$5 / 21+ / free street parking
Saturday, March 16; 9 pm to midnight
JOHN BALLANTYNE'S CRAZY HEART (10:30 pm to midnight)
DONNA FROST (9 to 10:15 pm)
JOHN BALLANTYNE'S CRAZY HEART
More often than not, the road to country music stardom originates in Texas, Tennessee, or another time-honored Southern destination. John Ballantyne’s story arc reads way different.
Fast becoming recognized as one of Chicago’s premier country singers and songwriters, Ballantyne was born and raised in Scotland, though you’d never know it from his earthy vocal delivery and immaculate lead guitar. Both resonate with the twang and raunch of classic honky-tonk country, also known these days as Americana. A frequent presence on the Chicago club circuit, John and his band Crazy Heart ( Bassist Gus Noble, and drummer Leslie Walle-Santos) will take their musical exploits to a whole new level this year, building on a recent hugely successful tour of Scotland , the highlight of which was two mainstage appearances at the prestigious Tiree Music Festival.
Ballantyne’s highly unusual saga commenced in southwest Scotland. “Music was a big part of local culture. I grew up in a small mining community. What would typically happen is, on weekends, people would socialize in bars, having a few beers, then taking turns to sing with the band,” John says. “Bars at that time closed at 10 p.m., and then they would make their way to each others’ houses to continue with the party. So that was the backdrop to my childhood.
In his 20s, John grew enamored of singer-songwriters Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, and Jerry Jeff Walker., but John Prine remains his favorite. “He’s a master songwriter. That’s what he’s famous for. The kicker is, you think, ‘What a great song! I want to sing this, but I bet it is really hard to learn,’” he says. “You print out the lyrics, look at it, and you go, ‘Is that it? There’s two verses and a chorus. How can that be? There’s something wrong with the computer!’ This guy has painted a whole picture, a whole movie, and contained it in two verses and a chorus. And that’s the magic of John Prine. Other people do it, but he does it like no other.”
Ballantyne’s splendidly concise lead guitar attack recalls that of James Burton, whose impeccable licks graced the hits of Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, Emmylou Harris, and many more. “Burton was a huge influence,” he says. “I would sit with the LP record and play it over and over and over again, trying to figure out what the hell he was doing. One of my heroes, for sure.”
2014 featuring the Scotland tour was a banner year for Crazy Heart, however John’s musical ambitions remain relatively modest. “The work that I get the most fulfillment from is writing these songs and performing them, even in these little bars around town,” he says. “The goal would simply be to find a way to keep doing that in the hope that the songs resonate with the audience, beyond that is just gravy.”
Smart money says John Ballantyne and Crazy Heart achieve a great deal more . . .
(on-air personality and DJ
http://wdrv.com/ and WDCB http://wdcb.org/program/american-backroads):
“Just go and see them, best original Honky Tonk band in town, bar none.”
Donna Frost is a true traveling troubadour, logging thousands of miles year round performing shows in cities all across the US. She has appeared in the UK and the Caribbean as well during her career. She performs solo with her guitars, ukuleles and mandolin most times and also plays select shows with her band.
She is currently promoting her latest 2 CD’s. “Bare Bones”, a collaboration with rockabilly legend, Billy Hancock, was released June of 2014. It includes tracks recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, TN. Her fourth solo CD is “Ukeabilly Mama”, which is her first all ukulele music project that was released in August of 2014. It has been receiving a lot of positive response all over! Donna’s had singles from all three of her previous albums place in the top 40 independent overseas charts. She has been an ASCAPlus recipient for the past 11 years for her work as a performing songwriter and was a Kerrville New Folk finalist in 2004.
She sang harmonies with Grand Ole Opry legend, the late Skeeter Davis from 1996-2002. Donna performed Skeeter’s hit “The End of the World” at the induction ceremony for Skeeter at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in April 2013. She acts in theatrical productions, including a starring role as Janis Joplin in “Kozmic Blue” & works as an extra in movies, music videos and TV, including all 6 seasons of the popular series “Nashville” which is now on CMT.
Donna received an artist endorsement in October 2015 from Kamoa Ukulele Company and in June of 2016 from Luna Guitars. She is an active performer with Music for Seniors, an organization that provides live music for seniors in various facilities; most are Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. She also was with Musicians on Call for 5 years (performing for patients in hospitals and hospices) and with Songs of Love for 5 years (writing and producing songs for children with life threatening illnesses). She is also very involved with Humane Society of Sumner County. Donna has contributed to two books, “Tales from the Rock and Roll Highway” by Marley Brandt and “The Other Side of Nashville” by Keith A. Gordon. She is currently writing her first book, “Guitars, Ukes and Sequin Boots: My Life in Song”. Donna is also available for ukulele and songwriting workshops in addition to her live performances. She is a prolific songwriter with over 300 songs in her catalogue and will be recording her 6th album in spring of 2018.
More about Donna:
ASCA Plus Award for performing songwriter: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
Artist endorsement by Kamoa Ukulele Company, October 2015
Artist endorsement by Luna Guitars, June, 2016