TRADITIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR 2008
- North American Folk Alliance nominee
Number ONE folk music airplay for February 2008
In the TOP SIX artists for all-year Folk Radio Airplay in North America, 2007,2008 & 2009.
-- FOLKRADIO.ORG REPORTS
“It's hard to imagine another artist on the folk scene who combines the same concise, deceptively understated, lyrical insight and sometimes devastating wit with such world-class instrumental prowess.”
– MUSICHOUND FOLK
“My profuse thanks for sending me a copy of your masterpiece, "The Banjo Monologues," one of the most fascinating projects I've ever heard... It's rare in this day and age when everybody and their brother is churning out one CD after another to encounter something that is truly original. "The Banjo Monologues" is one of those wonderful rarities.”
- DAVE HIGGS. NASHVILLE PUBLIC RADIO, BLUEGRASS BREAKDOWN
c/o Fossil Records
PO Box 306
Portage, MI 49081
Folksinger, instrumentalist, songwriter & teacher — Joel Mabus has been a force on the acoustic music scene for some thirty years. He has headlined at major festivals, toured the folk circuit throughout North America, recorded albums (of both original and traditional material) to high acclaim, and taught guitar, banjo & songwriting at the major music camps.
THE OFFICIAL BIO:
Joel Mabus has split his long career in folk music between the traditional and the original. Split is perhaps not the proper word, because the old and the new intertwine in his music. This is true whether he is singing an old ballad with a new interpretive twist or writing a new song that sounds like it has been handed down from generations past. You might find him fingerpicking piedmont blues on the guitar, claw-hammering out a mountain tune on the banjo, or fiddling for a square dance – or singing his own original songs in folk clubs from Cambridge to Berkeley .
Where is he from? He was born and raised in a working-class family in a modest Southern Illinois town, about 105 miles southeast of Mark Twain, 190 miles northwest of Bill Monroe, 110 miles southwest of Burl Ives and just over the river and up the hill from Scott Joplin. When Joel’s mother and father (Ruby Lee & Gerald Mabus) came of age in the Great Depression, they took their old-time farm-grown music on the road with other family members as “hillbilly” entertainers, barnstorming the Midwest in medicine shows, small-town radio programs as well as their long-standing job performing road shows for Prairie Farmer, the parent company of the WLS Barn Dance, the progenitor of the Grand Ole Opry.
This pedigree was not lost on Joel as a child. When his baby-boom schoolmates were grooving to the Beach Boys and the Monkeys, he was drawn to the tunes of the Carter Family, Bill Monroe and Jimmie Rodgers. He also absorbed the blues and spiritual music that is thick in his native Southern Illinois along the Mississippi River .
The family mandolin was his first instrument, quickly adding banjo, guitar and fiddle. Harmony singing was learned at home, and at the local holiness church. Attending college in Michigan in the early 1970’s, he studied anthropology by day and learned the business of being a professional musician by night. Interests grew beyond bluegrass & old time stringband music, and Joel studied other forms of folk music, western swing, and even Celtic dance music long before it was the fad. He also began to write songs.
After journeyman’s work in several local bluegrass and string bands, Joel made his first record for a Michigan label in 1977 with mandolin legend Frank Wakefield guesting. Three years later he signed with Flying Fish Records for a two-record deal. In 1986 he was one of the first established folksingers to start his own independent label (Fossil Records), even before the advent of the home studio and compact disc, which make the practice so common today.
Joel Mabus has toured widely and makes his living at music, though he is – like most folk musicians touring in the 21st century – flying under the radar of American pop culture. Whether you label him folk, Americana , or a singer-songwriter, Mabus remains a one-off, walking that lonesome valley, making and marking his way as a working artist outside the confining walls of the usual music business.