CAMP STREET CAFÉ
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As the first light of the day peeks over the Chesapeake Bay, Mike Aiken steps off his boat and walks down the dock to load his bus (band
schooner) for another run. It’s a scene that’s often repeated but this time he’ll be driving down to Key West with his video crew to shoot footage for his next music video. This is just another day for Aiken.
Some days, you’ll find him writing a song onboard his sailboat, Ocean Girl. On others he might be in Nashville rehearsing with his band or cutting tracks in the studio. On others he might be hosting a songwriting workshop or sailing seminar with his wife, Amy. Or you may not find him stateside at all. Aiken’s love for singing, songwriting, and sailing has taken him all over the world.
Originally from a rural area outside of Buffalo, New York, Mike Aiken is no stranger to hard work. As he says, “My days of being a dirt-dweller, from self-sufficient farming, shoeing horses, raising animals and the battle of too much snow taught me how to make a life with my own hands.”
This experience is priceless and Aiken continues to apply these principles daily. A love for music has always been with him and he honed his skills playing in Blues, Southern Rock, and Country bands in Western NY. Mike’s solo career as a songwriter and artist began when he stopped playing in bands and sailed away to distant shores.
The spark for sailing did not ignite until he was a young man working in the inner-city of Buffalo. Aiken could often be found having his lunch on the breakwall of Lake Erie, watching the boats come and go. He quickly realized that if he could get a boat, outfit it properly and learn to navigate, he could go down the Erie Canal, out the Hudson River into the ocean and anywhere in the world. He laughs as he tells the story of the day he bought his first boat. The engine in his old Dodge van had just blown up, he opened the classified ads to look for another vehicle and bought a sailboat instead! It was the true freedom of the open water that brought Aiken out of the cold Great Lakes and eventually to the shores of coastal Virginia, where he resides on his sailboat today. A United States Coast Guard captain, he has sailed tens of thousands of offshore miles along with his wife Amy, making stops along the Canadian Maritimes, US coast, Caribbean and Europe.
For Mike, songwriting and sailing have always gone hand in hand. “There is an honesty and realism I don’t find anywhere else but at sea and on a sailboat,” Aiken comments. “It is most certainly not a lifestyle for everyone but it suits me. There is no whining and no one to count on (or
blame) but yourself. Mother Nature and the sea just don’t allow it. It’s the hard working, salt-of-the-earth people I’ve met along the waterfronts around the world who tend to work their way into my songwriting. They remind me of the folks I knew who work the farms and rodeos. They have the same outlook on life, the same strengths and values. It’s the captains and cowboys I’m drawn to. I like being on the move and saltwater tends to run in my veins.”
A songwriter’s arsenal is only as extraordinary as the life they have lived and Mike Aiken has lived! From the Newfie fisherman he met on the docks in Halifax to the Brazilian finger-stylist he traded licks with on seawall in Horta, Azores, he has a vast collection of colorful experiences from places as familiar as your local small town to exotic corners of the world. The inspiration for his songs come from these experiences and the diverse cast of characters that he has met along the way. Aiken’s songs are crafted in different settings, from solo writing sessions while afloat to intimate, back porch collaborations with some of the finest writers in Nashville. His mastery of varied stringed instruments – National steel, baritone, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin – influences how he writes each song as each instrument speaks differently to him. These rich and varied elements have contributed to a catalogue of music that cannot be defined by one genre or style. Aiken’s songs are so diverse, so honest, that they speak to a global audience and have garnered both success on the charts as well as critical acclaim from the media and his peers.
A positive outlook, a spirit for adventure and a life rich with unforgettable experiences are things Mike Aiken shares in his live performances. The well-travelled troubadour entertains audiences with his spirited band, intimate acoustic sessions and everything in between.
His simple love for life is evident in the smile on his face and gentle manner. Meeting him, most think that they have known him all of their lives. His fan base is as diverse as his catalogue of songs and he grows loyal fans wherever he goes. Each year he spends time in Europe performing live and reconnecting with family and friends. No matter the performance, Aiken remains approachable and never leaves a venue until he has connected with every fan waiting to meet him.
“Songwriting is a personal experience for folks of all ages and I’m honored to be able to help others with the process. I’ve been fortunate over the years for all the inspirational characters who have wandered into my life and left me with bits of wisdom.” Aiken recognizes the lessons he has learned are meant to be shared. Through songwriting workshops, he is able to connect with fans on a deeper level, share his own journey and help them with their own. Aiken’s outreach is not limited to his experiences as a songwriter. He and his wife Amy, who joins him on stage playing percussion, and has been his shipmate for over 30,000 offshore miles, help other boat enthusiasts realize the dream of sailing offshore for long distances. Together they host what they have dubbed the “songinar,” which provides valuable insight into sailing long distances or outfitting a sailboat for ocean passage while entertaining participants with their stories and songs of the sea.
