singer / songwriter

Varsity Center Balcony Theater • Carbondale: Fiddle Rick Johnson / Cash / Matt Borowicz (singer / songwriter showcase)

Fiddle Rick - Raise Your Glass - You Never Know...

Raise Your Glass

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Fiddle Rick - You Never Know - You Never Know...

You Never Know

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Fiddle Rick Johnson - Carolina - Southern Illinois


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Fiddle Rick Johnson - Children Come Home - Children Come Home

Children Come Home

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Fiddle Rick Johnson - Same Moon - Can I Hear It?

Same Moon

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Fiddle Rick Johnson - Stealin' Glances - Southern Illinois

Stealin' Glances

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Fiddle Rick Johnson - Violin Song - Children Come Home

Violin Song

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Fiddle Rick Johnson - Work + Pray - Can I Hear It?

Work + Pray

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Angel Rhodes: Her Time, Her Terms

Venues & Businesses
Von Jakob Vineyard
Walker's Bluff

Who: Angel Rhodes
What: singer / songwriter
When: 2017-04-08 - 2017-04-09
Ever the writer, Evansville, Indiana’s Angel Rhodes keeps a pen and paper on hand just in case.
Leah Williams
Video Comentary

Ever the writer, Evansville, Indiana’s Angel Rhodes keeps a pen and paper on hand just in case.

“I keep a notebook where I will write different words or phrases that strike me,” Rhodes told Nightlife. “Then when I am in the mood to write a certain kind of song, I’ll look for what I have that might fit with what I’m writing.”

Rhodes performs Saturday, April 8 at Von Jakob Orchard and Sunday, April 9 at Walker’s Bluff. The budding roots singer and songwriter is making a name for herself on the regional music scene with a powerhouse voice and lyrics with which listeners are able to connect and personally identify in meaningful ways.

Growing up, Rhodes recalled dreaming of a life in the spotlight. She said she would prance around with a pretend microphone and belt out tunes. As she got older, however, the dream seemed harder to achieve, so Rhodes went to college, earned a bachelor degree in marketing, and landed a “real-world job” in corporate America.

“You come to the point where you think you should be heading down a certain path and doing certain things, and I did them because I thought I had to,” Rhodes said.

But she wasn’t happy. Rhodes kept working, but she knew something was missing. After the death of her older brother, Rhodes realized that she needed to return to music.

In 2012, a friend told her that a local rock and blues band was looking for a new singer. Rhodes passed her audition with Deja Blu 5, and together they have been rocking the Evansville music scene ever since.

“I’m so blessed to have found them,” Rhodes said. “I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without their influence.”

Rhodes started venturing off and performing acoustic shows in 2014, and it was not long after that she realized she could attain those young aspirations of singing. In June 2015, she made the leap to become a full-time professional musician, playing two to five shows every week, and she hasn’t looked back.

Rhodes said fans who are able to resonate with something she has written have approached her. She recalled one man inspired by her song “Bump in the Road.”

“He told me how much the song helped him through his PTSD,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, how he was able to connect with it.’”

Rhodes said one major goal is to write songs for other artists. She added that her writing could suit other singers and songwriters who have their own voices and something to say. In the ideal world, she would collaborate with them.

“I would [soil] my pants if Alicia Keys ever did one of my songs,” she said, laughing.

Now that her childhood dreams have become reality, Rhodes said she feels fulfilled.

“I’m now coming up on two years of doing music full-time,” she said. “I really can’t see myself doing anything else.”

For more information or to listen to music, check out <>.

who: Angel Rhodes

what: singer / songwriter

where: Von Jakob Orchard; Walker’s Bluff


when: Saturday, April 8; Sunday, April 9

Craig Wayne Boyd: The Voice Comes to Southern Illinois

Venues & Businesses
Alto Vineyards

Who: Craig Wayne Boyd / Towne
What: singer / songwriter; country-western
When: 2016-10-23
Texas singer/songwriter Craig Wayne Boyd will give a live concert Sunday, October 23 at 3 p.m. at Al
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

Texas singer/songwriter Craig Wayne Boyd will give a live concert Sunday, October 23 at 3 p.m. at Alto Vineyards, along with Nashville-based country duo Towne.

