Mare Edstrom & Kenn Fox

Mare Edstrom & Kenn Fox

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Blues - General | Watertown, Wisconsin, United States
Total Song Plays: 218   
Member Since: 2007
   Last Login: over 30 days ago

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Bio

Mare Edstrom’s road to the blues has been long and interesting. While she is primarily classically trained, her formative years were spent playing piano and singing in local rock bands. Her first album, Learning How to Believe, was a combination of finely-crafted original songs and carefully selected cover songs by legends of the singer-songwriter school. She brought a truly new perspective to songs by the likes of Townes van Zandt, Eric Taylor, Greg Brown, and Janis Ian. This amazing work was quickly followed by a second release titled Inside the Blues. This release, a blues tribute, showcases works by Blind Willie McTell, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters, and Blind Willie Johnson, as well as works by her admitted heroes Memphis Minnie and Little Esther. This highly acclaimed work has found its way onto major radio station playlists throughout Europe and the US. Inside the Blues has had extensive favorable reviews, including key reviews by Blues Revue magazine in the US and Crossroads magazine in France. Mare’s wide vocal range, energy, and vintage brand of roadhouse authenticity have been duly noted by critics again and again. This exciting new take on the blues is still receiving international attention and has established Mare as a major player in the blues style, often compared to the great ladies of the blues, past and present.

In March 2006, Mare’s much anticipated second blues effort, titled Shake ‘em on Down, was released. This release features some new band members as well as an interesting and exciting mix of early blues rarities. Songs by the likes of Scrapper Blackwell, Bukka White, and Bumble Bee Slim are dusted off and shined up for a new outing. This exciting new blues recording has once again been reviewed favorably worldwide, in Blues Revue (USA), Italian II Blues Magazine (Italy), Maverick Magazine (UK), and Rootstime (Denmark), as well as many others. This CD continues to receive praise, attention, and much airplay throughout the world blues scene.

Much to the surprise of her blues fans, Mare has released a 10-song singer-songwriter collection in October 2006 titled Keys to the Castle. This recording features exciting interpretations of songs by Richard Thompson, Tom Waits, John Hiatt, and others, as well as several original songs that have long been favorites in her live show. This CD showcases her best band to date, as well as guest appearances by fellow Wisconsinites Willy Porter and Tracy Jane Comer.

In 2007, Mare has plans to record her third blues album, as well as a gospel album, and she will even find time to make a guest appearance on her producer/guitarist Kenn Fox’s next solo album. Mare is currently touring the Midwest as half of an acoustic blues duo with Kenn Fox.

For bookings, call 262-716-6566.

PRESS QUOTES - GENERAL

"Mare is a blues voice who is sure to make an impact on the industry"
-BestFemaleMusicians.com

"You could shelf this album [Inside the Blues] nicely next to your best Muddy Waters and sandwich them right alongside Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker all of which she reinterprets here"
- Smother.net

"Mare Edstrom should have titled her CD 'The Blues are Inside Her' instead of 'Inside the Blues' "
- Keith "Muzikman" Hannaleck

"Edstrom has a wide, vocal range and a fervor to sing the blues"
- Kweevak's Tracks

"Success shouldn't be a problem for Edstrom, who can belt out the classics with the best of them."
- NY Rock Street Beat

"Mare rises to the challenge, delivering an above-average performance that is both faithful to the blues and gives real passion that the blues deserves."
- EarCandy Magazine

"Mare Edstrom is a welcome addition to the contemporary blues scene. On 'Inside The Blues' (Spiritone Records), she pays tribute to many well loved blues artists and their songs, adding a unique dimension with her rich, expressive voice."
- One Way Magazine

"I'm impressed. Mare Edstrom is not only a very good vocalist but also an imaginative artist. Arrangements on her new CD are just great. Songs like "Stop Breaking Down" or "Got Mud In My Soul" blew me away."
- Przemek Draheim, Poland, Blues & Gospel Radio Host

"This work presents an exciting new take on the blues while maintaining a vintage brand of roadhouse authenticity."
- Blogging the Blues

