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Folk Duo Cathy & Marcy On How Music Can Foster Inclusion

Photo of Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer by Michael G. Stewart

Spanning a 35-year career, two Grammy wins and dozens of award nominations, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer are two of the most iconic singers on the folk and bluegrass scene. Passionate about music from a young age, the multi-instrumentalist duo creates songs for both children and adults, infusing their music with playfulness and affection. They’re also deep-rooted activists who have dedicated their lives and careers to advancing children’s health care and women’s rights, among other issues. We sat down with Cathy and Marcy to find out more about their work and how they became trailblazers in the world of roots music.

Your careers have spanned over 35 years and included two Grammy wins. What’s been your proudest and most memorable moment in music so far?

Cathy and Marcy: It’s impossible to choose one moment. Anytime a parent tells us that our music has helped or entertained their family, we’re happy. Anytime we hear from fans that a song we sing moves them, makes them laugh or cry, or helps them get through a hard situation, we feel like we’ve done what we’re here for. Awards are awesome, but the personal impact of the music is what’s most important to us and that’s really hard to measure. We are most proud of hanging in there, following our dreams in both acoustic roots music and kids/family music, and making a living at it.

What inspires you to create music and has that changed over time?

Cathy and Marcy: Music is simply part of our DNA—it’s both a career and a hobby. On our rare “time off,” we are playing social music with friends, composing, goofing off on ukes or banjos. Over time, we have been able to combine music that we enjoy with messages we feel are important. Sometimes it’s historical, such as our love of the history of women in country music. When composing, we are often working around a theme. We’ve been able to use our music to support social justice issues and organizations that we believe in, and that continues to drive us.

“DINOSAURS CROSSED THE ROAD. MEN WERE SURPRISED THAT WOMEN COULD PLAY BLUEGRASS MUSIC. MANY STUDIO ENGINEERS WERE CONDESCENDING AND SEXIST, BUT MANY WERE HELPFUL AND GRACIOUS AND BECAME GREAT MENTORS.”

You’re both vocal advocates of diversity and inclusion. How does your work on these issues feature in your music?

Cathy and Marcy: We spent many years doing programs and recordings that featured the history of women in country music. This included radio shows, TV shows, working with Patsy Montana who was the first woman in country music to sell 1 million records with her song, “I Wanna Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart” in 1935, and recording the “Blue Rose” album in 1988 with Laurie Lewis, Sally Van Meter and Molly Mason. That recording opened more doors for women in bluegrass and was just named one of the top female bluegrass recordings of all time from The Bluegrass Situation.

That work is also seen and heard in our music for kids and families such as the recent album, “DANCIN’ IN THE KITCHEN: Songs for ALL Families.” The more we can engage young people in celebrating and respecting diversity, the better our world will be. We do this with the themes of the songs, but also, with the diversity of the music.

What challenges have you encountered as musicians that you didn’t expect in the beginning?

Cathy and Marcy: The music business is so full of challenges. We’re not sure anyone expects any of them. In the 1970s, we booked 250 shows a year before there was the Internet, answering machines or cell phones. We used paper maps to find our way from place to place. People actually responded to snail mail. Dinosaurs crossed the road. Men were surprised that women could play bluegrass music. Many studio engineers were condescending and sexist, but many were helpful and gracious and became great mentors. We never expected to make 47 recordings both for the commercial and corporate worlds. We knew from day one that to make a living at this, having a wide variety of skills would be important. Playing music for kids was looked down on by our peers in the early days, but now half of them are doing it too! Every challenge is an opportunity. We try to focus on the opportunities and when a challenge becomes an obstacle, there is either another way around, someone else who will be helpful, or a different project or different gig to focus on.

“THE WORD ‘CONSUME’ GETS USED WITH MUSIC A LOT THESE DAYS. WE PREFER TO CONSIDER MUSIC SOMETHING YOU PARTICIPATE IN OR WITH, EVEN AS AN ACTIVE LISTENER.”

What would you like to tell the world through your music? What feelings do you hope to inspire in your fans?

