Described by Victory Review magazine as “one of the Pacific Northwest’s finest groups,” the all-female quartet Misty River has distinguished itself in the up-and-coming Americana market with compelling harmonic vocals backed by fresh acoustic arrangements.
Misty River’s second release, "Live at the Backgate Stage", captures their lively stage presence and beautiful pitch perfect harmonies through a collection of their most widely requested songs. From three stunning a cappella songs, to the popular and lovely instrumental “Ashokan Farewell,” to the playful bluegrass feel of “Black Pony,” the album takes the listener on an emotional journey with this intimate live performance. Billy Oskay, formerly with the Windham Hill label, co-produced the project.
Since the album’s release in February 2002, "Live at the Backgate Stage" has earned Misty River a spot as one of the top-selling Northwest bands in the Portland area (The Oregonian, 5/10/02.) The album has also been featured as one of the top-selling CDs on CDBaby.com.
Gaining both national and international airplay, "Live at the Backgate Stage" is a blend of folk, country, and bluegrass styles that appeals to a wide audience. As Tom Krumm, the music host for NPR affiliate KLCC-FM says, “I can say, having listened to this CD several times, how well it is done. The harmonies are amazing. [The album] sounds seamless, like it’s all just one long wonderful performance.”
“LIVE AT THE BACKGATE STAGE” (Released February 2002)
Produced by Billy Oskay and Misty River
Engineered and Mixed by Bob Stark
17 Songs; Total Running Time 55:25
The story so far…
The “open mic” is a time-honored tradition in the world of musicians. Anyone with enough nerve can get up on stage, stand behind the microphone and perform for a real, live audience. Appearing at an open mic is a great way – and sometimes the only way – for fledgling performers to gain experience and confidence. For many musicians, it’s an occasional lark. But once in a very long while, something magical happens. Talents converge, ideas mesh, personalities click, the audience responds…and a band is born.
That’s how it happened with Misty River, the Portland/Vancouver-based acoustic Americana band that has captured the hearts and ears of thousands of fans and critics since its formation in 1997. Victory Music Review has hailed the band for its “lush, pitch-perfect harmonies, gentle tasteful arrangements [and] fresh interpretation of songs.” Bluegrass Unlimited raved about the “excellent singers [whose] voices blend like milk and honey.” Positively Entertainment put it simply: “Pure and wonderful.”
The Misty River story begins back in 1997, when Laura Quigley was celebrating her twenty-first birthday with a night out with her mother, Carol Harley. The two went to an Irish club in Portland and were thoroughly blown away by the band. As Laura and Carol were leaving the club, they were overheard harmonizing on a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” out in the parking lot. The club bouncer was impressed enough by their singing that he told Laura and Carol they should return some time and perform at the club’s open mic night. Carol responded for them both: “What’s an open mic?”
After hearing the explanation, Carol and Laura decided the open mic sounded like fun and called a couple friends to see if they would join them. The first call went to Dana Abel, a former guitar student of Carol’s who also sang and played piano. Looking for a more portable alternative for the gig, Dana remembered her dad’s old accordion stashed under the bed, and decided to give it a try. The second call went to Chris Kokesh, a singer and fiddler whom Carol had seen perform with the Celtic band Finvarra. After one rehearsal, the four women discovered they shared a love of singing and that their vocal blend and harmonies actually sounded pretty good—at least good enough to perform at an open mic. So on to the gig….
It was one of those nights. As the club’s music manager Kurt Selvig wrote in the liner notes to Misty River’s first CD, “From the first note to the last, the audience and I knew we were experiencing something more than special, and we were right.” The response to the band and its fresh sound was so favorable, the crowd so enthusiastic, that the club manager offered the group a job. “But we’re not even a band,” they protested. “Oh, yes you are,” he countered. And he was right.
As Misty River took shape over the next few weeks and months of arduous rehearsals, the personalities, tastes and experiences of the four women meshed despite their varied backgrounds. An elementary school teacher in Eugene, Oregon before she became a full-time musician, Carol led a popular folk group called The Little Women during her high-school years in Bend, Oregon. At the University of Oregon in the 1970s, Carol played in a folk-rock band known as The Sterling Generation; more recently she taught private guitar lessons.
Laura grew up singing harmony with her mother. She also sang in the concert and jazz choirs in high school and college in Eugene. Dana had also been involved with music since early childhood, playing classical piano, trombone and guitar, and singing in the Oregon Children’s Choir and chamber chorale at Stanford University. Chris started playing violin at the age of two and performed in orchestras and chamber ensembles throughout high school and sang in a cappella groups and choir at Pomona College.
As they worked out their arrangements, the women also began blending their musical influences and ideas into a cohesive band sound. That Misty River “sound” is a seamless amalgam of many different styles of music, including folk, bluegrass, classic country, Celtic, and old time music. It all comes together beautifully and organically in a fusion perhaps best described as “Acoustic Americana.”
