Joe Walsh, Homegrown Powerhouse Musician

by Ted Heinonen

For hometown boy Joe Walsh, roots music isn’t made in a vacuum. It’s the creation of a community, of a circle of friends, of a teacher and a student. It’s something to be passed back and forth to be treasured. As an acclaimed master of American roots music, mandolinist and songwriter Joe K. Walsh knows this better than most. He’s toured with countless artists, collaborated with other master musicians like Darol anger and the Gibson Brothers, founded progressive stringband Joy Kills sorrow in the early 2000s, and is currently on faculty at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. His new album, Borderland, is an exercise in subtlety and careful creation. Turning through songs he wrote, or setting the words of Yeats to music, and picking out instrumental tunes of his own creation, Walsh plays and sings with the kind of ease that comes from years of practice and creation.

The touch of sawdust in his vocals, or the buzz of the mandolin strings may hint at the deep rural roots of this music, but what he’s creating now is a new kind of tradition. 
His first inspiration came as a teenager growing up in Duluth when he heard David Grisman, and then again when first hearing Del McCoury. The music he heard at that young age opened a window to new harmonic possibilities, and started Walsh exploring how to create new American roots music. What’s surprising then is that his new album is no act of wild fusion. Instead, it’s a joyful exploration of just why he loves this old music so much in the first place. With mastery comes restraint. With nothing left to prove, Walsh has dived deeper into the tradition, seeking to craft new music from old roots. 

Joe returns to Duluth and brings with him some of the finest musicians for an evening of contemporary acoustic music.

Darol Anger
Darol Anger
Grant Gordy, Danny Barns, Joe Walsh
Grant Gordy, Danny Barns, Joe Walsh

Legendary fiddler Darol Anger is at home in a number of musical genres, some of which he helped to invent, and is a member of the original “nuclear” generation of pickers (the original David Grisman Quintet)who extended Bluegrass, Jazz, and Classical music to find their common ground. 

Banjo master innovator Danny Barns who’s earned high praise from everybody from Bill Frisell and Dave Matthews to Steve Martin, who also presented Danny with the Prize for Excellence in Banjo in 2015. From the days with his groundbreaking Austin band, the Bad Livers, to his two decade solo career experimenting with electronic music, jazz, old time string band music and more; he’s an artist not to miss. 

Bryn Davies is a multi-instrumentalist eventually settling on the cello and upright bass and has proven herself as one of the most in-demand bassists in Nashville and has an extensive discography, playing on records with legends such as Jack White, Guy Clark, and The Peter Rowan & Tony Rice Quartet. Bryn has toured with such luminaries as Patty Griffin, Jack White, The Tony Rice Unit, Darrell Scott, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, and Jim Lauderdale. 

Grant Gordy is a standout in the crowded field of Acoustic Guitar Wunderkinds. Grant’s work has been widely recognized for its kaleidoscopic excellence and startling emotion, fusing Jazz and Bluegrass concepts to an unprecedented degree. He has held the guitar chair in the legendary David Grisman Quintet for six years, he’s also worked alongside such musical luminaries as Edgar Meyer, Steve Martin, and Tony Trischka. Grant has performed all over North America and Europe, everywhere from Carnegie Hall to Montreal Jazz Festival; Jazz at Lincoln Center to Bonnaroo. 

KUMD & Chef Presents are hosting this all-star cast of string musicians for its inaugural event SOUND:Sessions 1.  It will be held   on Friday December 15  9:00pm. at SOUND: Duluth 132 east Superior St. Duluth, MN. Tickets are $25.00 and available at Brown Paper Tickets, Fitger’s brewhouse beer store and Electric fetus.