Cathy and Marcy: Music is about feeling. We want kids to feel welcome everywhere, we want adults to treat everyone well and be great role models for kids, we want traditional music to live on as a vibrant art form while morphing with contemporary music, we want music to make people think, feel, love, question, and most of all, participate. The word “consume” gets used with music a lot these days. We prefer to consider music something you participate in or with, even as an active listener. We loveworking with the American Music Therapy Association and helping music therapists use the ukulele and banjo in their practices. We love helping librarians use more music in their storytelling. We love teaching adults to play their own music.

We hope our fans will support music by going to live concerts, purchasing recordings, sharing the music with their friends. We also are always happy to encourage them to make their own music.

Tell us about your new album, “Shout And Shine.”

Cathy and Marcy: Our friendship with Sam Gleaves began five years ago, while we all taught at the Common Ground on the Hill music camp. Sam was 20, and awesome instrumentalist on the fiddle, banjo and guitar, a poignant ballad singer from his southern Virginia tradition, and a beautiful songwriter. We discovered we had many friends in common, and Sam had been listening to our music on CDs for quite a while. Jam sessions happened and then, when we heard Sam in concert, we knew right away that he was an important songwriter—a great wordsmith who told worthy and bold stories.

We asked Sam if we could produce his first album, “Ain’t We Brothers,” titled after his song about a gay coal miner’s fight for equality. Sam was a delight to work with and this experience strengthened our friendship. We started jamming together more and doing shows together when we could, which led to the album, “Shout And Shine.” The title song was based on the “Shout And Shine” showcase during the International Bluegrass Music Association week, sponsored by The Bluegrass Situation and Pinecone Arts. Cathy wrote the song and we were psyched to perform it together. Sam had also written a fun song about the making of moonshine for a musical called “In These Fields,” and it was a perfect fit for the album. Many of the songs honor some of our musical mentors and heroes, some are just plain fun. We close the album with Marcy’s “Closer to the Light” on solo ukulele with harmony vocals. That song has become a theme song for her as a cancer patient and reminds us how precious every day is. In between, we honor Elizabeth Cotten, Alice Gerrard, Sam’s dream “Hot Pink House Trailer”, Mother Maybelle Carter and Jean Ritchie.

Between our songwriting and love of traditional sounds, it’s just a jam session and party putting together arrangements we enjoy. We’re a very tight duo, but Sam is such a beautiful harmony singer that he easily finds a third part that makes the sound round, warm and awesome. This is a very organic group—we play what we want, how we want and enjoy every minute of it!

PRESS RELEASE: Fink, Marxer, & Gleaves Album Release

PRESS RELEASE: Click to Download Fink, Marxer, & Gleaves Album Release

“Fink, Marxer and Gleaves Exude Joy on ‘Shout and Shine’…” – No Depression

“Fink, Marxer and Gleaves Exude Joy on ‘Shout and Shine’…” – No Depression
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ALBUM REVIEW

Fink, Marxer, and Gleaves Exude Joy on ‘Shout and Shine’

Fink/Marxer/Gleaves – Shout and Shine

Bluegrass rising star Sam Gleaves links up with genre veterans Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer to span generations on the uplifting and vibrant Shout and Shine.

Gleaves, 25, is a Southwest Virginia native who received positive coverage for his debut, 2015’s Ain’t We Brothers. Fink, 64, produced that album. She and Marxer, 62, are Grammy winners who began recording together in the late 1980s.

The three performers met at a Maryland music festival and hit it off. From rich instrumental flourishes to stirring vocal moments, their shared joy is palpable throughout the record.

“I think that the whole ‘Shout and Shine’ idea says that art really is a valuable way to make a happy life for yourself,” Gleaves says in the press materials.

“Hot Pink House Trailer” tells of modest aspirations: surviving the nine-to-five, finding a simple abode and locating love. “I ain’t paying no rent to the 1 percent, and without ’em I could do just fine,” Gleaves sings on top of an upbeat instrumental backing. “A little hot pink house trailer, less troubles upon my mind.”

Next up, a cover of Tom Paxton’s “If the Poor Don’t Matter” starts strong with a compelling social justice theme, marked by striking imagery of the homeless. “If they’re living in a Chevy, as the world walks by,” the tune goes, “if the poor don’t matter, neither do I.” Here, the song’s spoken word section feels like an awkward detour, well intentioned but sonically grating.

