Mountain Stage with Kathy Mattea
Featuring Hot Tuna, Mick Flannery, Viv & Riley, William Lee Ellis, and Kaia Kater
June 16, 2021
Join Grammy-winning country and bluegrass star Kathy Mattea for an episode of Mountain Stage recorded live from the Fife Theatre. Airing on nearly 300 public radio stations across America, the radio show features performances from seasoned legends and emerging stars in genres ranging from traditional roots, folk, blues, and country to indie rock, alternative, synth pop, world music, and beyond.
About Hot Tuna
The name Hot Tuna invokes as many different moods and reactions as there are Hot Tuna fans — millions of them. To some, Hot Tuna is a reminder of some wild and happy times. To others, that name will forever be linked to their own discovery of the power and depth of American blues and roots music. To newer fans, Hot Tuna is a tight, masterful duo that is on the cutting edge of great music.
All of those things are correct, and more. For more than four decades, Hot Tuna has played, toured, and recorded some of the best and most memorable acoustic and electric music ever. And Hot Tuna is still going strong — some would say stronger than ever.
It has been said that the music Jack and Jorma play was transformative and that they injected an energy into their sound full of constant improvisation taking the compass on a joyride.
It is still their plan to continue in their original duo format. They are not retiring from touring, but the electric lineup of this long-lived incarnation is going fishing for a while. The road may not go on forever, but the destination is still beyond the horizon. Friends, this is the year to catch them as ‘Electric Tuna.’ They will be inviting companions old and new to join us and hope that you will, too.
About Mick Flannery
With his warm, textured voice and rootsy songwriting aesthetic, Ireland's Mick Flannery burst onto the international scene in 2005 with his debut album, Evening Train. The record won praise and showcased Flannery's sound, which was drawn from American folk, rock, and Irish traditions. He built upon his initial buzz, hitting the Top Ten in Ireland with albums like 2008's White Lies, 2012's Red to Blue, and 2016's I Own You.
Born in 1983, Flannery grew up in Blarney, County Cork, where he was introduced to folk and blues music at a young age by his mother, a singer/songwriter. By his teens he was writing his own songs inspired by an eclectic mix of artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Nirvana. After high school, he worked days as a stone mason while further developing his talents by taking a music management and production course at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa in Cork. Following his time at school, Flannery embarked on a tour of America, a trip that found him spending time in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Nashville, where he earned grassroots praise for his evocative, literate songs. Returning to Ireland, he issued his debut album, 2005's Evening Train. Written as part of a project for Flannery's music production course and initially conceived as a musical about two brothers, Evening Train was released to widespread acclaim and helped land Flannery a contract with EMI.
The songwriter's sixth long-player, the eponymously titled Mick Flannery, arrived in 2019. Produced in Los Angeles with Australia's Tony Buchen, the album peaked at number one in Ireland. Also that year, he saw Evening Train turned into a stage musical that debuted at the Cork Midsummer Festival. In May 2020 Flannery released the single Run a Mile to help raise awareness of domestic abuse. All proceeds from the track went to support the Women's Aid charity organization. A concert album, Alive: Cork Opera House 2019, arrived that July and documented Flannery's sold-out performance at the venue.
About Viv & Riley
Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno play old-soul roots music, fluidly melding a backbone of Appalachian traditional music with fresh iconic melodies and the tightly wound vocal harmonies of indie folk.
Both Leva and Calcagno, now just out of college, grew up steeped in old-time music, Leva in Lexington, Virginia and Calcagno in Seattle, Washington. After meeting in 2016 they soon collaborated on Leva’s debut record, Time is Everything, which Rolling Stone wrote “shone a light on the past without giving up its place in the present.”
In support of the record, they embarked on an extensive tour that stretched to the most northern reaches of Canada and overseas to Europe. Over the course of these varied and occasionally lonesome shows and travels, the pair developed their collaboration into a distinct sound that led to the imagination and writing of their new eponymous record, Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno, out now on Free Dirt Records.
About William Lee Ellis
Acclaimed Americana/blues guitarist William Lee Ellis was raised in the deep roots of American music. Named after his godfather, legendary bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, Ellis grew up in a musical family — his father, Tony Ellis, was one of Monroe's Blue Grass Boys.
