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The Listening Room - Port Clinton: Artist Bios

We Banjo 3 - Wednesday, March 21st


For all the innovation and invention that goes into modern music these days, it’s the inspiration derived from one’s roots that proves the most enduring. So credit Galway, Ireland’s We Banjo 3 for finding common ground between old world tradition and authentic Americana by plying their banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin in an innovation fusion of styles that they dub “Celtgrass.”

Four albums in — their latest, String Theory, was released in July of 2016 — the band’s rousing revelry, sheer virtuosity, power, passion and purpose have made them one of the music world’s most celebrated ensembles. Variously described as “astonishing,” “the Gold Standard of Irish and American Roots music,” and “the Irish Punch Brothers,” they’ve can claim the # 1 position in Billboard’s World Music charts, top honours from IMRO (the Irish Music Rights Organization), top sales numbers and the distinction of entertaining an American president, an Irish Prime Minister and members of the U.S. Congress at the annual “Friends of Ireland” luncheon on Capitol Hill. Little wonder then that We Banjo 3 is literally taking both sides of the Atlantic by storm, carving a reputation as one of the world’s most imaginative ensembles.

Of course, all results are generally due to the sum of the parts, and the individuals involved here all contribute to the common cause. Made up of two sets of siblings — brothers Enda Scahill (tenor banjo, vocals) and Fergal Scahill (fiddle, viola, dobro, percussion, guitar, mandolin, vocals) and brothers Martin Howley (tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals) and David Howley (lead vocals, guitar) – We Banjo 3 finds a natural symmetry as well as a cohesive chemistry that’s been imbued in the band ever since they were initially drawn to one another by their common creative interests. Inspired by the traditional Irish and Americana music they heard growing up, they placed three banjo players in the mix in the beginning, eventually diversifying their sound while broadening their boundaries as well.

Likewise, the individual members brought a credence that extended well beyond their family connections. Martin is a seven-time all-Ireland banjo champion and the first Irish musician to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Enda has recorded with Ricky Skaggs, the Chieftains and many others, aside from being considered as one of the world’s leading authors and authorities on Irish banjo techniques. Fergal has performed with dozens of artists at home and abroad, and is widely recognized as an Irish champion of both fiddle and bodhran. David has been cited as a solo artist of exceptional skill, while Garry is a veteran of work with numerous bands and individual artists.

Likewise, the evolution in the group’s sound followed a natural progression that evolved early on. Their 2012 debut album, Roots of the Banjo Tree, leaned entirely on banjo music and the various styles implied by that instrumental arsenal. Their critically acclaimed sophomore set, Gather the Good, released in 2014, furthered that vantage point, an aural summation of the impressions and experiences gained while touring the U.S. and their initial introduction to Nashville that was followed by the release of 2015‘s Live in Galway, recorded in the same small hometown pub where the band performed their very first gig.

Their new album, String Theory, appears to be a change in their tack, but only slightly. Half traditional covers, half original material, it finds the band’s reverence for their roots given a contemporary twist, further solidifying the common bonds between the two styles. The various jigs and reels underscore the band’s celebratory stance, but on a tender ballad like the 17th century soliloquy “Two Sisters,” the mix of love, jealousy and evil intent sound tailor made for modern times. While the instrumental interplay is in evidence as always, each individual musician adds his own distinctive style, further affirming their collective cause.

Indeed, anyway you look at it, We Banjo 3 adds up to one exceptional outfit.


Gary Hannan & Julianne Ankley - Saturday, April 14th


Gary Hannan
Gary is a professional Songwriter who has written songs recorded by Blake Shelton, Joe Nichols, John Michael Montgomery, Craig Morgan, Michael Peterson, Jaron and the Long Road To Love, Montgomery Gentry, Hot Apple Pie, Darryl Worley, and many more.  His awards include BMI #1 Radio Airplay awards for “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “Back When I Knew it All”, CMA #1 awards, ACM #1 awards, Country Aircheck, BMI Millionaire awards in recognition of over Four million plus radio air plays, NSAI’s “Songs I Wish I Had Written” award voted by the professional songwriting community.  Gary has a song on Blake Shelton’s 2013 ACM and ACA winning certified Platinum, Grammy nominated Album of The Year “Base On A True Story.”   In addition to his U.S. accolades, Gary has two International #1 hits, and a 2015 Album of the Year award in South Africa for Jason Bradley.”

Julianne Ankley
With six Detroit Music Awards to her name including Outstanding Country Songwriter in 2016 and Outstanding Country Vocalist in 2015, Julianne has cemented herself in the Detroit and Michigan music scenes as a major talent and one of the hardest working country artists in the midwest. Julianne has been writing heartfelt songs and delivering electric performances, both solo and with her band The Rogues, for years. Her sophomore album “Vivid” was the winner of the 2012 DMA for Outstanding Country Recording, and her song “Lead Footin’ In The Left Lane” was used for the opening video for the 2015 Woodward Dream Cruise television show. In addition, Julianne’s song “No Place For a Lullabye” was used nationally by HomeAid of America in their PSA campaign to raise funds for housing the homeless. She was the celebrity host and performer in Nashville on the Hard Rock Cafe stages during CMA Fest, and also performs occasionally at Nashville’s world-famous Bluebird Cafe, the Listening Room, Tootsie’s, and more.