In addition Aiken hosts an annual festival where he brings together his love of songwriting and his passion for positive influence. “As a kid, I was a hell-raiser and gave my poor parents and teachers a real challenge. It’s music that kept me straight, out of the ditch and focused.” Smithfield Music’s Aiken & Friends Fest, whose mission is youth music education and celebrating the songwriter, is another avenue for Mike to give back. The idea came to him while sailing back from the Bahamas. Aiken imagined how wonderful it would be to have a festival of original music that you could sail to – and this is it. In its 9th year, taking place in Smithfield, Virginia in October, the festival celebrates the songwriter, with original music and workshops.
As an artist who comes by his stories honestly, Aiken has definitely taken his place among well-respected songwriters and musicians in the Americana and Country communities. Captains & Cowboys, Aiken’s sixth studio album, has received critical acclaim from media and peers in the United States as well as overseas including a first-round GRAMMY nomination. The album, which Aiken co-produced with Dan Baird (Georgia
Satellites) and Ben Strano (Jack Sundrud/Poco,) has established Aiken’s presence as songwriter and artist in multiple genres. Various songs have been chosen for compilations and “Chesapeake” was chosen by Sports Illustrated magazine as one of the Top 40 Sports Songs of All Time. He has had five Top 30 singles on the radio in the US and Europe. He has written and produced music for Raceline, America’s only weekly syndicated show about NASCAR racing, and penned the ‘On The Road”
articles for Singer & Musician Magazine. Aiken always finds time to give back to the community with his philanthropic projects that include the annual Aiken & Friends Fest and the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race that benefits environmental concerns. He is an active endorsee for Takamine Guitars, Ovation Guitars and Mandolins, TKL/Cedar Creek Custom Cases and Levi’s Jeans.
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Austin, Texas duo Albert and Gage (Christine Albert and Chris Gage) have a personal and musical chemistry that radiates from the stage. The joy they experience making music together is evident as they travel through their musical roots, moving from country and folk to blues and French chansons. The integrity of their musicianship and the rare blend of their voices create a unique and cohesive sound as Gage effortlessly switches from guitar to piano and accordion throughout their set to follow the mood of the music.
Christine Albert has been described as a “wondrous singer with a beautiful focus and unrestrained grace”, and had a prolific recording career as a solo artist before meeting Gage, including the acclaimed “Texafrance” series, a bilingual tribute to her European family. Chris Gage toured with Red Willow Band, Roy Clark and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and is currently playing guitar with Jerry Jeff Walker.
Since teaming up in 1996 they have released six albums on their own MoonHouse Records label and built the successful MoonHouse Studio, where Gage maintains a full schedule as an in demand producer and musician.
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Pipp Gillette lives and works on the family ranch near Lovelady, Texas, where his grandfather started raising cattle and cotton in 1912. Pipp and his late brother Guy received the Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Album of 2011 and the 2013 Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Original Western Composition for their performance of the Waddie Mitchell song "Trade Off.” Drawing on a lifelong interest in Western history and music, Pipp plays traditional cowboy music on guitar, banjo, harmonica and bones. Pipp’s newest CD Singing Songs by Waddie and Pipp received the Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Traditional Western Album of 2016.
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Music by Kasey with literary interludes from Joe!!
It’s not every day that a small-town Texas girl gets to record with Grammy Award-winning producer John
Carter Cash, who has produced legends such as Loretta Lynn, George Jones, and Willie Nelson, but
Country Blues artist Kasey Lansdale is the exception. Her current release, “Living in the Moment” from
the EP Leave Her Wild, promises to be an even bigger success than her previous recording.
In 2013, she was given a unique opportunity to record her first studio album, Restless, in the historic
Cash Cabin Studio with John Carter Cash. Producer Mike Clute assisted in starting the project, with
Lansdale, then Cash added the final touches. The CD features 11 tracks highlighted by her smoky twang
with seven of her own self-penned songs including “Sorry Ain’t Enough” and “Blame You for Trying.” She
is often compared to either Reba McEntire or Patsy Cline. Cash says of Kasey, “I believe in Kasey and
what she is doing musically and as a human being. She has the drive, talent and spirit to make it
happen….” Thus, he produced her sophomore CD in its entirety.