"[Mare] has a powerful and broad-ranged voice that’s not your typical blues growl, but actually works well on this eclectic collection of songs [Inside the Blues]...Producer Kenn Fox adds some superb guitar and bass throughout the album, is responsible for all the arrangements and wrote the two original tunes...The sheer beauty and intensity of Edstrom’s vocal coupled with the imaginative arrangements makes this special."
- Mick Skidmore, Play Blues Guitar

"...It’s clear that [Mare] comes to the blues through a different door than most: Instead of the standard gut-deep growl or jazzy rasp, Edstrom uses a straight-up delivery with the occasional downright pretty flourish....At first blush, she seems more comfortable with modern numbers such as Chris Smither’s 'I Feel the Same,' but it becomes clear that Edstrom is perfectly at home with the hoariest of chestnuts, too...Edstrom can play it straight, also, as she does on Memphis Minnie’s 'North Memphis Blues' with pleasing results...[Inside the Blues] has a way of subtly surprising you. For instance, three of the four final tracks are straight blues filled with late-night rowdiness. Then, Edstrom wraps up with an unconventional take on Blind Willie Johnson’s 'In My Time of Dyin' that freshens the song’s message and is, in its own way, equally potent."
--Genevieve Williams, Blues Review magazine

"...Although a pianist, Mare is above all a singer, such as those who first pioneered the vocal traditions of jazz and R&B, striking like lightning into the original purity of the blues, serious and intense. Ranging over several octaves, capable of pushing her voice to the edge of breaking, sometimes rough, sometimes sweet, Mare Edstrom seems carried by the sulfurous spirit of a vocal journey that she sometimes takes to the extreme, transporting to new levels the songs placed on this very beautiful album...The frail young woman doesn't hesitate to transfigure certain titles into hip hop-influenced rock, or to spice others with well-mixed flavors, or to return to the roots of an authentic road band. A very exciting disc and the image of a new modern blues sensation. To be classified among the great Ladies of R&B and of the Blues, those of the past and those of the future."
--Francis Rateau, Crossroads (French rock magazine)

REVIEW: Shake 'Em On Down

Blues Revue magazine ("The World's Blues Magazine"), June/July 2006
Review of Shake 'Em On Down

With her third release, Mare Edstrom continues in the vein of traditional blues performed with a mainstream sensibility that at first veils her considerable power as a guitarist and vocalist. The first few notes of "Broke Down Engine," though, with some beautiful slide work, convey the abiding respect Edstrom has for her chosen material. Blind Willie McTell, Bukka White, Robert Johnson, and Memphis Minnie--one of Edstrom's personal heroes--feature prominently on Shake 'em on Down; the title, of course, refers to the White song.
Edstrom makes some interesting choices this time around. Her rendition of Leroy Carr's "Rocks in My Bed" occasionally reveals her classical training, particularly on the guitar solos, and though she does cover "When the Levee Breaks, " she gives it a different twist from what you might expect. There have been plenty of somber performances of that song in the past six months, but Edstrom's version rings with determination and a bit of refreshing zydeco seasoning. She also reaches outside the blues a bit, coming up with the Beatles' "Oh! Darling."

...though [Edstrom] doesn't have what most people think of as a "bluesy" voice, she generates considerable power and emotion as a singer. (Her take on "Trouble Blue" is a revelation.) If she isn't quite as daring on Shake 'em On Down as she could be, she shows a decided tendency in that direction. In the meantime, this is an excellent album, and a solid wedding of traditional blues and modern sensibility. Edstrom's smooth execution should appeal to listeners who might find more traditional renditions inaccessible, but that isn't to say there isn't depth and gut-level emotion here. There is, and it makes Shake 'em On Down stand out.
--Genevieve Williams, for Blues Revue, Issue 100, June/July 2006, p.121.