Fortunately, this over-the-top case is a rarity on a record that excels most on the quieter, understated songs. Elizabeth Cotten’s “Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie” and the traditional tune “If I Were a Blackbird” are two mellow moments on Shout and Shine. They are more subdued and more nuanced. For the keen observer, they are bluegrass gold.

Elsewhere, the jaunty spiritual “Welcome Table” is a real toe-tapper, with all three of these singers reaching deep. And “I’m Happy Every Day I Live” is a joyous expression of life’s beauty.

“I’ve got the world by the tail, and a rainbow ’round my shoulder,” Fink, Marxer, and Gleaves sing on this track, expressing a message that is grounded in contentment with hard work, simple living, and selfless kindness. These are basic values that the trio intentionally weaves throughout the album.

“I hope that folks might hear the record and want to sing and play some of the songs, take a class, or even be inspired to write a song themselves,” Gleaves says in the press materials. “Anything to work music into their own life. It’s been such a blessing to me.”

Fink, Marxer & Gleaves: Connecting Songs, Connecting Stories -The Bluegrass Situation

“…a perfect illustration of cross-generational mind melds — and musical melds. Messages of social justice, feminism, working class empowerment, and activism through music are so viscerally powerful because the trio shows that anyone can connect with each other across the rifts and barriers that many would assume were insurmountable…” -The Bluegrass Situation Click to read the original article…

 

FINK, MARXER & GLEAVES: CONNECTING SONGS, CONNECTING STORIES

Jun 22, 2018

Intersectionality is the keystone of activism and action. Banding together across whatever barriers our identities present strengthens and energizes the mission, stripping away the isolation that all marginalized folks feel on the day-to-day. In bluegrass and old-time, many, many activist-minded artists, creators, and songwriters have carried the banner for inclusion and an action-forward, open community since the very beginning of these genres.

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer are a prime example of those forebears, having fought for the inclusion of queer identities and women in folk music and bluegrass for decades. Shout & Shine, their new collaboration with youngster-yet-old-soul Sam Gleaves, is a perfect illustration of cross-generational mind melds — and musical melds. Messages of social justice, feminism, working class empowerment, and activism through music are so viscerally powerful because the trio shows that anyone can connect with each other across the rifts and barriers that many would assume were insurmountable. In this case, age and experiences are most strikingly disparate, but the core concept should apply to gender, religion, orientation, cultural background, or banjo right hand playing styles, too.

BGS is proud to be a place where these intersections are encouraged and celebrated, whether editorially or, for instance, on stage at our Shout & Shine: A Celebration of Diversity in Bluegrass showcase, held in Raleigh, NC during the International Bluegrass Music Association’s business conference for the past two years. Fink, Marxer & Gleaves — before they officially donned that moniker — performed for the showcase in 2017. The theme song they penned for the event is indeed the perfect ethos for their band, their album, the showcase itself, and the types of connections we’re all trying to foster as we press ever forward.

Some folks might not know that the Bluegrass Situation is already connected to this album and its title track!

Cathy Fink: I think it’s a pretty simple connection — I would even say that the Bluegrass Situation and the Shout & Shine showcase at IBMA were the reasons that brought Cathy & Marcy back to IBMA. [It gave us] a big feeling that the door was opening wider for more inclusion in every direction at the conference. Needless to say, once I found out about the showcase I made the connection with you about having us involved. And I made some suggestions for other artists [you] could have, which turned out well. We had worked with the Ebony Hillbillies and they came.

So I was just sitting on the back porch one day and I thought, “You know, this event needs a theme song!” Sometimes you think about a song for years and sometimes it takes a couple minutes and there it is. This happened to be one of those songs. It really popped out. There were several lines that I kept working on after that time, but that’s really what happened. In all serendipity, it fit our trio perfectly, in terms of what we stand for: loving traditional music, loving contemporary music that is formed on top of traditional music, and what we want to accomplish as a trio, playing bluegrass-related music that has a deeper meaning than, “I lost my girlfriend.” [Chuckles]

It often feels like this is a newer, growing movement for inclusion and diversity in bluegrass — it’s happening across roots music genres right now — but I wonder what it looks like to you, Cathy and Marcy, since you have been on the frontlines of this fight, this battle, this dialogue, for your entire lives? It’s often difficult for younger folks to appreciate how long and hard-fought these issues have been, and you two can bring this perspective, so I wonder, too, how this influences your mentorship?

