Chris Vallillo is a nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and folk musician who makes the people and places of “unmetropolitan” America come to life in song. Having spent the last 30 years in the rural Midwest, he has a natural affinity for American roots music. Performing on six-string and bottleneck slide guitars and harmonica, Vallillo weaves original, contemporary, and traditional songs and narratives into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyles of the Midwest. Dirty Linen magazine described the music as, “vivid, original story songs” delivered with an “eye for detail and a sense of history” while Folk Wax Magazine Editor, Arthur Wood said “Vallillo’s guitar playing flows like warm honey and is a true aural delight.”
For Chris, a good song is as much a work of art as any painting or sculpture. His music has a timeless quality about it, with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Perhaps the archaeology degree Vallillo earned at Beloit College (BA Anthropology, 1976) helped him see the important little details of life which imbue his songs with a sense of history. His prairie poet style has been compared to Edgar Lee Masters and Vachel Lindsay and you can hear the strains of the Carter Family and Jimmy Rogers reflected in his writing. It’s roots based original and contemporary folk with the rich acoustic textures of bottleneck slide, finger style and flatpicked guitars that echo the influences of Mississippi John Hurt, Norman Blake, Doc Watson and John Fahey.
A recipient of a 1986 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award for music composition, Chris was also a nominee for the Illinois Arts Council’s 1987 Governor’s Award for Individual Artist. In 1987 he conducted the Schuyler Arts Folk Music Project to document the last of the pre-radio generation. These recordings were accepted into the American Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress. From 1990 through 1998 he served as the performing host and co-producer of the nationally distributed, award-winning public radio performance series Rural Route 3 where he performed next to (and with) a virtual who’s who of contemporary and traditional folk musicians. His most recent project, a one man show titled Abraham Lincoln in Song, received the endorsement of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the accompanying CD of music reached #10 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album Chart in March of 2008.
He recently completed his second term as the Illinois State Scholar for the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit on roots music New Harmonies and just finished a new instrumental bottleneck slide guitar CD titled The Last Day of Winter.