REVIEW: Shake 'Em On Down

Rick's Cafe magazine, July 2006, Vol. 4 No. 7, pp. 25-27, Article entitled "Women are Doing it Right"
Style: Blues/Pop

After a lifelong career in music that included a stint as an opera singer, concert pianist, and a member of rock bands, Waterford's Mare Edstrom finally found her calling in interpretive blues and the singer/songwriter vein. Edstrom teamed up with guitar virtuoso Kenn Fox in 2002 and that partnership has helped spawn a performing duo and a series of recorded works on Fox's Spiritone Records. Edstrom's first release in 2003 paid homage to singer/songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt, Greg Brown and Janis Ian. Her first real success came with Inside the Blues in 2004, a collection of blues interpretations that received critical acclaim and fairly widespread radio play. Her newest album, Shake 'em on Down, is already duplicating that feat.
The combination of Edstrom's unique vocal approach to the blues and Fox's production work and guitar mastery make for an enticing listening experience. In addition to Fox, Edstrom has a crack band assembled here including Dave Finley on bass, Jeff Moylen and Steve Broad on drums and Steve Cohen (Greg Koch, Jim Liban and others) on harmonica. Brothers Tim (vocalist) and Tom (upright bass) Angsten (Hello Hello and formerly Green Flash Society) also appear as does Nob Hill Boys' banjoist Jon Peik.
Only a few moments of the opening track, Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine," are required to understand that Edstrom looks at the blues from another angle. The beat gets taken down to half-speed and Fox's spooky open-tuned slide guitar makes this a haunting and riveting track. The title track, penned by Bukka White, is a barrelhouse blues-rocker, easily the source of at least two Led Zeppelin tunes. So it's fitting that Edstrom includes a version of Memphis Minnie's "When the Levee Breaks." Also fittingly, it's given a zydeco twist and a boogie beat.
Lennon and McCartney's "Oh, Darlin" is delivered with a soulful fifties-style croon. Fox gets a chance to blaze on electric guitar on "Trouble Blues" and his swinging composition "Sugar" is the album's only diversion from blues classics. The finale is another totally unique take, this time on "Sittin' on Top of the World," featuring Peik's banjo and Fox's excellent fingerstyle guitar. The whole album's common thread is, of course, Edstrom's voice. She doesn't bring the power of the growl as much as she pays sincere homage and adds a touch of honey, which is the refreshing approach that makes these recordings stand out.
Edstrom's next project is already underway, another homage to singer songwriters such as Tom Waits, Kevin Welch, Toni Price, and Jesse Colin Young. The album is also said to include some more Fox compositions. Edstrom has a knack for reinterpreting great works in both these genres and the albums are not only a lot of fun but can actually become somewhat of a history lesson. Hearing Shake 'em on Down makes me wonder what she and Fox could be capable of in producing an album of strictly original compositions. Perhaps we won't have to wait long for an answer to that question.
--Rick Tvedt, Editor

REVIEW: Shake 'Em On Down

Maverick Magazine, pp. 86-87, 24 Bray Gardens, Loose, Maidstone, Kent, UK ME15 9TR
**** (4 stars) - A far from typical blues album, but still rather good.

If all you did was look at the track listing for Wisconsin blues singer Mare Edstrom’s SHAKE EM ON DOWN you’d find nothing too surprising. The album contains a pleasing mix of covers that includes Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, Blind Boy Fuller and Robert Johnson standards. However, as Edstrom launches herself into McTell’s Broke Down Engine, the realization hits, with the force of a sledgehammer, that this is far from a typical album. The first thing you notice is that Edstrom was not born with a typical blues voice. In fact Broke Down Engine for one is transformed into a wailing lament, instead of a gritty and earthy blues classic. And while the ‘strangeness’ of Edstrom’s voice provides the initial hook, it’s not all there is to SHAKE EM ON DOWN. Blues equilibrium is restored by the burning spirit and force of will she brings to bear on the likes of Rocks In My Bed. Eventually that spirit consumes everything else and Edstrom carries the music along on a tidal wave of sheer talent. It does help that she’s backed by musicians of the calibre of Steve Cohen on harmonica and Kenn Fox on guitar. The contrast between their blistering approach and Edstrom’s more suble interpretations causes a friction that sparks the album into life. Mare Edstrom has had the great good sense to use her vocal talent to draw some unusual choices into her web. The Beatles’ Oh Darlin’, is given a whole new interest and perspective and there’s not many singers that can do that to a Beatles’ song. Whether the purists and traditionalists will warm to what is a clash between a tight red hot ‘classic’ blues band and a singer whose talents are singular, remains to be seen but, on SHAKE EM ON DOWN, Mare Edstrom has thrown open the shutters and allowed a shaft of sunlight to hit a genre that can sometimes be bound by its own heritage. She has poured her heart and soul into SHAKE EM ON DOWN and in the process produced a quite magnificent album.
--MM