CF: I want to start by saying the mentorship of Sam is a two-way street. We learn as much from him as he learns from us. Sam is an incredible inspiration to us, because he walks the walk, not just talks the talk — in terms of the songs that he’s written, the songs that he chooses, and frankly, how he treats people. These things are all interconnected.

Historically, for us, Marcy and I started to play out in the ‘70s, in days when women didn’t really play bluegrass music. I know that there are other women who had similar experiences, even though there were amazing women in country music on the radio beginning in the 1930s. One of our friends and mentors, Patsy Montana, was the first woman in country music to sell a million records. She was really the first woman in country music to start writing songs from the female perspective. Marcy and I spent ten years performing with and working with her, but we also played a lot of bluegrass festivals where people would come up to Marcy and say, “Wow! You’re a girl and you’re playing lead guitar!” They’d come up to me and say, “Wow! You’re a girl and you’re playing bluegrass banjo.” While we’d say, “Yeah, we’re people and we each have ten fingers that work!”

Marcy helped me with a release on Rounder Records in the late ‘80s called, The Leading Role. We did a lot of songs that people didn’t know had been recorded by these amazing women, like Ola Belle Reed, the DeZurik Sisters, Lily May Ledford, the Coon Creek Girls, and the Girls of the Golden West — there was an amazing heyday of women in country. Patsy made sure that they were getting the respect that they deserved. Then, later in the ‘80s, we did the Blue Rose album. Marcy and I put that together out of a desire to highlight some of the great women who we felt had been making amazing music but not getting any recognition. That included Sally Van Meter, Laurie Lewis, and Molly Mason.

Moving forward now, after thirty years, the cool thing is that we have the Justin Hiltner’s, and the Sam Gleaves’s, and the Jake Blount’s, and the Amythyst Kiah’s and a long list of people who are the next generation. They’re going to bring up the generation after them in a more inclusive world.

Marcy Marxer: My view is that in the early days of country music, the music better reflected who was actually out there playing. Then, when the record business got serious — not just 78s, but smaller, independent record companies started popping up and recording people — they might have recorded, say, just one or two fiddlers in an area, and because they were the two who got the record contract, that’s what people thought was happening over that whole area, when there could have been fifty other fiddlers within a mile. One of the reasons why it went to all-male was that that’s who was getting the record contracts. It wasn’t that women weren’t playing anymore, it’s that there were companies who were successful, then other companies wanted to copy that success, and it grew into being a male-dominated field.

This issue keeps coming up as I do these interviews. The reason we’ve ended up where we are today, with these ideas of who “owns” roots music, is largely because of revisionism and erasure. What I appreciate about what you three do, and what this record stands for — at least in my eyes — is that we’re avoiding that sort of erasure as we move forward, because you two are collaborating with Sam, who is almost four decades your junior, so we aren’t losing these stories and this institutional knowledge. I see this as the most important message of this record. Do you agree?

MM: I do agree. Absolutely. I think that, additionally, the bonding of the friendships is the best part of this record and the joy that we feel from this music is an extension of [that]. What Sam brings to this project — and music in general — is that he’s done such extensive research and background. Often we’ll meet younger players and they don’t have that background at all. Sam knows all of the greats and has gone to see everybody that he can. Not that one is better than the other, because you have to start somewhere, but with Sam, we feel like we bonded immediately artistically, musically, and emotionally.

Let me bring you in Sam, I don’t mean to talk about you so much as if you aren’t also on the line. [Laughs] Sam Gleaves: No! My nature is to listen and I’m just very honored to work with Cathy and Marcy because they really are my She-roes. It’s the truth. I’ve always admired their work promoting diversity in roots music, with their presence in the community and their advocacy.

One difficult aspect of making roots music in this day and age is that so many listeners just write it off as nostalgic and they don’t see it as something that’s present and in the here-and-now. There are so many folks primed to hear this kind of protest music or counter-cultural music right now, but they write off these genres as being for someone else. As you formed this series of songs, how consciously did you work to make this music relatable in a modern era?

