Women Making Music

By: Peggy Ratusz


For the past 38 years, Asheville Greenworks, our local non-profit environmental organization, has worked tirelessly to encourage our community to be and stay “clean and green.” The first annual Green Swan Festival (GSF) celebrates and encourages their work.

Throughout the year, Asheville Greenworks engages the community via grassroots projects such as tree planting, clean-ups, anti-litter and recycling programs, creation and maintenance of green spaces, playground enhancements, neighborhood beautification, as well as care and preservation of Asheville’s trees. Your patronage at the festival, which takes place on Saturday, June 2nd from 11am to 10pm on the campus of Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, will offer you an opportunity to give back to their causes, and help them continue their vital work in keeping Asheville clean and green.


Danny’s Dumpsters and Curbside Management will be managing the event to ensure zero waste. There will be recycling and composting stations where volunteers will be “trash talking” to keep this a landfill-free event. Also on hand will be local food trucks, local brews, a kid zone, and of course a wide range of music acts.


The performers include local, regional, nationally and internationally known female artists. I’m honored to be included in the entertainment lineup. I will be performing with my dear friend and exceptionally gifted guitar player, Duane Simpson. I wrote a song inspired in part by my stint as a volunteer for Asheville Greenworks entitled “All for One.” Along with it, Duane and I will be playing a mix of original and cover Blues and Jazz. It’s been five years since Duane and I started playing together in band situations as well as this acoustic style duo. Our chemistry as friends translates effectively and effortlessly into the music we generate and the originals we’ve written together reflect the generations between us in a genuine and gracious way, allowing the difference in our ages to be a mute point by the time it’s all said and done. For those of you not familiar with Duane’s uncanny and superior guitar skills, what an extraordinary treat you’re in for! www.reverbnation.com/peggyratusz


WNCW Disc Jockey, Laura Blackley who hosts radio shows such as Local Color and Southern Sirens will be performing solo at the festival. She’s an unsung hero to our area’s established and emerging musicians as her promotional support helps grow fan bases, boost CD sales as well as attendance at shows. A self-taught banjo and guitar player this singer-songwriter and composer’s projects and collaborations reflect her versatility. Influences range from Bach to Pete Townsend. Whether its instrumental banjo music or murder ballads, it’s obvious that Laura’s compositions evolve from her deep center. Her loyal followers can attest to her unique, incomparable vocal style and in conjunction with her savory melodies and lyrics, her songs are tangible life lines to the listener. She’s a wife, mother, mentor, musician and overall Renaissance woman representing WNC in the finest way possible. www.myspace.com/laurablackley


South Carolinian, Angela Easterling has accolades a-plenty. Described as a singer who “boasts a crystal-clear voice” as well as “a golden glowing voice,” she paints pictures with original songs covering a myriad of subjects ranging from epic stories about power and corruption to elegant vignettes about heartache. She’s compared to Lucinda Williams, Tift Merrit and Shelby Lynn. And her sound has been represented as Jazzy-Folk, Pop and Alt Country. “Tradition meets youthful exuberance”…. “Innocence and clarity so fresh as to be dangerous”…. “Her gentle balladry is boundless like a field and as clear as country skies” are just a few of the quotes made by reviewers far and wide. Will Kimbrough, Emmy Lou Harris’s lead guitarist, produced two of her records that contain a sundry of Gospel, Southern Folk Rock and Country missives. Her exceptional songwriting is a true art, evidenced by her two-time Kerrville New Folk Festival Finalist status. Touring in 2011 allowed this songstress to charm new audiences with her mix of personal and political, disarming and provocative music and lyrics. www.angelaeasterling.com


Amy White will be appearing with her Grammy-winning husband Al Petteway. This astoundingly compelling husband and wife duo perform a blend of contemporary, Celtic and Appalachian-influenced original and traditional music. Amy is a masterful multi-instrumentalist and songwriter; supporting her husband she plays piano, mandolin, guitar, Celtic harp, mountain dulcimer and percussion. Her solo piano CD, Bittersweet: An American Romance has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Together they’ve garnered 50 awards from the Washington Area Music Association. The Washington Post describes Amy’s prowess like this: “transporting music and beauty, shaped not only by a keen sense of lyricism and dynamics, but also a quiet soulfulness that continually draws in the listener.” And Jazztimes says: “White continues to paint sumptuous portraits of life situations with a remarkable measure of clarity and color.” Women Today magazine gushes: “White guides the listener from the profound to the whimsical and back again with all the ease of a brilliant conversationalist.” www.alandamy.com


