Chris Vallillo is a nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and folk musician who makes the people and places of “unmetropolitan” America come to life in song. Having spent the last 30 years in the rural Midwest, he has a natural affinity for American roots music. Performing on six-string and bottleneck slide guitars and harmonica, Vallillo weaves original, contemporary, and traditional songs and narratives into a compelling and entertaining portrait of the history and lifestyles of the Midwest. Dirty Linen magazine described the music as, “vivid, original story songs” delivered with an “eye for detail and a sense of history” while Folk Wax Magazine Editor, Arthur Wood said “Vallillo’s guitar playing flows like warm honey and is a true aural delight.”
For Chris, a good song is as much a work of art as any painting or sculpture. His music has a timeless quality about it, with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Perhaps the archaeology degree Vallillo earned at Beloit College (BA Anthropology, 1976) helped him see the important little details of life which imbue his songs with a sense of history. His prairie poet style has been compared to Edgar Lee Masters and Vachel Lindsay and you can hear the strains of the Carter Family and Jimmy Rogers reflected in his writing. It’s roots based original and contemporary folk with the rich acoustic textures of bottleneck slide, finger style and flatpicked guitars that echo the influences of Mississippi John Hurt, Norman Blake, Doc Watson and John Fahey.
A recipient of a 1986 Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award for music composition, Chris was also a nominee for the Illinois Arts Council’s 1987 Governor’s Award for Individual Artist. In 1987 he conducted the Schuyler Arts Folk Music Project to document the last of the pre-radio generation. These recordings were accepted into the American Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress.
From 1990 through 1998 he served as the performing host and co-producer of the nationally distributed, award-winning public radio performance series Rural Route 3 where he performed next to (and with) a virtual who’s who of contemporary and traditional folk musicians. His most recent project, a one man show titled Abraham Lincoln in Song, received the endorsement of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the accompanying CD of music reached #10 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album Chart in March of 2008.
He recently completed his second term as the Illinois State Scholar for the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit on roots music New Harmonies. In 2013 he released his latest CD of bottleneck slide instrumentals and original songs, The Last Day of Winter, (#14 on the Folk charts in February) and produced the double CD set “Midwest Folklife Festival” for the Illinois Arts Council. He also scored and recorded the music for the documentary film “Witness to History” while maintaining a full touring schedule. In 2016 , his latest recording, Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement charted at # 6 on the Folk charts. He is currently working on the sound track for a series of videos for the The Illinois Freedom Project for the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.
2016 The CD Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement reaches # 6 on the Folk Charts
2015: Created the one man show Oh Freedom! Songs of the Civil Rights Movement featuring 11 pivotal songs from the movement.
2015: Scored the music for the Illinois Freedom Project on slavery in Illinois for the National Park Service.
2014: Co-wrote and performed the original show From the Prairie to the Presidency, the Music of Lincoln’s Life with noted Lincoln interpreter Fritz Klein for The Old State Capital Foundation, Springfield, IL.
2013: Scored and recorded music for the film, The Old State Capital, Witness to History.
2013: Released 7th recording, The Last Day of Winter, a CD of bottleneck slide instrumentals and original songs.
2010: Presenter at the Smithsonian Institution’s conference on Traveling Exhibits, Performance Rights Issues in a Museum Context.
2009-20011, 2006-2008: Two time Illinois State Scholar for the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition on Roots Music, New Harmonies.
2008: The audio CD Abraham Lincoln in Song reaches #10 on Billboard’s Bluegrass Album Chart.
2008: Abraham Lincoln in Song receives the endorsement of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, as well as that of the Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania Bicentennial Commissions. The show is performed at The Abraham Lincoln & Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museums, Lincoln Home National Historic site, The Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum, President Lincoln’s Cottage, and hundreds of sites across the country.
2008: Keynote Speaker, Midwest Open Air Museum Coordinating Council, Using Music in a Museum Context.
2006: Host and performer of WTTW, Chicago Public Television’s Arts Across Illinois – Centerstage, Live!
2005-2007: Developed Abraham Lincoln in Song, a one man show using period music directly associated with Lincoln, his own as a vehicle to explore his life and times. CD of music from the show released in 2008.
2003: Producer and host of the Illinois Mississippi River Valley Project Festival for the Illinois Arts Council.
2001-2002: Conducted and documented the field work for the Illinois Arts Council’s Illinois Mississippi River Valley Project documenting artists of all styles along the Mississippi River.
2000: Project Director, On the Farm Harvest Festival for the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL
1998: National Federation of Community Broadcaster’s Special Merit Award for National Music/Entertainment Series for the nationally syndicated radio series, Rural Route 3
1995: National Federation of Community Broadcaster’s Bronze Reel Award for National Music/Entertainment Series for the nationally syndicated radio series, Rural Route 3
1990-1997: Host and co-producer of the nationally syndicated public radio performance series Rural Route 3.
1993-1994: Composed, arranged and performed the theme song and other period music for the sound track of the 22 part public television series, The Civil War and Reconstruction.
1992-1993: Composed, performed, and recorded the soundtrack for Illinois Historic Panorama, a thirteen part public television series on the history of Illinois.
1987: Designed and carried out The Schuyler Arts Folk Music Collecting Project, for the Illinois Arts Council in cooperation with the Library of Congress Folklife Center, accepted into the Folklife Archives in 1988.
1986: Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship Award for Music Composition.
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Articles and Written Mediaclick to open in new window
- Chicago Tribune 2014
- Grand Prairie Union News Feb. 2016
- The Tinley Junction 2015
- Little Village Article
- Dirty Linen Article Page 1
- Dirty Linen Article Page 2
- Farm Bureau Article Winter 2003
- Illinois Times- Surviving on the Lonesome Prairie
- Last Day of Winter Review by Jonathan Airds of American UK
- Last Day of Winter Review on the Illinois Entertainer, Around Hear March 2013
- Last Day of Winter Review from Maverick Magazine March/April 2013
- Last Day of Winter Review by Gary Tuber at examiner.com