Photographer: Buttface McGee
Photographer: Buttface McGee
Photographer: Buttface McGee
Social pioneers and master musicians Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer first began playing together over 35 years ago. As artists, their boundless discography includes a diverse mix of folk, country, bluegrass, old-time, and children’s music. They’ve toured worldwide, playing on stages in Japan, New Zealand, Vancouver, and New York; performed at hundreds of bluegrass and folk festivals, including the Philadelphia Folk Festival and as headliners at the Patchwork Tales Storytelling Festival; and appeared on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” “All Songs Considered,” and CBS’ “Early Show.” Cathy & Marcy earned a Grammy award in 2005 for cELLAbration: a Tribute to Ella Jenkins and in 2004 for Bon Appétit!, a children’s album celebrating food and encouraging healthy eating. In total, they’ve been nominated 11 times, including twice in the category for “Best Traditional Folk Album”.
As producers, their work includes recordings by Tom Paxton, Si Kahn, Ysaye Barnwell, M.S.G. Blues Trio, Patsy Montana, Bonnie Rideout, Bill Harley, and Pat Humphries, among others. Devoted to spreading an appreciation for music, they have taught at over 100 camps to notable musicians like Rhiannon Giddens and Kaki King, regularly hold workshops, offer online classes, and pro-bono mentoring. Located in Washington D.C. area, they are lifelong activists for children’s healthcare, the advancement of women, preventing family violence, unions, and performers’ rights. 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. They collaborated with Laurie Lewis, Sally Van Meter, and Molly Mason on the legendary 1989 album Blue Rose, released on Sugar Hill Records. Cathy, who also co-produced the record, explains, “It was my response to the fact that multiple supergroup bluegrass recordings had been released, and not one featured any female players.”
Despite a four-decade age gap, Sam Gleaves is an innovator in his own right. Born and raised in southwest Virginia, Sam began singing and playing a handful of instruments as a teenager, including banjo, guitar, fiddle, autoharp, and dulcimer. Earning a degree from Berea College in Folklore, Sam’s work merges traditional Appalachian ballads and dance tunes with the history they’re rooted in, giving a unique and fresh perspective on mountain music and addressing present social issues in the region. His music has been featured on NPR, The Guardian, KEXP, Exclaim!, , No Depression, and BGS. He’s toured internationally and appeared at venues across the U.S., including the respected Mountain Stage. Since 2012, he has taught at multiple camps and events around the world and composed the music for the folk opera, “In These Fields,” a commentary on the relationship between agriculture and cultural diversity in the South. The folk opera was a collaboration with acclaimed Kentucky writer Silas House who wrote the monologues.
It was from that production that two of the most notable songs on Shout and Shine were born, “Moonshine” and “Welcome Table,” a song whose lyrics were derived from old African American spirituals and traditional songs. “Moonshine” is proof of Sam’s unique and unparalleled style, weaving oral myths with written history. “The lyrics ‘singlin and doublin,’ refer to the distillation; ‘checking the bead’ is what moonshiners back in the day would do to check the alcohol content, which meant shaking the jar to see how many bubbles would form.” Sam also wrote the upbeat single, “Hot Pink House Trailer”, inspired by a real-life hot pink trailer he passed while driving through South Carolina.
The album opens with the title track, “Shout and Shine,” a welcoming narrative that paves the way for the rest of the self-produced record. With lyrics like “whoever we believe in believes in us all,” and “married, single, gay and straight, welcome into the music state,” Fink, Marxer & Gleaves take turns encouraging listeners to ‘shout’ and ‘shine.’. The track listing is filled with songs inspired by historical and musical figures, nodding to icons like the renowned Libba Cotten (“Oh, Babe, It Ain’t No Lie” and “Sweet South Anna River”), an acapella gospel-based arrangement called, “Brother You Ought To Been There”, and a tribute to Jean Ritchie titled, “If I Were A Blackbird.” In addition to the band’s polished three part harmony, the record boasts the skill and musicianship of each Fink, Marxer & Gleaves with varied instrumental work on fiddle, banjo, resonator guitar, mandolin, guitar, cello banjo, harmonica and penny whistle.
While Shout and Shine focuses around themes of social justice, inclusion, celebrating diversity, and raising awareness about contemporary issues, Sam explains that the album is also a commentary on the importance of art. “I think that the whole ‘Shout and Shine’ idea says that art really is a valuable way to make a happy life for yourself. Cathy, Marcy, and I just got to know each other in the past 5-6 years and we’ve had this wonderful friendship because we all love and care about traditional music and the people and places that it comes from, as well as the culture and community,” he explains, “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. Anything to work music into their own life. It’s been such a blessing to me.”
The album closes with a last impactful message, a cover of Jim Beloff’s “Closer To The Light”:
“We’ve been soaking in sounds and songs all our lives; Sam for 25 years, Cathy for 64 and Marcy for 62. Someplace along the line, music called us all together, finding common ground in a love of Appalachian traditional music, a love of harmony singing, a love of drawing outside the lines and a love of using music to instigate a positive change. Music is life, is love, is action, is more than the notes we play and the words we write. Most importantly, we love the community it brings. Hopefully, as in Jim Beloff’s beautiful song, it brings us all ‘closer to the light.’”Fink, Marxer & Gleaves might be an unexpected union, but their friendship defines exactly what Shout and Shine calls for — respect, love, and the beauty that is created when we work together. ♦️
Sarah Bennett – firstname.lastname@example.org