Those who don’t recognize Boyd’s gritty, soulful country vocals from his debut single, “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face,” which skyrocketed to number one on Billboard’s Hot Country Chart in 2015, may certainly recognize his smooth, Keith Urban-ish good looks from his sweeping success on season seven of NBC’s musical competition show The Voice, where he became the face of Team Blake and the season’s eventual winner.

But what fans of the show may not realize is that Boyd’s success was the result of more than ten years of hard work and a lifetime of dedication to music. It began in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Texas, where Boyd grew up listening to country and gospel music. He learned a variety of instruments and further honed his vocal skills as an active member of his local church’s choir, of which he eventually became director. Yet while Boyd’s musical and family roots were still in Texas, his eyes and musical dreams were set on the bright lights of Music City, U.S.A.

In 2004, at the age of twenty-five, Boyd relocated to Nashville, where he landed a songwriting deal with EMI. During the next ten years the singer saw minor success with the release of an independent self-titled album in 2008, and a second independent album, Ain’t No Quitter, in 2013. In addition to recording and a series of one-night solo gigs, Boyd opened for country-music heavy hitters Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, and Brantley Gilbert.

But the years of one-night gigs and dry spells between tours created financial pressures that almost drove Boyd to the brink of abandoning his musical dreams. He was homeless, he told the Nashville Tennessean. Unable to provide for his son, he told his drummer it was time to quit music.

The next day, the struggling songwriter received an invitation to audition for Blake Shelton’s The Voice. It changed both his personal and professional destinies, as his renditions of audience favorites “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Take It Easy,” and “I Walk the Line,” as well as his self-penned “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face,” took him to the top as the season’s eventual winner.

Following his victory on The Voice, Boyd signed to Universal Republic and Dot Records. His debut single, “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face,” sold about one-hundred-thousand downloads. Boyd was booked on a sixty-five city tour, which included a stop in Nashville and a debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry in 2015.

Shortly afterward, Boyd parted company with Dot Records and started his own label, Long Haul. His next album is projected for release in January 2017.

Joining Boyd at Alto Vineyard is the hard-hitting Nashville-based duo Towne. Pennsylvania-born music-theater major Steevie Steeves and Kentucky-bred Jon Decious (the former bassist for punk rockers the Pink Spiders) crossed paths at a seminar in Wyoming hosted by Grammy Award-winning songwriter Skip Ewing. Steeves and Decious felt instantaneous synergy and they realized they lived in the same Nashville neighborhood.

The influences of Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, and Carole King can be heard in their music, along with hints of good old dive-bar rock ‘n’ roll and hometown country. The duo’s debut album, Games We Play, was released in March.

VIP tickets (which include reserved seating and a meet-and-greet) are $45. General-admission tickets purchased in advance are $25 and $35 at the gate. For tickets, search for the event at <>.

For more information, visit <> or <>.

who: Craig Wayne Boyd / Towne

what: singer / songwriter; country-western

where: Alto Vineyards and Winery


when: Sunday, October 23

Marshall Anderson: A Path of White Lines and Bright Lights

Marshall Anderson
Ol' Moose
Tim Crosby and the Lightning Strikes

Ol' Moose (Doug Anderson)

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Ol' Moose (Doug Anderson)

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Ol' Moose (Doug Anderson)

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Ol' Moose

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Ol' Moose

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Venues & Businesses
Rustle Hill Winery

More Articles
Ol’ Moose Season: A New CD from the Bone Dry River Band Guitarist
Tim Crosby and the Lightning Strikes: A Musical Storm Sweeping over Southern Illinois

Who: Marshall Anderson / Ol’ Moose / Tim Crosby and the Lightning Strikes
What: CD release parties
When: 2016-04-16
In many ways, Marshall Anderson seems much like any other young man in Southern Illinois. When asked
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

words by Jeff Hale

pictures by Kevin Klimek

In many ways, Marshall Anderson seems much like any other young man in Southern Illinois. When asked how he feels about live performing, however, the twenty-first century troubador breaks into a vibrant smile, his barely twenty-nine-year-old eyes sparkle, and it becomes evident that Anderson is more than just your typical Carbondale coffeehouse customer.

