Laurie Lewis

BERKELEY, Calif. — With five decades of music-making to her credit, multi-GRAMMY nominee Laurie Lewis has emerged as both a successor and contemporary of the many greats in bluegrass, old-time, and folk music. Unafraid to venture beyond established boundaries, she has carved out her place as a uniquely singular vocalist, songwriter, instrumentalist, and frontwoman in genres revered for their adherence to tradition, authenticity, and the canon of the forebearers. She’s won IBMA Awards, sung and recorded with Linda Ronstadt, set poems by Wendell Berry to music – at his request. She’s influenced and inspired folks like guitarist phenom Molly Tuttle—one example of an entire generation of pickers and singers who call her a mentor. Ultimately, Lewis occupies a unique, superlative niche in American roots music that is all her own.

TREES, Lewis’ 24th album, will be released on her own label, Spruce and Maple Music, on May 31.

As on many of her past recordings, Lewis finds her music-making rooted in the natural world, with a measured and often melancholy view of life, loss, and grief that’s resplendent and complicated. An avid walker, Lewis is both an urban explorer and a wilderness wanderer—plus a self-taught naturalist and conservation activist. Her skillset in songwriting and recording is frequently outward-looking, text-painting to evoke the landscapes she adores and to interpret their voices to us. On TREES, Lewis looks inward instead, utilizing all of the literary and naturalist skills at her disposal to observe and process seasonal, organic, inevitable life changes.

TREES evokes the emotional turmoil in Lewis’ life at the time of its making. On the upside, there is the unbridled joy of a walk in the mountains, where she spent many a happy day while unable to play music communally during the COVID pandemic. The flip side of that period—and its long wake—includes a six-month period of grappling with the loss of her singing voice, and most notably, the landmark of creating a recording without her musical and life partner, Tom Rozum. The pair met and began making music together in 1986 and for every album since 1989’s Love Chooses You they’ve been credited alongside each other, often in duet. In recent years, Rozum developed Parkinson’s Disease and the illness’s progression has left him unable to play mandolin or guitar, or to tour with Lewis, record, and perform – as they have done, full time, for decades.

Granted, picking up the album will immediately reveal Rozum is still, in fact, credited alongside Lewis, singing background vocals and drawing the cover artwork for TREES. The vacuum left by Rozum as a creative partner on these recordings is most perceptible not musically, but in Lewis’ reckoning with that vacuum: naming, processing, and contemplating the losses, myriad and varied, when a lifelong musical partner is forced to step aside.

With these intentions and her trademark deliberation, Lewis has framed TREES as a long-play journey, a vinyl trek, inviting each of us to put the needle to the record and join her as she traverses the Sierra Nevada or rafts the Tuolumne River, singing.

These songs—seven originals and a handful of covers—aren’t too concerned with genre, especially given that bluegrass and old-time tend to spout from Lewis like a bubbling mountain spring, in so many distinct manifestations. While grief, sadness, and contemplation are forward, this is danceable music that drips with community and never feels burdened by its subject matter or apparent solitude.

Her band for TREES includes Hasee Ciaccio on bass, Brandon Godman on fiddle, George Guthrie on guitar and banjo, and Patrick Sauber on banjo, as well as album guests Sam Reider on accordion, Andrew Marlin on mandolin, and Nina Gerber on guitar.

TREES is not simply a metaphor or parable; it’s not merely an introspective, emotional inventory; it’s not a performative challenge to the powers and systems that be – powers and systems that leave us alone to encounter, interpret, and reckon with such grief and loss. This LP is all of these things together, at the same time, held in place by a remarkable linchpin and a gorgeous, maternal tree under which all of us can learn, grow, and flourish. Each of us on this beautiful, complicated Earth should count ourselves lucky to encounter TREES as stately and as nurturing as Laurie Lewis.

What others are saying about Laurie Lewis:

“Laurie Lewis’ songs combine passion and sheer craft in a way you don’t hear very often. Whatever country music is supposed to be, she’s at the center of it.”
Utah Phillips

“Laurie Lewis is a national treasure, one that keeps giving us fantastic music across the bluegrass and folk spheres of influence”
Bluegrass Unlimited

“To ask how Laurie Lewis’s music is relevant in this day and age, in the broader folk, Americana, and bluegrass scenes as a whole, would be similar to asking how a brick in a home’s foundation is relevant to its structure. Her influence, her reach and her artistic intent are quiet stalwarts on which so much has been built.”
Justin Hiltner, Bluegrass Situation

“Her voice is a rare combination of grit and grace, strength and delicacy. Her stories always ring true.” —Linda Ronstadt

“I am happy to count myself one of your admirers. ‘Haven of Mercy’ touches me right to the quick.” —Wendell Berry

“I’m so proud of this track [‘You Are My Flower’] Laurie Lewis and I recorded for her album [And Laurie Lewis 2020]. She is one of my earliest heroes and influences, which I think you can hear in the way our voices blend together. Singing with her is always the biggest honor.” —Molly Tuttle

“(Laurie Lewis’) poetic invocations of living nature are some of the most moving I’ve heard.”
Barbara Kingsolver—in the liner notes of “Calling Me Home”—by Kathy Mattea

“In the latest episode of Toy Heart, we explore the roots and evolution of bluegrass in the modern era by examining the story of legendary bluegrasser, singer-songwriter, and recording artist, Laurie Lewis.

From her tales of growing up in Berkeley during what Lewis jokingly calls the ‘folk scare’ of the ’60s to finding the joy of music through her father’s classical background and eventually becoming a pioneer for women in the genre, her lifelong career in American roots music is a perfect example of how the innovation and tradition-bending tendencies of bluegrass’s first generation continue full force today. Lewis’s musical transformation over the course of her life shows the entrancing power of bluegrass to steer and alter the course of hers and so many others’ lives.”
LISTEN: The Bluegrass Situation’s Toy Heart Podcast with host Tom Power 

For more information and to stay up to date on new from Laurie Lewis, please visit: www.laurielewis.com, www.facebook.com/laurielewismusic, and www.instagram.com/laurielewismusic.

Artist Update

TREES — A New Record By Laurie Lewis

Out May 31 on CD, Vinyl, and Digitally
on Lewis’ Label: Spruce and Maple Music

Presave TREES: https://show.co/LB6IjUb 

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