REVIEW: Inside the Blues

Play Blues Guitar
"Looking at the demure picture of Wisconsin-based singer/songwriter Mare Edstrom on the cover of her sophomore release one would be hard put to guess at the fire that’s hiding inside. Edstrom pays homage to an array of blues artist, both old and new and she does so by putting a new twist on the genre. She has a powerful and broad-ranged voice that’s not your typical blues growl, but actually works well on this eclectic collection of songs. She belts out a rollicking version of T-Bone Walker’s “Treat Me So Low Down” and offers a more refined and higher pitched vocal on a lively “Cherry Wine.” She handles Memphis Minnie’s “North Memphis Blues” with an air of authority and ease while she is altogether more moody and soulful on a gritty take of Chris Smither’s “I Feel The Same.” Producer Kenn Fox deserves lots of credit here. He adds some superb guitar and bass throughout the album, is responsible for all the arrangements and wrote the two original tunes, “Tried So Hard” and “Tell Me” as well as “Got Mud in My Soul,” the latter which is segued from Muddy Water’s “Rollin’s and Tumblin.’” But perhaps the best song on the album is the emotive closing version of Blind Willie Johnson’s “In My Time of Dyin’” which, surprisingly, has the most original and non-blues vocal on the album. However, the sheer beauty and intensity of Edstrom’s vocal coupled with the imaginative arrangement makes this special. There’s no doubt that she is a talented and versatile vocalist."
- Mick Skidmore

REVIEW: Inside the Blues

EarCandy Magazine
"Using an authentic-sounding, red-hot backing band, Mare performs a mixture of songs by classic blues artists [Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, T-Bone Walker] and originals by producer Kenn Fox. You've gotta be really sure of yourself to release a collection of classic blues songs and Mare rises to the challenge, delivering an above-average performance that is both faithful to the blues and gives real passion that the blues deserves."
-EarCandy Magazine

REVIEW: Inside the Blues

NY Rock Street Beat
"If you're a woman and sing the blues, you might have a tougher time proving yourself than, say, any guy with a guitar that can play a turnaround. I don't make the rules, just an observation. But success shouldn't be a problem for Edstrom, who can belt out the classics with the best of them. And surprise, on this disc, that's just what she does. You'll hear songs out of the blues canon, like 'Statesboro Blues,' 'The Thrill Is Gone,' and 'Can't Be Satisfied,' to name a few. Edstrom's voice isn't the whiskey-soaked growl of a Joplin, though it does find an edge from time to time. Instead, she seems to just belt it out with a cleanness and very little distortion. Backing her up are some fine players, like Kenn Fox on guitar and bass, Steve Cohen on harmonica, Randy Green on the Hammond organ, and Randy Mueller on drums. Together they provide a powerful backdrop for Edstrom, with some real nice guitar and harp work. Edstrom's take on 'The Thrill Is Gone' is worth noting, as she turns it into a slow driving number, with an open central section. An interesting take on the classics." -NY Rock Street Beat

REVIEW: Inside the Blues

Kweevak's Tracks
"Mare Edstrom is a vocalist, songwriter, pianist and guitarist based out of the Midwest. She started singing at a young age and was taking piano lessons by age eight. Soon after Mare was performing with bands, choirs and theater groups. Edstrom's musical influences are classical, rock and the blues. Inside The Blues is her cover tribute to some of the greats such as T-Bone Walker, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson and others. She is joined by a group of talented players who share her passion for the genre. Producer Ken Fox also handles the beguiling guitars and bass. The back of Mare's CD cover says it best: 'The Blues. Soul wrenching music straight from the heart; real songs-grit, joy and humor, the most honest form of human expression.' This paraphrase sums up the essence of this fourteen track CD. Edstrom has a wide vocal range and the fervor to sing the blues. Her interpretations meld authenticity with modern textures and tones. For example, a soulful harmonica is found throughout the collection but there is also the subtle use of a turntable on 'Got Mud in My Soul'. It's hard to say how I choose my favorites from this collection, as all the songs had heart and first-rate musicianship. I appreciated Mare's interpretations of 'That's Alright', 'Statesboro Blues' (a complete 360 from the Allman's cover) and 'Spiderman Blues'. Mare's CD is a powerful bridge from the blues of the past to the more modern renditions of this potent genre."
-Laura Turner Lynch