“It’s why I do what I do,” he says with passion.

The singer/songwriter will celebrate the release of his cd, White Lines and Bright Lights, Saturday, April 16 at Rustle Hill Winery.

Music runs deep in Anderson’s blood. His father, Doug, who has spent the better part of the past four decades playing as Ol’ Moose, will appear alongside Anderson at Rustle Hill and celebrate the release of his own latest cd, Old Bastards and Sweethearts. Tim Crosby and the Lightning Strikes round out the bill.

After college, Anderson landed a comfortable salaried office job on his native east coast. The music bug that bit him in his childhood, however, would not turn him loose, so five years ago Anderson gave up everything, picked up his guitar, and immigrated to Southern Illinois, where he began his local career playing with the Bone Dry River Band. He joined forces with another wildly talented musical transplant, Janis Esch (now of the Storm Crows), to make haunting harmonies as the Voyageurs. And Anderson still plays with blues band the Whiskey Caper.

White Lines and Bright Lights marks a turning point for him.

“This is my first solo album,” Anderson tells Nightlife, “and I’m pretty excited and happy that it’s finally getting done. It’s been about three years in the making, and it’s nice to have it finished. When you’re trying to schedule everybody [for studio sessions] and they’re rehearsing for shows, it’s kind of hard to get everybody out to work on songs. But we got it done.”

Got it done they did. White Lines and Bright Lights, consisting of ten songs completely written by Anderson, combines heartfelt musicianship and the lyrics of a constantly searching and yearning poet. “Blue Norther,” which will cause listeners to flash back to Bob Dylan classics like “Girl from the North Country,” wraps around the ears and the heart like the comfort of a country quilt on windy autumn day as it tells of the bittersweet effects of young love. “One More Year in Aurora” is perhaps the album’s most country-flavored track, with aching steel guitar and the heartbreaking lyrics of a man living and drinking in an empty house, yearning for a lost love. “Tommy’s Song” takes listeners on a musical journey into the life of a man who struggles to simply make it as a husband and father, and Anderson’s rich low baritone wraps around each word.

One listen to “White Lines and Bright Lights” will explain to listeners why the song gives the album its title. For a dedicated musician, life is the stage and the highway. The song tells about the loneliness of life on the road and the ecstacy of life on the stage that keeps a troubador constantly chasing the perfect song and the perfect audience. The song’s spirit is summed up in its final line: “My music’s all that keeps me livin’ free.”

“I’m really struggling to describe the sound of this album,” Anderson says. “It didn’t sound the same when I finished it as it did in my head before making it. I usually describe my music to people as sort of being a mix of Americana and old country. But I’d say this album leans more along the lines of Gram Parsons than anything else. It leans more toward a smooth, laidback sound than it does a country or rock sound. Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, and Jason Isbell have all been huge influences on me. As far as guitar playing, I’d say Robbie Robertson and David Rollins have been the biggest influences. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Jackson Browne, because I’ve been trying to learn how to play slide guitar. Music has always been the one thing that I can’t stop doing.”

When asked which of his creative outlets means the most to him, Anderson flashes a smile and says there is no comparison.

“I’m a performer,” he says definitively. “I love it. I get a lot [out of an] audience. I think I play better. I get a lot of energy from the other band members, too. I love to listen to what is going on around me. But getting to perform my own songs is very powerful for me. It’s always amazing, even when you’re performing covers, to see how the audience reacts to something you’re doing, but when I get to perform something I’ve created and see how they react to it, it’s much more powerful. I love it. It’s why I do what I do.”