John Berry - Friday, April 27th


John Berry has a new outlook, a new address and a new beginning. The singer-songwriter rose to stardom on the country charts of the 1990s with such mega hits as Your Love Amazes Me, Standing on the Edge of Goodbye and She’s Taken a Shine. His annual Christmas tours brighten the holidays for thousands, as does his electrifying rendition of O’ Holy Night.

During his star-making decade, John placed 20 singles on the county hit parade, 6 of which went Top 5, with Your Love Amazes Me, scoring a #1 on the Billboard Country Chart. He has earned multiple Gold and Platinum records over the years. John was nominated for the ACM Top New Male Vocalist in 1994, won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his participation in Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel Vol. 1, was nominated for another Grammy in 1995 for his smash hit Your Love Amazes Me and was nominated for the CMA Horizon Award and Top Male Vocalist Award in 1995. In 1997 he was nominated for Vocal Event of the Year (for Long Haired Country Boy with Charlie Daniels and Hal Ketchum) and in 2013 John was nominated for the Mainstream Country Male Artist by the ICM Awards. And thanks to the miracles of modern technology, he even sang a duet with the late, great Patsy Cline.

“I love what I do, with a passion not seen in quite some time. I’m hopeful and excited about the future. I love singing and always will. I have a bus, an incredible stage presentation, a great band, hands-on management team and I’m always all dressed up and ready to go.”

He and his family moved back to Music City after several years in Georgia, and in 2016 John is pursuing a touring and personal appearance schedule that is more active than ever. Given his wide range of music and number of releases, John is fortunate in that he can book a solo show with just himself and guitar, a small-band acoustic show or a full-band engagement and has more than enough hit material to captivate a crowd and deliver an evening full of musical memories.

John’s enduringly powerful performances draw on a lifetime of making music and living life. Born in South Carolina and raised in Georgia, he began playing guitar at 13, performing shows at age 14 and making records at age 19. “By the time I was 17, I knew that music was what I wanted to do with my life”; and he has done it well ever since. 

Between 1979 and 1990 he recorded and marketed six albums on his own labels. The Graduation Song, which he wrote during his senior year in high school, became a perennial favorite at graduation ceremonies. It appeared on two of his early collections.

Those early discs and John’s strong regional popularity attracted attention on Music Row. Capitol Records signed him to his first major label contract in 1992. Berry’s co-written hits A Mind of Her Own and Kiss Me in the Car introduced him to radio audiences in 1993. Then Your Love Amazes Me, What’s in it for Me and You and Only You thrust him to stardom in 1994. Standing on the Edge of Goodbye, I Think About it all the Time, and If I Had Any Pride Left at All were all major hits the following year, with Standing on the Edge of Goodbye earning John the coveted 1995 Grammy nomination.

But it was his stunning performance of the title track of the 1995 CD O’ Holy Night that led to his most enduring legacy to date. John began doing special Christmas tours that year and 2016 marks his 20th anniversary holiday concert tour. He has big plans to celebrate and involve the fans like never before for this anniversary celebration. He has also issued three more Christmas-music collections. If O’ Holy Night is all that anyone remembers of me, that’s fine with me,” he comments about his perennial Christmas popularity. “It is a truly inspired piece of music.”

Happily, there were more successes to come. The hit Change My Mind earned John a Top-5 spot on the Country music charts in 1996. She’s Taken a Shine became an even bigger hit in 1997. Both fans and the media took note again when There He Goes was released as a 1999 duet with Patsy Cline.

In 2002, Berry returned to making records for his own company, Clear Sky Records. Songs and Stories, a double CD was issued that year.

In 2003, John Berry released his I Give My Heart collection and its critically applauded wedding anthem Will You Marry Me. The disc also contained his versions of such classic love songs as Time in a Bottle, If, Love Look What You’ve Done to Me, Faithfully, Lady and Let’s Stay Together. I Give My Heart inspired still another popular concert series, The Love Tour.

In 2008, Those Were the Days, was released, marking John’s return to mainstream country music. He created his first Christian-music CD in 2011. In 2012, John published the combination book and CD, again titled Songs and Stories. Over the years he has continued to tour steadily. “We just have a great group of fans who welcome us every year. They are always there.”

In 2015 John embarked for the first time on a crowd funded Kickstarter project that proved very successful. Overwhelmed by the fan response, John assembled an all-star studio team and cut both a Country album entitled What I Love the Most and a new 5-song Christmas EP This Christmas Night. Blessed with the ability to make the music he wanted to make (and not what a label dictated) allowed John the time to write and create what many music critics who have heard bits & pieces are saying could be his best, most complete project yet. “I'm excited to release this new music and bring it to the fans in 2016. It’s a new time in the music business and technology allows me to be closer to my fans and interact in new ways. You know, God just keeps blessing me. There are new opportunities coming at every turn.”

“With time, I’ve learned that the road to fulfillment is doing what I was called to do, love to do, and then doing it the best I can, regardless of the circumstances. And for me, that is making music and singing for people."