REVIEW: Inside the Blues

Keith "Muzikman" Hannaleck, November 2004
"Mare Edstrom should have titled her CD 'The Blues Are Inside Her' instead of 'Inside The Blues.' It becomes obvious by listening to her new release that the blues is a part of her soul and makeup. The one thing I found interesting was that she sounds as if she is a classically trained vocalist, at times bordering on an operatic vocal style. While she handles each track with authority, I honestly think her voice was made for jazz. She almost sounds too classy for this genre, and to top it off she looks like the girl next door. I thought you were supposed to look tough and roughshod, as if you have lived the blues. Well, this my friends is a perfect example of the old adage-You can’t judge a book by its cover. It all just does not seem to fit, yet when you hear her belt out 'Rollin' And Tumblin’/Got Mud In My Soul' or the emotional closer 'In My Time Of Dyin'' she makes a believer out of you. I sure became one once this CD was complete. One of the best tracks, a real scorcher, is 'Stop Breakin Down Blues.' It really smokes straight on through. The guitar playing on this CD is exemplary, it is the key in getting the tracks meaning conveyed to the listener with conviction, and Edstrom's voice rides the tide that the six-string creates. Well there you have it, one of the more interesting blues-rock artists I have come across in a long time. Hey, the Red Sox won the World Series, so why not?"

REVIEW: Inside the Blues

Smother.net
"It’s albums like Mare Edstrom’s 'Inside the Blues' that makes all the work worth it. Just listening to that great traditional blues guitar opening up the album makes me want to weep. And then in waltzes Mare’s great classic voice. You could shelf this album nicely next to your best Muddy Waters and sandwich them right alongside Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker all of which she reinterprets here. Her version of the Blind Willie Johnson classic 'In My Time of Dyin'' is perhaps the best shiner on the album and it appears last to complement your way to hitting 'play' again."
- J-Sin , Smother.net

REVIEW: Inside the Blues

Blues Revue magazine, Aug/Sept. 2005

"The second album from singer Mare Edstrom (her first, Learning How To Believe, was released last year) is a different kind of blues disc. It’s not different in its selection of material—there’s nothing odd about choosing to record 'Statesboro Blues' or 'The Thrill is Gone' or, especially, 'Can’t Be Satisfied' -- but in Edstrom’s style and execution. From her first notes on T-Bone Walker’s 'Treat Me So Low Down,' it’s clear that she comes to the blues through a different door than most: Instead of the standard gut-deep growl or jazzy rasp, Edstrom uses a straight-up delivery with the occasional downright pretty flourish.
This actually takes a bit of getting used to, though the straightforward style of her backup band both builds a familiar foundation and highlights Edstrom’s unconventional approach. At first blush, she seems more comfortable with modern numbers such as Chris Smither’s 'I Feel the Same,' but it becomes clear that Edstrom is perfectly at home with the hoariest of chestnuts, too. 'Spiderman Blues' spins out in a delicate tracery that showcases the song’s structure, while 'Statesboro Blues' bounces back and forth between soft intimacy and punched-up energy. However, Edstrom can play it straight, also, as she does on Memphis Minnie’s 'North Memphis Blues' with pleasing results. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to try classics like these early in one’s recording career.
Even though Edstrom’s no belter, the initial prettiness of her voice conceals surprising power. In a way, that’s a good description of this album as a whole; though it’s pleasant enough, it has a way of subtly surprising you. For instance, three of the four final tracks are straight blues filled with late-night rowdiness. Then, Edstrom wraps up with an unconventional take on Blind Willie Johnson’s 'In My Time of Dyin' that freshens the song’s message and is, in its own way, equally potent."
--Genevieve Williams, for Blues Revue
Aug./Sept. 2005, page 77