Stereo Embers The Podcast: Alison Brown

Written by on 05/17/2023

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“On Banjo”

In sunny a San Diego high school somewhere in the 70s, while kids were listening to Aerosmith and Van Halen and Boston, Alison Brown was listening to bluegrass. She had started on guitar but gravitated to the banjo and by her teens, she was already pretty proficient on the instrument. She won first place at the Canadian National Banjo Championship, played a gig at the Grand Ole Opry and toured one summer with fiddler Stuart Duncan. After high school She headed to Harvard, knocked out an MBA at UCLA and then went to work as an Investment Banker. You know—the typical bluegrass story you hear all the time. Thinking music was a weekend thing, Brown had a nice balance going but then music decided to tip the scales. Alison Krauss flashed the bat signal for a banjo player and Brown answered the call, and gave up her Wall Street environs for a life in music. And what a life it has been. An internationally recognized virtuoso on banjo, Brown has played with Alison Krauss, Michelle Shocked, fronted her own Alison Brown Quartet, toured all over the world, from Japan to South America, along the way playing The Kennedy Center, the Newport Folk Festival, The Cambridge Folk Festival in England and the Galway Arts Festival in Ireland. With a Grammy in her trophy case along with multiple Grammy nominations, features on CBS Sunday Morning, NPRs All Things Considered and close to 15 critically lauded albums under her belt, including her fabulous new one No Banjo, Alison Brown is an artistic force. And what of On Banjo? Well, putting it simply, it’s a stunner. A deftly played album filled with technical prowess, musical finesse and compositional dexterity, On Banjo is a song cycle that’s celebratory, joyful and cathartic. Brown is the co-founder of Compass Records Group, she serves on the Board of the Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy and she’s the co-chair of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize. She’s kind of a big deal and guess what? She’s as nice as can be.
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