SG: I think it’s very organic for us. We love playing music together and we know what sort of material is fun and exciting for us to play and what kind of messages we want to promote. We recorded a song that Maybelle Carter wrote, “Buddy’s in the Saddle”; we recorded a song from Jean Ritchie’s repertoire and Elizabeth Cotten’s repertoire. There’s a theme of matriarchs in these songs, which always feels powerful to share. I was honored to get to record three songs that I wrote, one about moonshine, one about a hot pink house trailer — which is super fun and zany — and a song called “Welcome Table,” which uses lyrics from African American spirituals. Cathy’s “Shout & Shine” is kind of the [album’s] ethos, it brings the theme all together. All of the material seems to have a balance of the joy of playing music together and messages of social justice and lifting up voices from the traditional music community.

Let me put the same question to you, Cathy.

CF: It did organically happen, but what organically happens between the three of us musically leans in the direction of wanting to make good music and speak social justice without having a hammer over people’s heads. We didn’t sit down and say, “Hey, we need to do a bluegrass album about social justice.” We sat down and said, “What are the songs we enjoy singing the most?” There was this list. There were some surprise songs, but they fit in beautifully. We knew that “Shout & Shine” was first and foremost, but the title of the album took on additional meaning when one night, after recording, I said, “Look Sam, I know you’re holding out on us, I know you have more songs and you haven’t shared them.” Sam in his usual, humble way played “Moonshine.” We said, “Bingo! Let’s figure that one out right now!” It made Shout & Shinemore than just the agenda, but also just looks at real life for a lot of people and the fun — we all enjoy a little hit of ‘shine now and then! I think it shows Sam’s versatility as a songwriter. This song is just a great piece of Southern storytelling. One of the things we also did on this album is that we connected a bunch of stories that we felt drawn to. To a large extent, their about people that we know or knew.

Connecting stories is what keeps music that is focused on social justice from being bogged down by the weight of those topics.

CF: Exactly! I think you just nailed it. We try to do this in a celebratory way as opposed to a bogged down sort of way.

How do we take a message like this and connect it to people who maybe couldn’t automatically relate to a record, band, or collection of songs like this?

MM: For years I’ve felt like an icebreaker and I know that Cathy has, too, because we’re an openly gay couple and my being a woman in guitar and flatpicking, I found that by relaxing, being myself, and putting the best I have out there, people gain a glimpse of understanding and they don’t see stereotypes quite as much as they might have otherwise. One of the things that’s been on my mind is that I’ve been a cancer patient now for over three years and how that has really, totally changed my life and perspective. There’s one song called “Closer to the Light,” the last song on the record, that I really adopted. I did not write the song, but when I heard it I knew it spoke directly to me. That’s the beauty of a song. It doesn’t say “cancer.” It says, “I’m going through this dark time and I don’t mind as long as I keep moving toward the light.” That applies to everything. It applies to social justice; it reminds me of the days of the civil rights movement, when music would keep us going. There are so many individual songs that mean so much to individual people. It’s great to have open, gentle songs that just encourage us to keep going.


Photo credit: Michael G. Stewart

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Women’s International Music Network Premiere and Interview

Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer Celebrate Gay Pride Month With An Exclusive Release Of  ‘SHOUT AND SHINE.’

FINK, MARXER & GLEAVES. Photo by Michael G. Stewart

By Myki Angeline

June has long been recognized by the LGBTQ Community as Gay Pride Month, commemorating the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. Several cities including San Francisco, CA, Sacramento, CA, Columbus, OH, Bend, OR, and Asbury Park, NJ host Pride celebrations in June to recognize the impact the LGBTQ people have had around the world.

Grammy-award winning folk legends and long time D.C. human rights activists Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer are celebrating with music by releasing their first single “SHOUT AND SHINE” from their new album of the same name set for release June 16, 2018. This album is a collaboration with notable singer-songwriter, and fellow LGBTQ advocate Sam Gleave.

They have given the WiMN an exclusive peek of the title track here:

You can order SHOUT AND SHINE on their website: www.finkmarxergleaves.com

As feminist revolutionaries in the world of roots music, Cathy & Marcy have always placed emphasis on inclusion in the genre, regardless of sex, race, or sexual orientation. In 1980, Cathy became the first woman ever to win the West Virginia State Old Time Banjo Contest and subsequently held the title until 1984. In ’89, she created the first female bluegrass supergroup and released the legendary album Blue Rose.

