Just when you needed a post-holiday pick-me-up, John Gage is bringing his Kentucky Homefront radio show to the Grand Theatre Friday, 7:30 p.m. The live taping promises to be a window into the musical life of Frankfort, featuring Stirfry Musette and special guests Jeri Katherine Howell and Molly Rogers.
Gage is a Louisville-based folk singer/songwriter and veteran stage emcee who hosts monthly live tapings of Homefront radio airing on Louisville’s WFPK 91.9 FM. The show traditionally features the best of acoustic, folk, traditional, blues, country and bluegrass musicians as well as storytellers. Producers have a longstanding commitment to local and regional artists.
Gage has followed the restoration of the Grand Theatre with great interest and hopes to raise awareness of the theater in the Louisville area through this event.
The Homefront taping will be mostly about music, although former Kentucky poet laureate Richard Taylor will offer a short poem. Then things get stirred up.
Jeff Ellis, guitarist for Stirfry Musette said members of the group like to “stir things up and fry them.” Adding Musette to the moniker distinguishes the group from food, in the world of Google searches. Expect a gourmet musical mix of originals, Americana, gypsy jazz and Latin acoustic music.
Ellis is a mostly self-taught musician who has shared his talents with many local groups: The Tone Poets, COCO Yam and Mingoze Riff. Son Jordan plays percussion for Stirfry as well as touring and recording with Ben Sollee, multi-talented cellist and singer/songwriter.
Joanna Hay is the Hay of Hay and Pond, who with Greg Pond entertained local audiences with Celtic jigs and gypsy tunes several years ago. She studied violin at the University of Louisville as a high school student and played in the Louisville Youth Orchestra.
Local piano tuner and rebuilder Ben Griffith is an accordionist and bass player for Stirfry. Audiences may remember him from the Bald Knob String Band and currently the Peach Pie Band.
Stirfry Musette and friends will introduce their latest CD, “No String Unturned.”
Jordan Ellis mixed, recorded and played on the CD. The elder Ellis wrote many of the songs. Most are original tunes, with a couple of covers.Hay describes the music as upbeat, lively and fun.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” she said, “but we take our music very seriously.”
The widely distributed photograph of a Pike County soldier in Iraq smoking a cigarette served as inspiration for Jeff Ellis to write an especially poignant piece titled “Bluegrass Boy in Baghdad.” Ellis and Jeri Katherine Howell collaborated on the lyrics for “Love at Play” with Howell doing the vocals. “No Silver Spoon” is a tune Ellis began writing many years ago, but just recently finished.
Ben Sollee and guest Molly Rogers are also featured on the CD.
KNOWN AS YOUNGSTERS
Guest performers Rogers and Howell became known to Frankfort music lovers as little more than youngsters.
Rogers began violin at age 5, moved on to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory and then to the Cleveland Institute of Music. She appeared twice as a soloist with the Louisville Orchestra, among her other credits.
Today Rogers lives in Los Angeles and earns her living as a musician, playing weddings, corporate gigs, doing studio work and playing in a couple of rock bands. She has recorded a CD with one of the bands, “Wise Cab.”
Rogers “blames” Stirfry friends Hay and the Ellises for her move from strictly classical music performance to a more eclectic mix. She was terrified the first time she jammed with Stirfry at a private Christmas party as a 13-year-old and later as a stand-in for Hay, but she ultimately took their advice to “let loose and have fun.” She’s never looked back.
Jeff Ellis was awed by the beautiful voice of then 13-year-old Howell singing at the Grand Theatre. Knowing her keen interest in the environment, he wrote “Change Our Ways” for her, a song she has performed many times at benefit appearances.
Howell has shown amazing maturity and creativity in her own songwriting. She has played with Stirfry as well as many local and regional artists and recorded a CD.
Howell is a freshman at Centre College where she performs with the KY Music Ensemble, a student group playing traditional tunes. She’s working on another CD.
She owes much, she said, to the experience with Stirfry musicians who pushed her out of her folk comfort zone and taught her a lot about performance.
The musical life of Frankfort has benefited from the wealth of local talent, the opening of the Grand Theatre in 2006 and the ability of downtown Frankfort’s Kentucky Coffeetree Cafe to attract and nurture amazing musicians from near and far.
Friday’s performance is a Folk Club of Frankfort and Paul Elsey Roots Music/Storytelling Fund partnership event.