July 19: Cleopatra Degher / Wisewater @ Bikenetic

7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Bikenetic, 922 West Broad St.
Falls Church, VA
RSVP at stoneroomconcerts@gmail.com

Cleopatra Degher’s debut album Pacific was released in the Fall of 2014. Following its release, she was a featured artist on NPR’s World Café Next, and the record charted on numerous college radio stations across the U.S. The Austin Chronicle says she may be the “Emmylou Harris for a new generation of folk.” San Diego critic Layla Marino said the “pitch-perfect timbre of Degher’s voice . . . rivals those of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell.”

There’s a lot of California in Cleopatra’s sound – NPR’s David Dye noted that the songs “speak fluent Californian” – but, in fact, she spent more of her childhood in Sweden. After attending kindergarten near San Diego, she lived the rest of her school years in Malmö (the child of a Swedish mother and a Californian father). But Cleopatra sometimes felt like an outsider in Sweden and experienced a deep sense of homecoming when she returned to California at eighteen. She released a debut EP Restrung soon after (in 2012). Referring to the EP’s title, she said that’s how she felt coming back to California, “like a guitar with brand new strings.” The San Diego Union Tribune called the EP “a catchy acoustic collection brimming with melody and insight.”

With Pacific, Cleopatra has taken things to the next level. It’s a lush, fully-realized collection of songs that dive deep, that seek, that calm. It’s a record where traditional American folk influences underpin both the songs and the performances. But Cleopatra has little interest in being a museum piece. Her contemporary folk sensibilities, along with something fresh in her haunting voice, ensure that the album resides securely in the present – even if the ghosts of Laurel Canyon and the Dustbowl do make frequent appearances.

Pacific was produced by Darius (Cleopatra’s singer-songwriter dad, who has released five CDs and played on Warren Zevon’s Sentimental Hygiene album). It was mixed by award-winning San Diego producer-engineer Jeff Berkley and mastered by Gavin Lurssen (T-Bone Burnett, Jackson Browne) in Los Angeles. The album features an eclectic cast of L.A. musicians as well, including drummers Phil Leavitt (7Horse & Dada) and Kevin Jarvis (Leonard Cohen, Peter Case), and keyboardist Carl Byron (Michelle Shocked). The record also features vocal harmonies courtesy of her friends in the San Diego acoustic music scene.

Cleopatra toured the West Coast earlier this year, and played at the 2015 SXSW Music Conference. Of course, she has also logged quite a few shows in Southern California, opening for such artists as Aoife O’Donovan. This summer, she’ll be playing shows on the East Coast and in Europe.

Nashville-based trio WISEWATER has earned praise from the likes of Alison Krauss, Rosanne Cash, Mary Gauthier, and others for their lyrical honesty and clarity, infectious melodies, tight harmonies, instrumental virtuosity, and deep sense of groove. Members Kate Lee, Forrest O’Connor, and Jim Shirey are three young, positive, worldly artists whose songs blend roots, country, rock, and progressive acoustic music in a unique, refreshing way.

Wisewater is currently in the thick of writing material for their debut album, due to be recorded in mid-2015. When they aren’t writing, they’re performing – in 2014, they toured across the country, hitting venues such as The Grand Ole Opry, The Station Inn (Nashville, TN), The Berklee Performance Center (Boston, MA), and Joe’s Pub (New York, NY). They’ve also shared the stage with Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush, Mark O’Connor, Ricky Skaggs, John Cowan, Judah & The Lion, and many others.

Their debut EP, The Demonstration, was released in November 2014 and reached #13 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts. Featuring five original songs, the record was hailed as “beautifully poetic” (The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY) and prompted legendary singer John Cowan to write:

“I love it. Their songwriting is skillful, insightful, and evocative. Kate’s voice is both soulful and sweet and blends effortlessly with Forrest’s clear, clean tenor. Their music is joyful, beautiful, and intentional. Wisewater, I’m listening, I ‘hear you,’ and I look forward to hearing your singing, songwriting, and playing for a long, long time to come.”

The seeds of Wisewater were sown at an unlikely place: Harvard University. O’Connor, the son of legendary country fiddler Mark O’Connor, grew up in Nashville and from early on was exposed to some of the best in the business, including Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, and Alison Krauss. But after spending his high school years in Montana, he opted for the academic route, packing his bags for Cambridge, Massachusetts and meeting a like-minded classmate in Shirey, a transplant from Virginia.

“Jim and I hit it off the day we met,” says O’Connor. “He had hair down his back, I had hair down to my shoulders, and it goes without saying that, in that environment, we kind of stood out.” O’Connor and Shirey were both motivated students, but they enjoyed themselves the most when they were performing as a duo together – O’Connor on mandolin, Shirey on guitar – at local venues, including the esteemed Club Passim. “I was amazed at how good a lyricist Jim was at such a young age,” recalls O’Connor. “He was only 18 or 19, but he was like a walking encyclopedia of country music. It really inspired me to start writing myself.”

After graduating, O’Connor co-founded an Internet music startup called Concert Window, and Shirey returned home to teach music for a couple years. They co-wrote some songs long-distance, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2013 that the pieces of a bigger collaboration started falling into place.

Nashville-based string arranger and producer Kris Wilkinson introduced O’Connor – then still living in Boston – to Lee, for whom she had produced several demo tracks. Lee’s resume was formidable: at only 20 years old, she had already recorded several solo albums in her hometown of Rochester, NY, and she had sung and played fiddle behind Rod Stewart as well as Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Sugarland, and many other major entertainers as part of the CMA Awards and CMA Country Christmas shows.