To ask how Laurie Lewis’s music is relevant in this day and age, in the broader folk, Americana, and bluegrass scenes as a whole, would be similar to asking how a brick in a home’s foundation is relevant to its structure. Her influence, her reach and her artistic intent are quiet stalwarts on which so much has been built. – Justin Hiltner, Bluegrass Situation
For nearly four decades, Laurie Lewis has gathered fans and honors for her powerful and emotive voice and her versatile, dynamic songwriting. She is a sought-after recording producer and an equally skilled teacher and mentor.
And she is an inspiration and a ground-breaker – across genres, across geography and across gender barriers.
Laurie has shown us how a woman can blend into any part of the classic bluegrass singing trio, and she showed us how a great voice could move fluidly between bluegrass and other types of music. She showed us how a female fiddler could emulate the strength and grit of the early bluegrass musicians. She has shown how a Californian can appeal to traditional bluegrass audiences, as well as winning acclaim in the worlds of Americana and folk music.
She has shown us how to lead bands of talented musicians – learning from them while helping them make their best music. And she has shown us how to thrive in a constantly changing musical environment – without ever sacrificing her art.
Her voice is a rare combination of grit and grace, strength and delicacy. Her stories always ring true. – Linda Ronstadt
The singer/songwriter. Although she has played roots music since her teenage years and performed in various bands from her early 20s, it wasn’t until she was 36 that Laurie decided to venture out on her own. Her solo recording, Restless Rambling Heart, introduced the national music audience to Laurie’s talents and versatility. The CD, produced by Tim O’Brien, features seven originals and showcases her stunning vocal range and control.
Since that time, Laurie has twice been named Female Vocalist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association, and won Song of the Year for her rendition of the now-standard “Who Will Watch the Home Place?” She has collaborated on numerous other award-winning recordings.
While steeped in the bluegrass tradition, Laurie’s songwriting demonstrates her ability to surpass the limitations of that genre. Her works reflect her wide range of influences: from old time and country to Tin Pan Alley, jazz standards and early rock ‘n roll.
Her songs have been recorded by Kathy Mattea, Patsy Montana and the First Ladies of Bluegrass, led by Missy Raines, among others.
Poet, essayist, novelist, and environmental activist Wendell Berry has asked her to set some of his poems to music.
Laurie has been nominated for GRAMMYs for her own projects and has been prominently featured on others’ GRAMMY-winning works.
I am happy to count myself one of your admirers. ‘Haven of Mercy’ touches me right to the quick. – Wendell Barry
Her partners. The year Laurie’s first solo CD came out was also the year she started working with Tom Rozum. Their duet harmonies, coupled with their unique arrangements of traditional and contemporary songs, rank them as one of the great singing pairs in modern acoustic music. Tom also has played an important role in all of Laurie’s bands on four instruments, as well as on lead and harmony vocals.
Laurie has always surrounded herself with stellar performers, whether in her sizzling bluegrass band, The Right Hands, as a duo with guitar goddess Nina Gerber, or long-time musical soulmate Tom Rozum. She also has toured with countless great musicians in a wide variety of ensembles.
A recent project, and Laurie Lewis, is a series of duets with old friends (Kathy Kallick, Tom Rozum, Craig Smith, Mike Marshall, Nina Gerber, Barbara Higbie, and Todd Phillips), and the newest generation of acoustic standouts (Molly Tuttle, Leah Wollenberg and Tatiana Hargreaves).
I’m so proud of this track Laurie Lewis and I recorded for her upcoming album. She is one of my earliest heroes and influences, which I think you can hear in the way our voices blend together. Singing with her is always the biggest honor. – Molly Tuttle
The teacher. For almost as long as she’s been performing, Laurie has been sharing her passion for bluegrass and her knowledge of the voice, bluegrass instruments and song arranging with eager students at music camps across the country. She has become a mentor to many young women, among them Tatiana Hargreaves and Kimber Ludiker, who have gone on to stellar professional music careers.
Laurie Lewis’ music made me fall in love with bluegrass — her voice, her fiddle playing and her songwriting are all so inspired. She is a singular talent. You always know it’s Laurie singing and fiddling from the first note. Laurie has always been so generous with her time and her gracious mentorship has paved the way for so many young musicians, myself included. – Kimber Ludiker
The producer. Laurie has been producing other musicians’ recording projects since 1989, when she worked with guitarist Scott Nygaard on his acclaimed solo album, No Hurry. Since then, she has produced more than a dozen CDs. These include Music from Rancho DeVille, which she completed for her friend Charles Sawtelle after his death, and Bittersweet, noted singer/songwriter Alice Gerrard’s first-ever CD of all original material.
She has helped launch the amazing T Sisters and other young Bay Area artists like Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman. Her record label, Spruce and Maple Music, has been recognized for outstanding quality in recording, artwork and artist roster.
Laurie’s guidance throughout the process of recording Chasin’ After the Wind was invaluable. She enabled me play my best in the studio, shared strategies to capture the magic of live performance on recording, and was easy to work with. Laurie made my musical dreams come true. I couldn’t think of a better person to make an album with! – Daisy Caire
Laurie Lewis is one of my favorite fiddlers and one of the most all around inspiring musicians and people. She’s one of those musicians that sounds so authentically herself while simultaneously expressing universal emotions and the environmental concerns we all face. I wouldn’t be playing the music I play if it weren’t for Laurie Lewis. – Tatiana Hargreaves