Just as they have experienced triumph in the music industry, the openly gay duo have also encountered their share of obstacles along the way.  Back in the 1990’s Cathy and Marcy tried to record their song “Everything is Possible” with a children’s choir. But gay and civil rights was a much tougher battle back then. Because two parents had threatened to walk off the project unless the song was struck from the record, the track would wait several years before appearing on their 2015 release Dancing In The Kitchen. You can read more about that album here.

To date, they’ve won the Grammy for “Best Traditional Folk Album” not once, but twice — and have been nominated 9 more times. They’ve toured worldwide, playing on stages in Japan, New Zealand, Vancouver, and New York; performed at hundreds of bluegrass and folk festivals; and appeared on NPR and CBS. Their accolades include an impressive list of signature instruments from some of the top names in the manufacturing industry like Martin Guitars, Gold Tone Company, and Kala Ukuleles.

In addition to being master musicians and multi-instrumentalists, Cathy and Marcy have produced endless albums and frequently travel to teach camps and workshops to spread the love of folk music. Located in Washington D.C. area, they are also lifelong activists for children’s healthcare, the advancement of women, preventing family violence, unions, and performers’ rights.

Cathy and Marcy took a moment from their intense schedule to chat with the WiMN and share the details of what life has been like for them in the music industry, the changes they have seen, and what inspired SHOUT AND SHINE. 

WiMN: Happy Pride Month to you both! As openly queer, female musicians you have had a double-standard working against you from the beginning. Were you both always ‘out’ as musicians?

C&M: In our 35 year career together, we have neither hidden or advertised our relationship. We let our musicianship and our music stand for itself. Of course, we’ve written songs and sing other people’s songs that speak to issues of social justice, gender equality, women’s rights and inclusion.

WiMN: Where do you both currently reside? Where did you two grow up?

C&M: We split our time between Silver Spring, MD and Lansing, NC when we are not on tour. Marcy grew up in Michigan, in and around the Detroit area. Cathy grew up in Baltimore.

WiMN: Was there ever a time in your career when being female, queer musicians kept you from getting a key performance gig, a label signing, etc?

C&M: If we have lost gigs due to being gay, we are not aware of them, we simply weren’t hired for them. We released three albums with Sugar Hill Records, over twenty albums with Rounder Records and have done numerous recorded projects for a variety of companies and corporations. As record producers, we have been very lucky to have had some amazing mentors who taught us both the art and science of studio engineering and production techniques. Most of these folks were men. But we have worked with other men in studios who discounted our abilities because they were not prepared for women to be knowledgable or in charge. We have also produced recordings for over 50 different artists, both male and female, gay and straight. People hire us for our skill, the heart and soul we bring to a project, and the relationship we can develop during the process. If we are uncomfortable with the people, or they are uncomfortable with us, it is the wrong fit and we move on.

WiMN: How do you two identify yourselves as?

C&M: Best friend, wife, spouse, partner, mutual admiration society.

WiMN: Was bluegrass/folk your first genre? Or, did you play a different style of music in the beginning of your careers?

C&M: We grew up and started playing separately, Marcy in Michigan, Cathy in Baltimore and then Montreal. We were both drawn to folk, bluegrass and acoustic roots music from the start. Marcy also has a theater background and Cathy grew up loving choral music and Broadway classics. We both heard a lot of influential music on the radio during the 60’s folk “scare.”

WiMN: Congratulations on all of your signature instruments with Martin Guitars, Gold Tone Company, and Kala Ukulele! Which of these instruments do you perform the most with?

The Limited Edition Marcy Marxer KALA Ukulele

C&M: Easy answer- ALL OF THEM! A signature instrument is more than a great honor. It needs to be an instrument we want to play, tour and perform and record with. Our Martin Guitars are amazing and Marcy helped to design them. The Marcy Marxer model Gold Tone CELLO BANJO is the only cello banjo being made in contemporary times. It is a mainstay of our duo performances, and trio shows with Sam Gleaves. Marcy’s Kala Ukulele model is a workhorse- sounding great, recording beautifully and traveling well. We love these instruments.

WiMN: Also, congratulations on the release of your new album SHOUT AND SHINE. What was the inspiration for this album and why now? Do you have a favorite song from the album?

