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Kory and the FirefliesKory & The Fireflies, Radiate (Samson Music 1999) - Hailing from the unlikely musical mecca of Sioux Falls, South Dakota are Kory & The Fireflies. Led by Kory Van Sickle on vocals and acoustic guitar, the band has an engaging, R.E.M. meets Hootie in the Midwest sound.

The album was co-produced by Brent Sigmeth, the house engineer at the well-regarded Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota (home to recordings by Live and Nirvana).

Looks like a rock bandExplains lead singer Kory, "Our music has a positive feel. It's straight ahead rock; there will always be a place for that." The Fireflies also include Darrin Linblom on electric guitar, Andy Yost on drums and backing vocals and Steve Holbeck on bass. Each has a day job, which helps keep them rooted.

On songs like "With You" and "Never Let Go," the band shows solid influences of John Mellencamp and Collective Soul, while working in a steady rock groove.

Kory has solid backing, as Samson Music (a two-year-old record label based in Omaha, Nebraska) was established by Norm Waitt, Jr., co-founder of computer giant Gateway.

Radiate has been deservedly described as "polished, smart-sounding heartland rock." Look for this understated winner.

For more information contact:

Samson Music
Attn: Kevin McManus
13906 Gold Circle, Suite 201
Omaha, Nebraska 68144

Phone: 402/330-2520
Fax: 402/330-2445
email: kmcmanus@goldo.com

Tom Russell coverTom Russell, The Man From God Knows Where (Hightone Records 1999) - Tom Russell toils in a field of roots and Americana few even dream about. His ambitious, if somber, new album, The Man From God Knows Where, is a song cycle of American immigrants and settlers, starting more than a century ago in Norway and Ireland and culminating in the story of his father, Charlie Russell, a colorful character who made (and lost) several fortunes along the way.

With 14 albums to his name, Russell's songs have brought new life to folk-roots, including his contributions to the Tulare Dust collection. Russell recorded The Man From God Knows Where in a barony farmhouse in Norway near the spot where his great-grandfather, Ambrose Larson, was born in 1847.

This is TomYet The Man From God Knows Where has an even longer history. Explains Russell, "One night in a bar in Downpatrick, Ireland, an old man came up and asked if I was Thomas Russell. When I answered 'Yes,' he told me, 'They hung your namesake, Thomas Russell, right across the road at 1798, during the United Irish Rebellion. There is a poem about him called 'The Man From God Knows Where.' I bought the old man a pint and stole the title of the poem."

Adds Russell (who now lives in El Paso, Texas), "We sing here of the triumph of individuals in the face of isolation, ruthlessness, disease, madness and suicide. My ancestors trekked across this wild landscape carrying four potato spades from Ireland, searching for a place where the crop would not rot in the ground; the pilgrimage toward a land where abide . . . So The Man from God Knows Where stops off in a tavern, begs a pint, and begins to sing. He summons his ancestors up from their graves and bids them tell their story."

Family historyLending their voices to the new album are Tom Russell ("The Man From God Knows Where"), Dave Van Ronk ("The Outcast"), Iris DeMent ("The Wayfaring Stranger"), Dolores Kean ("Mary Claire Malloy"), Sondre Bratland ("Ambrose Larson"), and Kari Bremnes ("Anna Olsen"). Also appearing is Walt Whitman, courtesy of an early Edison recording cylinder.

With songs like "The Old Northern Shore," "Sitting Bull in Venice," and "The Old Rugged Cross," Russell works in a unique territory: storytelling with an emphasis on the American tradition.

Clocking in with 26 songs and 74 minutes, The Man From God Knows Where cuts a wide swath, and will be enjoyed by students of history and Americana roots.

Cheryl Wheeler cover Cheryl Wheeler, Sylvia Hotel (Philo/Rounder 1999) - Always a bride's maid, never a bride. That describes the talented singer/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler, who has released eight critically-acclaimed albums since 1983. A folk troubadour (she performed more than 130 shows in 1998), Cheryl is witty, sensitive, and distinctive.

A resident of Massachusetts, Cheryl has scored songwriting hits for such mainstream stars as Suzy Bogguss ("Aces") and Dan Seals ("Addicted"). While there is a trace of Nashville here, the predominant influence is songwriting folk, with occasional humorous interludes, not unlike Christine Lavine.

Cheryl WheelerSylvia Hotel (named for an inn in Vancouver) finds Cheryl mixing gentle tales of life and love against her wicked wit (she has been called "Groucho Marx in a housecoat"), from the tender feel of "(I've Been Missing You) All the Live Long Day" to the handgun protest song, "If It Were Up to Me," to the humorous "Potato" and "Unworthy," both recorded live in Philadelphia at the Seaport Museum Theater.

Cheryl provides acoustic guitar and vocals, with other musicians including Shawn Pelton on drums and percussion, Zev Katz on base, Larry Campbell on pedal steel and dobro, Lucy Kaplansky on harmony vocals.

Cheryl is a confident live performer with a loyal fan base. Give this well-rounded talent a chance.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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