Anderson hopes that White Lines and Bright Lights will introduce audiences to a different side of him.

“The vast majority of the music scene around here may not even know that I write songs,” Anderson says. “I’ve been primarily seen as a backup guy or the guy who sings harmony with people. Or I’m the guy who plays the guitar. [The CD release is] actually a little nervewracking.... [M]y biggest hope for the album is that there is some stuff on there that people will really connect with on a personal level. I hope people will listen to it and say, ‘Yes, that’s how I’m feeling. This guy understands.’”

For more about Anderson, visit <>.

who: Marshall Anderson / Ol’ Moose / Tim Crosby and the Lightning Strikes

what: CD release parties

where: Rustle Hill Winery


when: Saturday, April 16

Walker's Bluff • Carterville: Violet Hour (singer / songwriter) / South of 70 (alternative country)

South of 70 - Farm - Future City


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South of 70 - Shot Down Again - Future City

Shot Down Again

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Ethan Stephenson: Carbondale Newcomer Finds a Home

Venues & Businesses
Newell House

Who: Ethan Stephenson
What: acoustic rock, singer / songwriter
When: 2016-02-05
Singer/songwriter Ethan Stephenson will appear in a series of live performances on the first and thi
Alex Kirt
Video Comentary

Singer/songwriter Ethan Stephenson will appear in a series of live performances on the first and third Fridays in the months of February, March, and April at the Newell House’s Grotto Lounge. Stephenson, currently a doctoral student in the SIU English Department, is a newcomer to the Carbondale music scene. Originally from Petersburg, Illinois, a town located north of Springfield, he completed his undergraduate degree at Eastern Illinois University in 2013, after which he completed his master degree in Greeley at the University of Northern Colorado in 2015.

Although he has only been in Carbondale for a short time, Stephenson has already begun making connections with some of the area’s resident musicians. “I really enjoy playing with Nate Graham and Gray Whaley,” Stephenson told Nightlife, “but I have also had the privilege of recently opening for Honey and Tar, Katie Foley’s new project, and for the Jenny Johnson Band, the former at Brews Brother’s Tap [Room] in Murphysboro and the latter at Hangar 9 in Carbondale. Nate Graham and Gray Whaley have been two of my favorite to perform with. Nate is a jack-of-all trades musician and Gray is a solid lead guitar player. Both I enjoy playing with, as it is always nice to have competent musicians around me who can add different dimensions to my music and my set.”

Aaron Chapman, a manager at the Grotto Lounge, heard Stephenson perform and came up with the idea of having him appear at the Grotto on a regular basis during the course of the next semester. “The Grotto Lounge has featured wine and appetizer specials on Friday nights since we took over the business in 2012,” Chapman explained, “and our intention is to complement them by capturing a solo acoustic winery-performance vibe. As far as music venues are concerned, we feel that the Grotto offers one of the most relaxing environments in Southern Illinois. During the winter months, when the wineries aren’t in full swing, that can be very hard to come by. My business partner and I had been kicking around this idea for a while when Ethan moved to town and started playing open mics. After seeing him perform, we decided that he would be a great fit.”

Stephenson elaborated on the concept, saying that “Currently, Aaron Chapman has asked me to play the first and third Friday of each month on a trial basis for the month of February and potentially into the spring. The gig is a pretty standard three-hour set from roughly 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Friday nights. I played at the Grotto on and off during the fall semester and am excited to get this regular gig.... This standing gig was Aaron’s brainchild, in which he was gracious enough to involve me. He and I both feel that, while the Grotto is known for its wonderful jazz night, a singer/songwriter program would also work well with the clientele and the venue, which is perfect for the kind of low-key music I play.”

