew up hanging out with his older brother and associated musician friends, listening to the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary and others. It would be Dan Fogelberg‘s 1972 album Home Free that would inspire him to pick up the guitar and learn how to play. “I learned how to play that album from start to finish,” Bill recently told KC Cafe Radio Music Director Kathy Forste in an interview.

Bill also loves guitars, and has amassed quite the collection over the years, including a rather unique 9 string guitar. Recently, Bill talked with Forste via Skype. They discussed his unique guitar collection, as well as Find A Way and the story behind it’s songs. They talked at length about the struggle most musicians deal with between their musical passion and work life demands, and how he has managed to find his own way.

Listen to the interview here:

Download the interview here: Interview: Bill Abernathy 11/18/2016

Music by Bill Abernathy on KC Cafe Radio: