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Hickory Ridge Concerts

The Hickory Ridge Concert Series is a once a month acoustic music concert series that I’ve been producing in one form or another non stop since 1989.  We are currently working in partnership with the Dickson Mounds Museum, a branch of the Illinois State Museum that sits on the bluffs of the Illinois River Valley overlooking the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.   This has been an excellent partnership and we are in the middle of our 24nd year there (and our 27th year in all).  We feature folk, blues, old time, singer-songwriter and even on rare occasions, bluegrass music in the handicapped accessible 150 seat auditorium of the Dickson Mounds Museum.

PERFORMERS:  I usually book solo and duo professional players from the region and only rarely use larger acts or book nationally touring acts.  Performers who are interested in being considered for performance should download the Generic Performer Letter to learn about the gig.  If you are appropriate to the venue and are interested in being considered, please email me (do not call).  As you would expect, I always have three times as many interested performers as I have performance slots so be prepared to wait a while.

AUDIENCE:  Concerts take place every third Saturday of the month all year long in the comfort of the Dickson Mounds Museum auditorium. We feature the best in roots, folk and acoustic music of all kinds. Showtime is 7:00 pm, admission is $8.00 for adults; $5.00 for kids under 12.

January 20th, Last Acre   https://youtu.be/KlnbX2S9Jg8

Last Acre is Mark and Molly Mathewson, an Illinois-based father/daughter Americana duo whose sound is rooted in original songs and blood-kin harmonies. Mark is a winner of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. His songs have been recorded by a number of bluegrass artists, including Grammy nominee Blue Highway. Molly is an actor and songwriter.  Tom Irwin (Illinois Times) had this to say: “the daughter/father duo of Molly and Mark Mathewson play off ‘blood’ harmonies, instrumental interplays (acoustic guitar and standup bass) and way-good original songs with some covers of integrity.

 February 17th,  The Shanties  https://youtu.be/91Puova9O0Y

The Shanties “New Irish” music is filled with rocked-up Irish favorites, old, new and originals.   Though there is nothing sweeter than an Irish ballad played by 4 singers – 2 guys and 2 girls, the focus is the up-tempo rowdier melodies with pop Irish influence from Solas, Gaelic Storm, Great Big Sea and Flogging Molly to name a few.

The blended singing and instrument sounds of fiddle, mandolin, whistle, guitar, and the Irish (drum) bodhran create the unique acoustic rock sound of The Shanties.



March 17th, The Gordons   https://youtu.be/Y9OA3Va0Qkg

Internationally acclaimed Bluegrass and Folk duo The Gordons  return to the Hickory Ridge Concert Series for our St

Patrick’s Day concert.  Featuring Gary Gordon on guitar and Roberta Gordon on Autoharp,  this award winning duo combines world class bluegrass chops with outstanding vocals on excellent original and traditional music.

The Gordons music is heartfelt, sincere and unique, a combination of old time sensibilities, beautiful harmonies and world class playing  Music Row, the Nashville Music Industry Publication, said “The Gordons sing with such open-hearted honesty and pick with such crystalline purity that you’d have to be made of steel to resist them.” 


 April 21st, Lil’ Rev     https://youtu.be/S-hMzpLz8RA

Milwaukee, Wisconsin ukulele and harmonica master Lil Rev returns to Hickory Ridge for an evening of great music,
Though his first loves are for the  ukulele and harmonica, Rev is actually a seasoned multi-instrumentalist equally adept with a flat-pick guitar, old-time banjo, or blues mandolin.

Growing up in the shadows of American Motors, Briggs & Stratton, and A.O. Smith, the sights and sounds of Milwaukee’s industrial powerhouse in flux were an inspiration for his music, infusing it with strong esteem for the common man.  His musical heroes include Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Sonny Terry, Cicso Houston and Leadbelly. His performances are stimulating, nostalgic and entertaining, while his enthusiasm for the subject matter is downright contagious.

May 19th, Phil Heywood     https://youtu.be/rzIszhMkt3w

Phil Heywood plays fingerstyle guitar with a bluesy swing and a bucketful of whatever it takes to turn an instrumental  piece into an arresting lyrical narrative. His lucid playing encompasses the down-home rhythmic groove of a Mississippi John Hurt or Leadbelly, and the sheer fluidity and melodic flair of such contemporaries as Leo Kottke.  A soul-satisfying instrumentalist, Phil draws listeners in with his voice as well, singing in a warm, plainspoken baritone that blends smoothly with his rock-solid guitar work.

Heywood has been based in Minneapolis-St. Paul since the mid-eighties, performing locally and regionally while also establishing himself in the greater guitar and acoustic music world. In 1986 he won the National Fingerpicking Championship, and followed up a year later by winning the American Fingerstyle Guitar Festival Competition. Phil has played on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion with guitar legend Chet Atkins, performed with fellow acoustic guitar luminaries Peter Lang, Pat Donohue, Tim Sparks, and Dakota Dave Hull, and opened shows for such artists as Norman Blake, Greg Brown, John Renbourn, Chris Smither, and John Hammond.

June 16th, Andy Cohen  https://youtu.be/CtStpK39MeM

The house will be jumpin when master blues guitarist Andy Cohen returns to the Hickory Ridge Concert Series. Andy’s shows are an encyclopedia of  the blues including material by Rev. Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzey, Gus Cannon, Frank Stokes, Memphis Minnie, Bukka White, Barbecue Bob, Charlie Patton, Ted Bogan, Henry Spaulding, or any of a hundred other blues people.

Andy Cohen grew up in a house with a piano and a lot of Dixieland Jazz records. At about fifteen, he got bitten by the Folk Music bug, and at sixteen, when he saw Rev. Gary Davis, his course was set.  Over the years he’s studied, perform and promoted the music of the southeast quadrant, America¹s great musical fountainhead.

Along the way he’s hung out and performed with many of the greats of acoustic blues; Phil Wiggins, John Cephas, Honeyboy Edwards, Mad Dog Lester,  Elizabeth Cotten and Etta Baker just to name a few.

July 21st, The Sweet Potatoes  https://youtu.be/lhzemq0F43o

The Sweet Potatoes come out of Southern California dishing up a fresh blend of country, folk and homespun Americana, sure to bring a smile to your face with their sweet harmonies and finely crafted songwriting.

Laura Hall (songwriter, guitar, accordion, ukulele, vocals) is best known as the pianist on the hit television show “Whose Line is it Anyway”. She came up in the acoustic music scene in Chicago, playing with folks like with Michael Smith, Tim Grimm, and Buddy Mondlock. Kelly Macleod (songwriter, guitar, vocals) cut her teeth on the road after being discovered by Eddie Van Halen while singing at a local club in Shreveport, La. Eddie brought her band, “Private Life” on a his world tour, and produced their two albums. Rick Hall (bass, harmonica, vocals), grew up on a farm near Jerseyville, IL, and is also a fine actor and storyteller.

August 18th,  Amelia Sweet Bluebird   https://youtu.be/Myf6Lfaq9Qk

Amelia Sweet Bluebird Stamsta is a folk musician in the Midwest, currently residing in Chicago. She sings spirituals, original material, with an emphasis on wisdom, social protest, and nature teachings. She performs in local venues, markets/festivals, churches, collaborating with other musicians along the way.  





September 15th  Bechtold and Stear   https://youtu.be/274iOch3HH8

David Berchtold and Brian Stear of Berchtold and Stear share a special musical chemistry on stage performing in the classic guitar and harmonica style of Piedmont Blues duo’s like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee.  A dedicated perfectionist, David Berchtold spent over 25 years diligently practicing his craft as a hard driving alternating-thumb finger style. For over 30 years, Brian Stear has built a reputation of being a consumate sideman.  His amazingharmonica playing has backed up musicians from local coffeehouse regulars to Grammy award winning blues artists like Koko Taylor. A multi-stylist, Brian has the ability to bring exactly what’s needed to the song, adding that “magic” ingredient to the musical recipe.  The music of Berchtold & Stear will have you tapping your feet, nodding your head, and grooving along in no time at all.

October 20th, Patty Stevenson & Craig Siemsen  https://youtu.be/vT3bEwBvp1s

Described as genuinely talented with classic folk voices, Patty Stevenson and Craig Siemsen are known for their gorgeous harmonies, impeccable musicianship, playful stage humor, and jewel-like original songs.  Patty says about performing, “I try for magic – nothing less! For the place that opens hearts and will move an audience to tears or smiles.”

Patty and Craig were individually ‘out there’ enjoying their music, when, in the mid- 1980s, they met while performing at a folk music festival. For many years, the couple maintained solo careers, even after they married. Eventually, with the prodding of wise friends, they agreed to perform one show as a duo. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, they continue to create and record original songs as well as their own variations on timeless pieces that often span the ages of creativity in sound.

November 17th: Andy Hatfield and Solly Burton

Andy and Solly, both repeated National Champions at the prestigious Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield Kansas, play an exciting mix of bluegrass, swing, and country music on guitar and mandolin.  Andy grew up on Illinois’ rich bluegrass scene in the 1990’s, spurred on by Peoria’s own Applegate and Company. Solly Burton, who grew up on his family’s farm just outside of Graysville, Indiana, made a name for himself as a prodigy mandolin player.   As a duo, these musicians excel at playing bluegrass and swing music. “Solly Burton may be the best swing mandolin player in the country,” says Hatfield, himself a past national mandolin champion.  “I’ve played music for hours with him, and I still can’t tell how he plays so flawlessly. Listening to him is like watching a artist paint: when you step back from the image, you see how each piece fits together perfectly to create the whole.”



December 15th, Curtis and Loretta Christmas show

Curtis & Loretta’s music comes straight from the heart. The husband and wife duo’s extraordinary harmonies and proficiency on a parade of stringed instruments create an alluring frame for their poignant original songs, and carefully chosen traditional pieces from the British Isles, America, and beyond. The current menagerie includes Celtic harp, mandocello, mandolin, guitars, clawhammer banjo, and National steel ukulele, plus a bit of kazoo, harmonica, and shakers. They will perform a special Christmas Concert in period costume featuring all your favorite Christmas songs performed in their award winning style!