“Depending on your taste, this is either sacrilege or the Second Coming." - Sing Out! Magazine
"It truly is an absolute joy to hear and a breath of fresh air for the folk tradition." - Dirty Linen
"The concept is so bent and the playing so crisp and exciting that Joe Craven's world music interpretations rock and roll into a great one-world ball of sparkling musicianship and tangled rhythms." - San Francisco Bay Guardian
"It takes a musician of rare sensitivity and skill to pull off a combination as audacious as a reggae version of an Irish reel or a samba-style 'Camptown Races'. It takes a musician like Joe Craven...14 times in a row! String and percussion player Craven mixes and matches a whole globe full of influences on this winning release." - Oakland Tribune
Joe Craven shatters musical boundaries while honoring folk, jazz and world traditions on Camptown. This was his first release in 1996 and has become a classic in vernacular crossover music.
Joe is a madman with anything that has strings attached; violin, mandolin, tin can, bedpan, cookie tin, tenor guitar, mouth bow, banjo, berimbau, balalaika, boot ‘n lace plus a world of percussion instruments including animal bones, squeeze toys, cake pans, waste cans, umbrella stands, martini shakers and...himself. His stage setup more often resembles a yard sale. But there's more to Craven than meets the ear. Award winning educator, visual artist, former museum curator, motivational speaker, actor/storyteller and festival emcee, Joe’s work is born out of respect and reverence and seeks to honor the creative energy in everyone. An advocate of the folk arts, Joe’s educational mission is to empower individuals to take possession of their own music and tell their stories by “demystifying” art through self-expression as a daily ritual.
For almost 17 years, Joe Craven was the highly respected multi-instrumentalist with the David Grisman Quintet... yeah, Joe was the guy with the Ralph Stanley autographed bongos and fiddle. Having played and/or recorded with Jerry Garcia, Stéphane Grappelli, Maria Muldaur, Vassar Clements, The Persuasions, David Lindley, Psychograss, The Alison Brown Quartet, Darol Anger, Rob Ickes, Bob Brozman, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, spoken word maven Ken Nordine and many others, Joe has performed music & sound effects on a wide variety of recordings including commercials, soundtracks, computer games and several Grammy nominated projects.
In music, Joe is a bit like Indiana Jones; a musical archeologist going on wild adventures with his finds. More a re-composer and recycler of music as object and idea, Joe believes that "Music that's informally made and shared is a hallmark of folk music and it is this spirit of art making that leads to the more creative life of not just art consumer but art maker as well. Anyone's life stories can be wrought into amazing tunes and songs - shared and handed down through observation and imitation – then embellished/altered with different versions through time. That's where the new music comes from. When you learn other people's music you learn about your own" . His own wildly varied recordings are testimonies to this folk music philosophy. They stretch the boundaries of musical style while paying tribute to and helping forward evolving musical traditions.
As an educator, Joe's clinics, workshops and school presentations on music participation have captivated audiences around the country. He's worked with students from preschool to adult in a variety of settings. He completed his first artist in residency at California State University – Chico to rave reviews and has expanded his educational outreach to museums and music camps ranging from fiddle to percussion to song school. According to Joe, "Music is imagination, expression, therapy and living in the creative spirit. It doesn't need labels as much as it needs opportunity. Through exploration, sincerity of application, AND practice you can make music on just about anything." And he's proven his point by playing everything from dashboards to squeeze toys to his head. "It's great to just pick up things like an empty water jug, garden tools or your pet and discover their inherant musical qualities, as well as your own," he says. "It's not the thing, but the process of how you connect with it that makes great music."