Friction Farm is another duo that will be featured at GSF and consists of Christine Stay on bass and vocals with Aidan Quinn on guitar and vocals. They first met in college where he was a guitar-playing geologist and she was an engineer. After graduating, Stay learned to play bass just to join in with Quinn. She soon discovered a love for performing and writing. Together they make a formidable team with a yin and yang approach to music, lyrics, melody and harmony. They blend Country, Folk and Pop and bring a freshness and spontaneity to the stage. Notable 2011 Kerrville New Folk Finalists and Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists, they’ve also been songwriter winners at the South Florida Folk Festival, Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival and were finalists for an official showcase at Southeast Regional Folk Alliance. Their CD Every Mile Is a Memory is the result of a project in which the duo wrote a song a week and invited fans to comment on and contribute to the songs. Their writings have been described as “folk nuggets that couple pretty harmonies with a contemplative simplicity.” Christine has a vocal and lyrical intensity that conveys a wide range of expression, intimate and vulnerable in one song, powerful and angst ridden in the next; her vocal confidence and melodic tone never waiver. www.frictionfarm.com


If you’ve never seen Caroline Pond, Fiddle/Ukulele and vocalist in action and on stage, the Green Swan Festival will provide you the opportunity to remedy that! Delightful is the best way to describe this precious Asheville darling. Unrestrained front woman of the renowned Snake Oil Medicine Show, she’s also one third of the Old Time Acoustic trio, The Tater Diggers. In early autumn of 2008, fate brought together Caroline and singer-songwriter-guitarist, Ben Scales when they were vacationing at the same time on a horse farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Behind the farm was a potato patch where they spent nearly a day digging out “taters.” When the sun went down that evening and the instruments came out, they both agreed that the chemistry they’d just experienced together was too big to ignore. Banjo player and singer Kevin Scanlon, a long time collaborator of Scales, was called in to complete the line-up. Caroline’s exuberant fiddle playing and beautiful voice turned the trio into a powerhouse of musical excitement. The blend of Old Time and Maritime rewards the Tater Diggers’ listeners with “a mari-old-time.” www.taterdiggers.com


Described as a powerful crooner, Lorraine Conard experienced an epiphany years ago and took to defining who she is in this world, when she decided to call herself a musician first and web designer, second. So she sought out like-minded players and put together a collection of tunes of Bluesy Folk Americana with Jazz undertones and released Riding on Your Wings in the fall of 2009. These pared down, mostly original songs allow her sultry pipes to take center stage, cradled in the safe arms of bass and mandolin. Conard’s influences are a vast and varied mix of artists whom she honors with her toe-tapping, country-fried, folk-tinged blues sound. She anchors this patchwork of roots with rich and earthy vocal interpretations that are equally capable of soothing as electrifying the audience. Slated to perform at this year’s Southeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference in May as well as Green Swan Festival on June 2nd, her incremental and deliberate steps to be a musician first, are paying off. Grasping the concept that audiences come to her shows to be entertained and transported, this ingénue knows just what to do. www.lorraineconard.com


World Folk Americana Singer Songwriter, Miriam Allen is not only a bilingual multi-instrumentalist and dancer; she’s a passionate activist too. Motivated by harsh realities that result from neglect, apathy and greed, she’s taken on her share of causes that impact our environment both land and sea, from her native South Carolina all the way to Cobscook Bay, Maine. She even helped spearhead a group of Folly Beach, SC residents to petition and then incorporate a much needed bike lane on a deadly stretch of road that had taken the life of fellow cyclist and musician, Hawke Morfii back in 2009. Her musical influences and motivations stem from living, traveling and performing throughout parts of South America, Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador and Mexico. She pays her traveling expenses by performing on the streets and cantinas of the towns and cities of these beautiful countries. This cabaret, gypsy-style minstrel’s sound is compelling, “effortlessly cool,” warm and fun, and blends her gritty “southern soul” roots with the Latin flavors she savors. www.miriamallen.com

First Annual Green Swan Festival will feature a savory feast of female music artists! (and some tasty male artist too!)


Everybody’s honey, songstress Lyndsay Wojcik, comes back to WNC to play at Green Swan Festival. We’ve missed you, Lyndsay! And if you don’t know her, then what a wonderful thing it is for you that she’s on the roster for the festival on June 2nd! A review I read on her website, describes her to a T: “A self-made woman, survival trained, au-natural. She is a free-spirited soul who writes bluesy melodies with colorful, vibrant lyrics. Her voice has that character that makes you want to meet her…” I can add that she’s a veritable songwriter and a sincere performer who possesses a flair for works in both comedy and tragedy. The songs dictate the voice, which can be mystifying and cryptic as well as frisky and torrid but also jovial or sorrowful. A beautiful person, Lyndsay is the genuine article. www.lyndsaywojcik.wordpress.com


And last but certainly not least, the line up of male artists gracing the Green Swan Festival stage is as savory as the female: Dave Desmelik, Aaron LaFalce, Michael Reno-Harrell, Ray Chesna, Jon Vezner, Pierce Pettis, Jay Allen Whitham and Todd Hoke.


For more information about The First Annual Green Swan Festival, please visit their webpage at www.greenswanfest.org or



Peggy Ratusz is a singer, a writer, a mentor, and vocal coach pmarie43@yahoo.com


Peggy Ratusz
Written by Peggy Ratusz