THE WALKING ROOTS BAND | SOUTHERN GRACE | BITTERSWEET GOSPEL BAND | VALERIE & TAYLOR BESS | EARS TO THE GROUND FAMILY | SADIE GUSTAFSON-ZOOK & ETHAN SETIAWAN | GOOD COMPANY | THE CLYMER-KURTZ BAND | LIGHTNING LUCAS | THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAIN DULCIMER PLAYERS
Based in Harrisonburg, VA, the Walking Roots Band travels (usually by car, despite the name) far and wide to share their unique blend of original blue-ish-grass, folk-like, Americana/roots music and reclaimed hymns in new folk arrangements. All the members grew up in Mennonite or Church of the Brethren hymn-singing communities, and audiences reap the benefits of those singing traditions in the band's rich vocal harmonies. The Walking Roots Band has fans of all ages who love the mix of humor, reflection, storytelling, joy, and love on display when they take the stage.
If you love country gospel music, just wait until you hear Virginia ’s own one-of-a-kind group Southern Grace. The southern gospel background of these musicians combined with their love for country music will leave you wanting more. These four talented local Shenandoah Valley musicians will put a twist into your favorite gospel hymns.
The Bittersweet Gospel Band began as an extension of Bittersweet Ministries, at the time a rehabilitation home for men in East Los Angeles. The home, founded by Pastor Gilbert Romero, was a half-way house, a safe place, where men young and old could find stability, self-discipline and healing from their broken lives as gang members, drug users, alcoholics,and the abuse they suffered from the hands of others. Pastor Gilbert came out of this same world when God called him to ministry. In the mid-1990's, the Band began to minister to the main stream of the Church of the Brethren, and to other denominational and non-denominational churches as well, with a focus on reaching out to youth and breaking down walls of cultural division. With the Band's music and Gilbert's preaching, Bittersweet concerts take on a revival atmosphere. Pastor Gilbert is a dynamic speaker and presenter, as well as a smooth vocalist, percussionist, and songwriter. Joining him since 1997 is Pastor Scott Duffey, who plays guitar, sings, and also writes some of the music. Scott and Gilbert are from different worlds, but God has put them together as a model for intercultural ministry.
Valerie & Taylor Bess are founding members of the late Port Harbour, a Harrisonburg-based band known for their unique blend of lyrical indie rock. Incredible musicians and vocalists, the couple are a dynamic creative force. In addition to writing and arranging much of the music for Port Harbour's debut album, Wake, the pair also designed the album artwork and produced the project from start to finish. Since Port Harbour's members dispersed and the band went on hiatus, Valerie & Taylor Bess have been exploring new sounds and styles. In addition to being fantastic musicians, Valerie contributed to the design of the Sing Me High Music Festival logo and Taylor engineered and produced the Walking Roots Band's latest album, a Christmas album due out in October/November 2017.
Ears to the Ground Family is a minimal, totally acoustic group from Harrisonburg, Virginia with guitar, hand percussion, and banjo. They have a serious focus on lyrical content and can achieve a body-shivering vocal harmony. They make music of resistance to oppression and empire, of communities of hope, and of a faith that sustains us. Their tunes draw from R&B, spiritual, soul, folk/americana, chant, hip-hop, and jazz. The group was a sleeper hit at last year's festival, and they earned a lot of new fans with their engaging performance and friendly disposition. Ears to the Ground Family also showed an impressive dedication to their low-carbon-footprint, arriving at the top of the CrossRoads campus will on their bikes, with guitars, an amp, hand-drums, and children in tow.
Sadie Gustafzon-Zook & Ethan Setiawan
Sadie Gustafson-Zook is an accomplished young fiddler, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who plays in a large variety of styles from folk to swing to irish. She released her first CD, Melange on which she is backed by her parents, accomplished folk musicians Les and Gwen Gustafson-Zook. On Melange, Sadie overlays varied rich instrument tracks with tight harmonies and melodic vocals. In 2011, Sadie won a first-place in the New Song Showcase at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas with her song "Unless I Loved."
