The Gig Cartel - Artist profiles: Michelle Shocked

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Michelle Shocked

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Michelle Shocked’s Roadworks Project:

Roadworks v.1 ‘American Idle’ a prelude to 20th Anniversary of Arkansas Traveler

LOS ANGELES, CA  — Fall 2010. Michelle Shocked will hit the road with a show that pays tribute to the enduring legacy of her acclaimed and highly controversial album, Arkansas Traveler. The epic travelogue, originally released in 1992 on Mercury/PolyGram, reissued on her own Mighty Sound label in 2004, continues to inspire like-minded musicians to stake their claim on that curious notion of ‘Americana’ – a musical style as diverse and varied as the land that conceived it.  The tour will continue through 2010 as part of her Roadworks project.

Roadworks is an ongoing 5-year touring project which curates songs that are audience favorites while developing new, unreleased material.

For example, this year's theme, ‘American Idle,’ will search across the country for new songs that chronicle the chilling effects of a ‘jobless recovery’, inviting fellow songwriters to share the spotlight as the audience helps determine material to be selected for a limited-edition recording available at year-end exclusively to Roadworks ticketholders.

Simultaneously, Roadworks will gear up for the 20th Anniversary edition of Arkansas Traveler, slated for late next year, by featuring young bluegrass musicians who, perhaps, grew up listening to Arkansas Traveler as part of their parent's record collection...

“My dad was the influence and inspiration for Arkansas Traveler. First a school teacher, later a carpenter, he never gave up his day job. Usually after work he’d sit by the old woodstove and pull out his Gibson mandolin and teach himself, plink by plink, how to play old-time tunes from a Mel Bay music book. My brother and I both watched him, thinking, ‘Well, if he can do it, I know I can.’ He turned us on to his record collection; Texas songwriters, Texas blues, and most significantly, hipster cats like Hot Rize, Norman Blake, Doc Watson, the Red Clay Ramblers and others the mainstream music world dismissed as hillbillies. My brother and I considered them rock stars.”

Her father also took them to bluegrass festivals, Winfield KS’ National Flatpicking Championships in particular – and exposed them to a wealth of homegrown talent that the world didn’t recognize. With the exposure of a national platform via her album on Mercury Records, Shocked showcased and celebrated her heroes. She also featured young rising stars – Alison Krauss and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy are notable examples, and even recruited her brother to join Tweedy’s band.

Ultimately, however, Roadworks will be the vehicle Shocked uses to launch her ‘Indelible Women’ series of new compositions. Collaborating with her sweetheart, fine artist David Willardson, they will present portraits of iconic women, both in song and on canvas as part of their innovative HeART Project; Hear Art, See Music.

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