Go ahead… insert your favorite banjo jokes here. Those of us blessed with an affinity for the five string understand banjo envy when we see it, and that the mind of a banjo picker is one that masters detail and precision, guided by a fine appreciation for tradition, while embracing new concepts as they emerge.
We can add to that a spirit of entrepreneurship, as evidenced by Erin Inglish and a bevy of banjo lovelies who are producing the 2014 Banjo Babes calendar and showcase CD. They are jointly producing, publicizing and marketing the calendar, which features each of the ladies in a retro-themed pin-up photo, along with an audio CD containing a musical contribution from each of them.
But Erin says it’s not about cheesecake. It’s meant as a fun way to promote the banjo, and some of its young, less-heralded practitioners.
“I know what some folks out there might be thinking, ‘Oooooh, how racy! That sounds like shameless objectification of the banjo!’ Well, I want to reassure banjo fans around the globe that while it is a pin-up themed’ calendar – it will be tasteful and fun – and why not have a little PG fun!
The idea of creating a Banjo Babes Calendar & Showcase Album actually percolated into the brains of a couple of the artists you will meet this year in the project. For me, my first exposure to a similar concept was when my accordion-wielding father started proudly hanging his Accordion Babes Pin-Up Calendar in his office. This was years ago. Since then, he has been buying one every year, and enjoying the heck out of the compilation album that introduces him to so many new and talented emerging artists. I thought is was such a wonderful, creative, fun and – yes – somewhat gimmicky idea to bring lady artists together to promote music. I’m thrilled to be bringing this to the banjo world!
It wasn’t until I was introduced to Kendl Winter – Miss October – that I realized that I wasn’t the only one who though this would be a fun and fruitful way to collaborate! Fast forward to August, 2013, and after agreeing to be the organizer for the project – I am astonished and pleased at the incredible line-up of talented young musicians who are on board for the 2014 calendar and album! From Tenessee to Uzbekistan, the project will feature semi-to fully-professional artists who pick, frail, and do everything in between on the banjo.
The 2014 Calendar & Album will be the first – but I anticipate that this could very well become an annual favorite in the banjo scene. We could only hope for this! At the end of the day, the goal of the project is promote ourselves as artists in a fun, collaborative, showcase format. We really encourage fans to not take the calendar portion too, too seriously – its meant to be PG, fun, promotional, silly, old-fashioned! The real meat of the project is the compilation album! I just can’t wait for banjo enthusiasts around the world to hear how many seriously talented gals are tearing up the five-string banjo.”
Confirmed so far for 2014 are:
- Erin Inglish - San Luis Obispo, CA – January
- Moira Smiley - Los Angeles, CA – February
- Janna Kim - Tashkent, Uzbekistan – April
- Megan Saunders - Santa Cruz, CA – May
- Donna Lynn Caskey - Ventura, CA – June
- Katie West - Lawrence, KS – July
- Evie Ladin – Oakland, CA – August
- Kendl Winter – Olympia, WA – October
- Laurie Shook – Sandpoint, ID – November
- Maggie MacKay – Boston, MA – December
- Megan McKamey – Blountville, TN – alternate/Bonus Babe
- Hayley Thomas - San Luis Obispo, CA - alternate/Bonus Babe
- Chloe Davis - Prescott, AZ - alternate/Bonus Babe
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that spots for March and September are still open, and Erin says that those babes will be announced shortly.
“Originally, we had just a few lady artists on board – Kendl Winter, Evie Ladin and myself – and a couple of other potentially interested gals. I made it my mission to locate and reach out to every possible candidate who fit the criteria. We had an amazing response, and are so pleased to be able to feature twelve artists this year, and possibly a couple of ‘Bonus Babes’ in the back.
We have made a point to include every qualified applicant – the criteria is competitive but fairly simple. The artists need to be in a position to benefit from the collaboration (i.e., trying to make a part-time or full-time career through music), can provide a professionally recorded song that they wrote (ideally), as well as be able to submit a professional pin-up-style photo that is tasteful and fun. We’re all about showing ‘em what PG is made of! But mostly we just want to get our music out there, and I think each of these artists truly deserve a good listen!”
A complete list of the 2014 artists can be found on the Banjo Babes web site, along with links to their various web sites. There is also this sampler of some of the tracks to be included on the CD at Bandcamp.
Erin is especially pleased to be able to introduce these banjo pickers and frailers to a larger audience.
“The hottest action in the whole package are the five-strings on each track! Did you know that there were this many women who play some mean banjo! Yeeeehaw!
One exciting aspect of the project is the collaborations amongst artists that are springing up because of it, and/or in conjunction with it! For example, Evie Ladin has started curating a show called ‘The Lady Banjo Show’ where she brings together three lady banjo acts for a triple-bill evening of lady banjo mania! I’ll be participating with her this October and December. This is a great example of how women musicians are working together to build their following!
Directly through the Banjo Babes project, myself and these artists will be setting up official ‘Banjo Babes Showcases,’ which will essentially do the same thing – putting us ladies of the banjo on the same bill for a great night of music! As these and other related shows are announced, folks should be able to find out more on the project website or on the individual artists websites.”
There will only be a single, limited production run of the 2014 Banjo Babes calendar and showcase CD. What isn’t pre-sold by September 8 will be distributed among the babes for sale at their respective merch tables. If you pre-order now you can not only guarantee that you receive a calendar, but also help finance their production costs.
Visit the Banjo Babes Indiegogo site to reserve yours today.
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John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.
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