Lansdale will once again tour in support of the record. She successfully performed both nationally and
internationally following the release of Restless at large events and festivals such as SXSW, the
Halogaland Music Festival in Norway, and The Piacenza Blues Festival in Italy. The second half of
the Restless Roadtrip, took her across the nation in early 2014.
Her music has been featured in several films including Cold in July, starring award-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Christmas with the Dead, where she made her first big screen debut portraying Ella, the protagonist’s wife. Her song, “Falling In and Out (of Love)” was heard in Hap and Leonard (Sundance)
With early childhood memories of singing along to Reba’s Greatest Hits and listening to groups like the Contours with her father, famed author Joe R. Lansdale and his love of music was contagious. Kasey started writing her own compositions at the tender age of seven. “Singing was my first true love.”
Lansdale penned all of the songs on the current record. In addition to being a talented songwriter, she is also a gifted creative writer who, at the age of eight wrote her first short story, which was published by Random House. “I was hooked on writing from that point forward,” she says.
In July of 2013, Lansdale’s first anthology, entitled “Impossible Monsters,” was released, and she has completed her first novel, “One More Than the Devil.” She also wrote the title track for the digital version of the novel Edge of Dark Water (Mulholland Publishing).
With several accomplishments under her belt at a young age, Lansdale was introduced to a guitar player who happened to be her next-door neighbor. They began writing and singing together and were offered their first paid gig at Banita Creek Hall in Nacogdoches, Texas, their hometown. Thus, a musical career was born. Other bookings followed including local fairs and festivals. Her original band was called Kasey Lansdale and the Daletones, named after her uncle’s Sun Records recording group, The Daletones. In time, she began making frequent trips to Nashville to write and record and, through an invaluable network she built, doors started to open. In Nashville, her industry recognition grew and she began to play her music there and across the country.
Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories. His work has appeared in national anthologies, magazines, and collections, as well as numerous foreign publications. He has written for comics, television, film, newspapers, and Internet sites. His work has been collected in more than two dozen short-story collections, and he has edited or co-edited over a dozen anthologies. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. His novella Bubba Ho-Tep was adapted to film by Don Coscarelli, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis. His story "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" was adapted to film for Showtime's "Masters of Horror," and he adapted his short story "Christmas with the Dead" to film hisownself. The film adaptation of his novel Cold in July was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and the Sundance Channel has adapted his Hap & Leonard novels for television.
He is currently co-producing several films, among them The Bottoms, based on his Edgar Award-winning novel, with Bill Paxton and Brad Wyman, and The Drive-In, with Greg Nicotero. He is Writer In Residence at Stephen F. Austin State University, and is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan: Martial Science and its affiliate, Shen Chuan Family System. He is a member of both the United States and International Martial Arts Halls of Fame. He lives in Nacogdoches, Texas with his wife, dog, and two cats.
Grammy Nominated songster DON EDWARDS continues to build a legacy that enriches our vision of the American West. In tales of the day-to-day lives and emotions of those who lived it, his ballads paint a sweeping landscape of both mind and heart, bringing to life the sights, sounds and feelings of this American contribution to culture and art. The quality of this cowboy balladeer's music stems from the fact that he is
so much more than a singer. Bobby Weaver of the National Cowboy Hall
of Fame in Oklahoma City, summed up Edwards' importance as "the best purveyor of cowboy music in America today."
An historian, author and musicologist, unusually well-versed in cowboy lore and musical traditions, Don brings a rare complement of knowing and loving his craft. Mostly though, there is the soul of a poet, a man who has never succumbed to the temptations
of presenting a glamorized or romanticized version of the West.
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Storyteller, songwriter and picture-book maker, David Massengill "emigrated" from Tennessee to the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1976 with a dulcimer and a dream of bohemian nirvana. His songwriting style ranges from tragic mountain ballads to the lure of tender love songs and iconic political narratives. His songs have been recorded by Joan Baez, David Bromberg, Chad Mitchell, The Roches, Lucy Kaplansky, Tom Russell, Nanci Griffith and his mentor, Dave Van Ronk, who once said David "took the dull out of dulcimer." Credits include six cds, 11 bootlegs, 15 books, movie score, school programs. In 2016 the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill offered to archive his works. He accepted and joins his friends and heroes Dave Van Ronk, Bill Morrissey and Mike Seeger as a member. He once chased a bobcat and visa versa.
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