C&M: Five years ago, we were teaching at a music workshop and met Sam Gleaves. At the time, he was a twenty year old Appalachian musician with a huge repertoire of ballads, fiddle tunes, banjo songs and country tunes. We were most taken with his original songs, particularly the title song of his CD “Ain’t We Brothers”, which Cathy produced. The song tells the story of a gay coal miner who was harassed at work, sued the coal company and won. During the week-long workshop, we played a lot of music together, sang harmonies together and planted the seeds for a friendship.

Over the past five years, we’ve performed together and worked on several more projects. We organically built a repertoire that we love to perform together and these are the songs on “SHOUT AND SHINE.” The title song was written by Cathy in honor of the “SHOUT AND SHINE DIVERSITY SHOWCASE” hosted by The Bluegrass Situation and Pinecone Arts during the week of the International Bluegrass Music Association trade show and conference. That event was created to recognize a broader background of the roots of bluegrass music as well as to make everyone feel welcome in this musical genre. Our trio debuted the song, “SHOUT AND SHINE” there, with the 60-something Cathy & Marcy standing on either side of the 25 year old six-foot tall Sam.

WiMN: Which artists/mentors have inspired you and influenced you over the years?

C&M: This is a huge and long list. Here are a few of the artists and mentors who we have been inspired and influenced by: Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Mother Maybelle Carter, Patsy Montana (first woman in country music to sell one million records-we toured, performed and recorded with Patsy), Barry Luft (Cathy’s first banjo teacher), Si Kahn, Holly Near, Lily Mae Ledford, Ola Belle Reed, Jean Ritchie, Frank Vignola, Django Reinhardt, Tom Paxton, Roy Smeck, Joni Mitchell, The Boswell Sisters, Alice Gerrard & Hazel Dickens…..so many more!

WiMN: Your career has spanned over 35 years. What changes have you seen for women and queer artists?

C&M: We are really happy to see a new generation of artists who are comfortable with being themselves on stage and on recordings. Twenty to thirty years ago, many of these artists would have had fewer opportunities outside of women’s music festivals and concerts that catered to that audience. Listen to Crys Matthews and Kipyn Martin as two excellent examples. They are out, proud, inclusive, awesome songwriters and playing a wide range of concerts and festivals.

We’ve seen the “coming of age” of women in Bluegrass. In 1988 we produced an all female bluegrass album, “Blue Rose”, along with Laurie Lewis, Sally Van Meter and Molly Mason. The album drew national attention and planted seeds for a larger role for women in Bluegrass music. In 1980, Cathy became the first woman to win the West Virginia State Banjo Contest. In 2017, Molly Tuttle became the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Guitar Player of the Year” award. As the commercial said, “You’ve come a long way baby.” With each year, the talent and opportunities increase.

We are seeing more support in the music world for women and queer artists. As the song “Shout And Shine” says, “Doors are opening and that’s a good sign.”

WiMN: Let’s end with a favorite quote from each of you.

Marcy: “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” – Mary Oliver

Cathy: “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” – Maya Angelou

Below is the video for the title track,”Dancing In The Kitchen” from the 2015 album:

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Bluegrass Today Video Premiere Hot Pink House Trailer

Hot Pink House Trailer from Fink, Marxer & Gleaves

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Long running folk and old time duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer have added a third, and rebranded for a new album with singer/songwiter and multi-instrumentalist Sam Gleaves.

The three met at the Common Ground On The Hill instructional camp, and quickly became friends over their shared interests in music. That weekend meeting led to plans for an album together, and some tour dates in support once the record hits.

Shout & Shine is due for a June 16 release, from Fink, Marxer & Gleaves, with a debut single dropping today called Hot Pink House Trailer. The trio has an interesting vibe, with both Cathy and Marcy being seasoned veterans of some 35 years in the business, and Sam coming in many years their junior.

Gleaves shared a few words about the single, which he says he wrote based on a real life experience.

“I wrote Hot Pink House Trailer after seeing a really majestic, beautiful, hot pink house trailer when I was driving through Greer, South Carolina. It was truly my dream home and it inspired a short song about my love of living in the country. I intended for the song to be humorous, but then I realized that most of my values and beliefs are in the lyrics. I really love singing and playing this song with Cathy and Marcy. Their ‘swing-billy’ arrangement is superb.”

Here’s the music video they have created for the single.