Growing up in Kingsport, Tennessee, was as close to bluegrass heaven as you could get — some of Ellis' earliest memories include trips to Appalachian musician Tommy Jarrell's home with his father and being bounced on his godfather's knee. It was only natural for him to take up the guitar, and Ellis spent his adolescence backing his fiddle- and banjo-playing dad at bluegrass festivals and contests across the country.
In college, Ellis took his musical studies in a new direction, spending the better part of a decade playing classical guitar and earning a master's degree in classical performance from the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music (CCM). While there, Ellis chanced upon a musician who would change his life: Piedmont blues giant Reverend Gary Davis. Folk-blues revivalist Andy Cohen introduced Ellis to Davis' intricate finger-picking style, which fascinated the classically-trained guitarist. "Davis was a great sacred bluesman, and that's a genre I love dearly," Ellis says. "A combination of the heavenly and the hellish … full of tension and drama."
His discovery led Ellis to other bluesmen — Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Willie McTell. Soon, Ellis had a band of his own, the Midnight Steppers, an acoustic Delta/jug band/rockabilly group that included longtime collaborator and compadre Larry Nager. In the late '80s, the Steppers performed regionally at festivals and on such national radio and TV programs as NPR's Mountain Stage and TNN's Nashville Now.
Along the way, Ellis learned to combine Davis' finger-picking technique with his classical performance background and the bluegrass-infused memories of his youth. Yet it's clear that he's no revivalist — Ellis writes his own unique music, using old blues forms as a vocabulary to express contemporary experiences. In his quest to capture the timeless appeal of pre-war blues and to make the music's message live for today, Ellis has created a brand of Americana/roots music that's all his own.
About Kaia Kater
Montreal-born Grenadian-Canadian Kaia Kater's jazz-fueled voice and deft songcraft have garnered acclaim from NPR's Tiny Desk, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and No Depression. Through her artful banjo playing and lush songwriting, Kater draws on influences rooted in Quebec, the Caribbean, and Appalachia, all of which reflect the diversity of her background; her family’s deep ties to the Canadian folk music scene; her college years spent soaking up Appalachian music in West Virginia; and her father’s experience growing up in Grenada, arriving in Canada in 1986, after the U.S. invasion.
Kater released her first EP, Old Soul (2013), when she was just out of high school. Since then, she’s gone on to release three more albums, Sorrow Bound (2015), Nine Pin (2016), and Grenades (2018). For the JUNO-nominated and Polaris Music Prize long-listed Grenades, Kater leaned into a wide array of sounds and styles in order to convey a broad range of emotions and topics, most notably her Caribbean ancestry and her father’s experience as a refugee in Canada. In 2020 Kater took part in the Slaight Music Residency at the Canadian Film Center, released a new single, and wrote original music for The Porter (BET+ 2022), for which she garnered a Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Song in a Drama Series. Kater's next album, recorded in Montreal with Joe Grass as co-producer, will land in late 2023.
About Mountain Stage
On the air for almost 40 years, Mountain Stage is an institution and one of the most beloved and enduring programs in public radio history, broadcasting thousands of unforgettable live performances. Produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting, hosted by Mattea, and distributed by NPR Music, each two-hour episode of Mountain Stage can be heard every week on NPR stations across the country and around the world via NPR Music.
A two-time Grammy winner from West Virginia, Mattea has performed on the show more times than any other female artist, second to fellow West Virginia native Tim O'Brien, and co-hosted the show several times before taking over hosting responsibilities full time in 2021.
Some of the most iconic Mountain Stage guests over the years have included Regina Spektor, John Prine, Odetta, Wilco, R.E.M., Angélique Kidjo, Phish, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint, Alison Krauss, Townes Van Zandt, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, and Buddy Guy.
This performance is supported in part by gifts from Ms. Elizabeth Hahn and Mr. Douglas Chancey and Erv Blythe.
Mountain Stage is produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and distributed by NPR Music.
Kathy Mattea first performed at the Moss Arts Center in 2014. This is the first Mountain Stage performance at the Moss Arts Center.