Stephenson’s style is largely based in the singer/songwriter traditions of Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, and Townes Van Zandt, with a mellow musical sound and contemplative lyrics. “[My] other influences are Texas singer/songwriters such as Nanci Griffith and Tom Russell, Illinois bands such as Wilco, and I have recently been quite fond of Jason Isbell’s music,” Stephenson said. “My earliest experience with music, however, was with the Beatles and other sixties AM [radio] hits. I, in fact, have an album on iTunes with the band WhoKnew— my high-school band— that demonstrates the strong sixties pop sensibilities of my earliest writing. These songs are rather juvenile in theme and structure, but I am glad to have written them and recorded them for posterity.”

Is Stephenson drawn to this style because he feels that he’s got something to say, such as making political or social comments or criticisms, or perhaps is he drawn to this style because he has a desire to express his own life’s experiences in songs? What is it about the singer/songwriter genre that appeals to Stephenson and inspires him to adopt it as his chosen form of self-expression?

“Though it may sound selfish,” Stephenson said, “I have always played to ease my own conscience rather than to say anything political or social. I found though that in the eleven years that I have been playing live, people have enjoyed my music and that I could earn some extra cash doing so. In this regard, I prefer the live venue to the recorded, especially for the crowd connection that a live performance allows. I also like that live performances allow me the opportunity to play music with friends. I like the uncertainty of live performance as well, because in its free-form nature, I find that more beautiful music can be made, more spontaneous and more risky music than that which can be made through the necessarily rigidified nature of recorded music. For this reason, I do not have an album and do not have plans for recording one anytime soon. Of course, this might change, if I start to notice that crowds want to hear my work outside of a live venue.”

So, for the time being, those who want to enjoy Stephenson’s music should frequent his live performances. Visit Stephenson’s Facebook page for current, up-to-date information about his live-performance schedule, and of course read the Entertainment Guide right here in Nightlife.

who: Ethan Stephenson

what: acoustic rock

where: Newell House Grotto Lounge


when: Friday, February 5

Honey and Tar

Band Members
Katie Foley - ukulele/vocals - Tanner Troutman - guitar/bass/backup vocals
Contact Info

Matt Bednarsky: Music, Wine, and the Holiday Spirit

Venues & Businesses
Blue Sky Vineyard

Who: Matt Bednarsky
What: singer / songwriter, country-western
When: 2015-12-06
Few things get hearts into the holiday spirit like the sharing of music and good times with friends.
Jeff Hale
Video Comentary

Few things get hearts into the holiday spirit like the sharing of music and good times with friends. This weekend, Nashville singer/songwriter Matt Bednarsky will come Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6 to Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery.

Celebrating the release of his brand-new holiday EP collection Acoustic Tidings, Bednarsky’s soothing tenor voice has been charming audiences since he first put pen to paper as a songwriter at age twelve. A musical hybrid with roots coming from a classical-musician mother and a jazz-guitarist father, the Connecticut-born troubadour began his love affair with music by taking up voice and the violin when he could barely walk. The guitar followed soon after, and by the time he reached his teen years the musician was writing and recording his own original songs as a creative outlet.

After high school, Bednarsky enrolled at New York University, studying a handful of world languages as well as music and psychology. During his college years, the maturing singer expanded his musical and educational horizons by studying in Italy as well as in Peru, where he lived, worked, and studied in a Spanish orphanage for nearly a year.

Upon returning to the United States, Bednarsky completed his studies at New York University, where he graduated with honors. Following his college years, the singer found himself immersed and in love with the eclectic scene of New York’s famed Greenwich Village, where he lived while perfecting an acoustic musical style influenced by the classical and jazz of his roots, combined with the styles that he enjoyed during college. The result was earthy lyrics and memorable melodies, coupled with a voice that falls somewhere between Jim Croce and Michael Bublé. Soon the blond-haired crooner had built a following in New York clubs.