After a few shows by the band, Laura began learning to play the upright bass. She made tremendous strides on the instrument, studying with Todd Phillips, Glen Moore and Missy Raines. Confirmation of her status as a first-tier musician came in 2001 when Laura won the Best Bass Player award at the Washington State Bluegrass Championships. She has performed in Ireland with Laurie Lewis, Hazel Dickens and the “Oh Sister, Where Art Thou” tour, and toured Europe with Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum.
Once Laura moved to upright bass, the permanent line-up of Misty River was set and remains so today. Carol Harley plays guitar, banjo and mandolin; Chris Kokesh fiddles and plays guitar; Dana Abel plays accordion and guitar; and Laura Quigley anchors the band on acoustic bass.
The band recorded its first CD, Rising, in 2000. The heart of the album is its original material—“Only Love,” “Mother, Mother” and “Real As A Dream” written by Chris Kokesh and “This American Dream” by Dana Abel. The album also contained a pair of traditional songs, “Little Sadie” and “The Trees They Do Grow High,” and songs from such outstanding singer-songwriters as Townes Van Zandt (“If I Needed You”) and Tom Paxton "The Last Thing On My Mind."
"Rising" was a hit both with the band’s fans and with music critics across the country. The Oregonian exulted: “The album is angelic in the way only the high lonesome sounds of bluegrass and folk music can be.” Dirty Linen loved the band’s “beautiful, soaring harmonies” and found the album “wonderfully enchanting.” CD Baby Magazine gave it another rave: “Stunning music…beautiful and tight…exacting musicianship.”
For its second CD, the band decided the best way to showcase the band’s eclectic tastes and stylistic variety was to record an actual performance, catching the band in its “natural habitat,” so to speak. Recorded over two nights in December 2001 at Artichoke Music’s Backgate Stage in Portland, "Live at the Backgate Stage" is a tuneful delight from start to finish.
The set list ranges from Dana’s original “Misty River” to a gorgeous four-part a cappella harmony version of “America the Beautiful,” with stops along the way for a Stanley Brothers bluegrass classic, a couple of traditional mountain songs, and some of the band’s favorites from such writers and performers as Lyle Lovett, Gillian Welch, Lynn Morris, Tim O’Brien, Bill Staines, Kate Wolf, Shawn Colvin and The Trio—Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt.
In the band’s third CD release, "Willow," Misty River branches out from its traditional Americana roots to explore new rhythmic, instrumental and harmonic colors. The 14-song collection includes five originals by Chris, Dana and Carol, and seamlessly crosses genres, continents and time. The result is fresh and beautiful, making Willow Misty River’s most evocative album to date.
Misty River CDs have sold exceptionally well and have received extensive radio airplay throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as in such countries as China, Australia, Spain, England, Italy, Germany, New Zealand, France, Ireland and Belgium. The band’s other radio credits include appearances on Nebraska Public Radio’s NPR-affiliated show River City Folk. Misty River has performed on television programs such as ABC’s and CBS’s Portland, Oregon affiliates KATU (AM Northwest) and KOIN (Christmas Special), and Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Art Beat. The band’s appearance on Oregon Art Beat was voted an audience favorite and remains one of the top-viewed shows in the series’ history.
Misty River travels in a 37-foot motor home the women have named “Annabelle,” after a favorite Gillian Welch song. This road-tested band has played as many as 200 engagements a year and regularly averages around 150. From small clubs to large theaters, performing arts centers to civic and corporate events, and house concerts to huge music festivals, Misty River’s live show is what gives the band such a devoted following. Victory Music Review described the magic of Misty River live as “a warmth and friendship between the members of the band and the audience” and a “feeling of intimacy in an audience that numbered over 600.” The review continued, “The walloping charisma of each of the four women—their good humor and jocular stage patter, their laughter and kinship—was as effective in the back of the theater as it was for those in the front row.”
The band performs frequently in the Pacific Northwest, but has also toured internationally, most recently representing the U.S. at the Shanghai International Music Festival in China. Nationally, Misty River has performed at venues such as Dollywood in Tennessee and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Other leading music festival appearances include the Strawberry Music Festival (in California), the Walnut Valley Festival (Kansas), the Northwest Folklife Festival and Wintergrass (Washington), the Sisters Folk Festival (Oregon) and the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival.
In Misty River’s homebase of the Pacific Northwest, performance highlights include a sold-out double-bill concert with Tracy Grammer at Portland's Aladdin Theater and performing before an audience numbering 6,500 at the grand opening of the Oregon Gardens in Silverton. Misty River has also showcased at music industry conventions sponsored by such organizations as the Folk Alliance, the International Bluegrass Music Association and the NW Booking Conference.
And so. The road goes on forever and Annabelle keeps racking up the miles. As Misty River’s popularity continues to expand beyond the Pacific Northwest, the band plans to do even more national and international touring. And Misty River rolls along, as rivers do, touching people at each stop along the way.
For more information, contact Carol Harley at:
Phone: (360) 576-7676, Fax: (360) 576-5050
Email: email@example.com www.mistyriverband.com