Bridging Traditions – Kristin Andreassen

& WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS playlist for May 3, 2015

Singer, songwriter, dancer, instrumentalist, teacher and creative whirlwind Kristin Andreassen recently paid a visit to my radio show to share selections from her new CD Gondolier. Her performances blend powerful original songs, beautiful vocals, percussive dance and a captivating presence that draws from traditional roots but reflects contemporary styling.

Now a fixture in the impressive Brooklyn music scene, Kristin is originally from Portland, Oregon where she developed an interest in music and dance. In 1999 she became a clogger with the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble in Maryland, where she became a principle dancer with the internationally touring company and also became a teacher of Appalachian clogging, Cape Breton stepdancing and percussive dance. While with the troupe, Kristin and her friends Laura Cortese and Pierce Woodward recorded two EPs as the trio The Jolly Bankers.

Uncle Earl

Uncle Earl

In 2003, Kristin joined the old-timey string band Uncle Earl as a dancer, singer and guitarist. While with the all-female band, Kristin wrote a song called “Pale Moon” which features the lyric that became the title of their first CD on Rounder Records “She Waits for the Night”. You can also hear Kristin’s dancing feet at work on the Uncle Earl recording of “Sisters of the Road,” which was featured in the soundtrack of the film Cedar Rapids. As she explained during our interview, Kristin is still officially a member of Uncle Earl as the band is on a “hiatus” (they still gets together for an occasional show).

As a songwriter, Kristin has been involved in several projects both as a solo artist and as a member of Sometymes Why, a trio she formed in 2005 with Aoife O’Donovan of Crooked Still and Ruth Ungar Merenda of The Mammals. She describes the trio as “folk noir” and they recorded a self titled CD and toured the United States and Ireland, with some prestigious appearances at Bonnaroo as well as NPR’s Mountain Stage.

Kristin’s first solo album was released in 2007 and it featured the song Crayola Doesn’t Make A Color For Your Eyes, a composition that won her the John Lennon Songwriting Contest award in the children’s category. While the song and the album was intended for children, the song speaks to all ages and became popular on children’s radio across the country. It has also been recorded by a number of artists, including Tyne Daly, and has also been performed by high school marching bands!

Kristin Andreassen "Gondolier" CD cover collage by Doug Chayka

Kristin Andreassen’s “Gondolier”
collage by Doug Chayka

Kristin’s solo work draws upon all of her diverse influences. Her latest CD, Gondolier, was released in February and spent three weeks in the Top 40 of the national Americana chart. The album features a number of special guests, including Aoife O’Donovan, The Punch Brothers’ Chris Eldridge and Paul Kowert, Jefferson Hamer and Cuddle Magic’s Alec Spiegelman. While there is a strong contemporary folk feel to the CD, the root influences are always present. There is a lovely urban pop feel that mixes well with the traditional styling of the artists and subjects that are timeless. The album presents an intriguing juxtaposition of themes – urban and rural, dreaming and reality, as well as some powerful songs that explore childhood, adulthood and growing old. The diversity of themes leads to an intriguing listen from first song to last. Kristin’s beautiful voice shines.

The blend of styles and settings that Kristin offers in her work has made her popular in the folk circuit.  In addition to performing her songs, Kristin still finds time to teach at music camps and festivals (she will be offering workshops at the Wheatland Music Camp in Remus, Michigan in June) and she also calls square and contra dances!

The interview below features Kristin performing live in the WFDU studio along with special guest Stephanie Coleman on fiddle and vocals.  I hope you will take the time to listen to this feature to discover the beautiful songs that Kristin has created and you will discover why she is a rising voice in the contemporary folk community as she maintains and honors her traditional roots.

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About Ron Olesko

For over 40 years, Ron has been a radio programmer with WFDU-FM in Teaneck, New Jersey. He created WFDU-FM's TRADITIONS in 1980, a show that he continues to host and produce every Sunday afternoon from 3 to 6pm Eastern Time. He's the president of and booker for the Hurdy Gurdy Folk Music Club in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and is a regular contributor to Sing Out! as well as the host of the Folk Music Notebook blog on this site. Ron can also be found emceeing concerts and festivals around the NYC/NJ area. A lifelong Mets fan and a rabid soccer geek, Ron is a Red Bull season ticket holder since their inception and will most likely be in his seat when not in the studio.

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