In 2013, Bednarsky grew restless for new audiences and new challenges, and made the move that any singer/songwriter worthy of a guitar dreams of making. Two years ago, Bednarsky left the Big Apple behind and headed south for the clubs and honkytonks of Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music. There his paths crossed with Music Row powerhouse producers Ed Cash and Gus Berry, and they began to put the musical magic of his live performances onto the record for the first time.

In 2014, Bednarsky released his first full-length, self-written studio album, A Bigger Picture. Produced by Cash, the release propelled Bednarsky into the forefront of Nashville’s ever-booming live music scene. His sophomore release, Two, produced by Berry, hit music retailers earlier this year. Following Two, Bednarsky stripped down his style with the release of another self-written acoustic and demo album, Fragments and Glimpses.

This year has also seen the singer/songwriter on a North American tour that has included high-profile exposure opening for American Idol season nine finalist Crystal Bowersox. In 2016, Matt Bednarsky will take his introspective stylings international when he tours Europe and Canada.

For now, however, Bednarsky returns to Southern Illinois for the enjoyment of those seeking a little weekend respite from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

For more information, visit <>.

who: Matt Bednarsky

what: singer / songwriter, country-western

where: Blue Sky Vineyard and Winery

when: Saturday and Sunday, December 5 and 6

Sunset Concerts 2015: Sam Lee Both Parts of the Singer/songwriter Genre

Sam Lee loves a crowd, and he’s ready for us all to have a good time together. As part of the Sunset
K. Brattin
Video Comentary

Sam Lee loves a crowd, and he’s ready for us all to have a good time together. As part of the Sunset Concert series, Lee will play original rock music and covers with his Nashville band Thursday, July 9 at Turley Park in Carbondale.

A singer/songwriter who grew up in Colorado, Lee began his professional musical career out west almost a decade ago as a college freshman, performing in local bars. Feeling a change was due after completing his first two albums in Denver, he made the big move to Nashville, a city he says is “known as a place where an artist can find their way.” Though he is based in Tennessee, he has appeared at venues all around the country.

Lee is an entertainer who enjoys playing in front of an audience— the larger the better. “I love bigger crowds,” he says. After all, he points out, at a venue like the Sunset Concerts, “everyone is there to have a good time— I don’t have to convince them.” In fact, he says, “I get more comfortable the larger the group of people I’m playing for. There’s some solidarity there.” He enjoys varying his set, playing both original material and covers, which he sees as a unique opportunity. Putting his own spin on a song that’s familiar to the crowd is “a really cool way to tie a brand-new audience into what I do.”

Known for his strong, melodic voice as well as his catchy lyrics, both parts of the “singer/songwriter” genre are important to Lee. Always singing along with the radio as a child, he first turned his attention to learning musical instruments— he plays three now— in order to build a home for his voice. Now he views meaning-finding to be synchronous with sound. Singing and songwriting are equal parts of an artistic process, building upon each other. “When I write a tune, I never really feel it until I’m singing it,” he explains. Lee spent his early career working collaboratively on songs, which he says helped him solidify who he is as a creator, but he now writes much of his material alone.

During his two years in Music City, Lee made about a dozen music videos and has recently completed an EP, which is due to be released in the fall. To give the new songs energy, he recorded them live with a band in the studio. He’s distanced himself a bit from the bombastic classic-rock sound of his last full-length album, focusing instead on the soul, funk, and blues roots of the music he loves. “If you looked at my music collection,” Lee laughingly told Nightlife, “almost everyone in there would be dead,” yet the music he’s making now is of-the-moment in its fusion of genres— or as his producer terms it, its “mono-genre” sound. Lee points out that these days, pop, country, and rock all influence each other to such an extent that genre divisions sometimes feel superfluous. Lee feels good about his new material. “The more records an artist creates,” he says, “the closer they get to their center.”

who: Sam Lee

what: Sunset Concerts (original rock)

where: Turley Park Gazebo


when: Thursday, July 9

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