Ethan Setiawan is an Indiana-born, Boston-based musician and mandolinist thrives on creative collaboration with others. For Setiawan, the passion lies in the synergy that happens when a group of unique individuals come together. While first and foremost an acoustic mandolin player, Setiawan also performs on mandocello and electric mandolin. Deeply invested in making the mandolin a larger part of music that it’s not normally found in, he’s situating funk and jazz on wooden instruments; one such outlet is the Ethan Setiawan Band, a group of musicians from Goshen, IN performing Setiawan’s music as well as “music not meant for the mandolin”. He’s also a member of Boston-based bluegrass groove band OctoPladd. n 2014, Setiawan won the National Mandolin Championship. These days, you can find him dividing his time between Boston, where he attends Berklee College of Music on a full ride scholarship, and his home community of Goshen Indiana.
As students at Goshen College, Gustafson-Zook and Setiawan performed together with guitarist Andrew Pauls as Theory Expats, an homage to their time together in an advanced music theory class. Last summer, Setiawan and Gustafson-Zook toured with a bassist under the name New Branch, and they made a Shenandoah Valley appearance at the Redwing Roots Music Festival.
Growing up in the Mennonite tradition was instrumental in the musical formation and growth of both of these musicians. Singing four-part harmonies for hymns is a vital part of the Mennonite tradition, and it is not limited to church services; morning gatherings, evening potlucks, and meals with friends can all involve singing in rounds and parts. Time spent singing harmony with two hundred other people spoke to these young musicians, and it will be speaking to those gathered at the Sing Me High Music Festival once again this summer.
Since forming in the fall of 2013, Good Company, a six-member a cappella ensemble based in Harrisonburg, has performed regularly in the Shenandoah Valley and beyond. Their debut album, Awake, was released in 2014 and they released a much anticipated Christmas album in December of 2016. With a wide repertoire encompassing everything from early music to contemporary pop arrangements, spirituals to classic 70s rock, and even a few original compositions, Good Company hopes that everybody can find something to enjoy and connect with in the music they share. As part of the inaugural Sing Me High Music Festival last year, Good Company performed to a responsive crowd in the main tent. Audiences will certainly be excited to see them return to the stage in 2017.
Lonely wanderlust on I-81, getaway cravings, grace, and the satisfaction of daily life are no strangers in the music of the original rock Clymer Kurtz Band. In live performance and throughout their discography, the group's woven harmonies and nuanced lyrics over emotionally intelligent musicianship beg repeated listening. Before retiring from his WEMC show Mel Lee's Songbag, Lee wrote that the Clymer Kurtz Band's songwriting "has a high level of originality: lyrically, melodically and emotionally. Their vocal harmonies are striking, and their arrangements are fresh." Formed in 2009, the Rockingham County-based act is a culmination of backgrounds spanning country, choral, hard rock, jazz and bluegrass. The band's first release, Statements and Clues, was quickly followed by the full-length Arms Uncrossed; the eight selections on the 2014 crowd-funded Rain command attention as an intricately themed, mature collection.
Lucas Schrock-Hurst has been writing catchy, poignant and spontaneous songs since 2008. In July, 2013 he was struck by lightning. He lived to appreciate the stage name.
Reviews of Lightning Lucas:
Amidst the flood of new singer-songwriters out there, every once in a great while someone makes me stop and listen. I never miss a chance to hear another Lightning Lucas song. You shouldn’t either.” -John McCutcheon
Such verve! -Jinny Batterson. Cary, NC
Skilled lyricist, evocative voice, talent. Reminds me of Bright Eyes... but better. -Linda Erday, Greensboro, NC
Totally original voice and lyrics. Blew me away. -Steve Metzger, Chico, CA
...Brilliant. -Hali Hammer, Berkeley, CA
...Spoke to my condition, to use a Quaker expression. -Meg Skinner, Madison, WI
He sounds like Bob Dylan. That can't be bad. -Catsy Fairlee, Catatti, CA
He sounds better than Bob Dylan, and his songs are genius. -Kate Canan, Grassvalley, CA
The mountain dulcimer is a distinctive and attractive instrument native to Appalachia, and it has as many different nicknames as the different hills and hollers in which it has been played. If you are unfamiliar with the "harmonium", "music box", "mountain zither," or "hog fiddle", the Blue Ridge Mountain Dulcimer Players will be the perfect introduction for you. Brought together by their love for mountain music and sharing it in an authentically relaxed and inviting style, Blue Ridge Mountain Dulcimer Players will welcome you up onto Aunt Erma's front porch so you can sit a spell, enjoy the summer air, and take in the sweet strains of the mountain dulcimer.