News from the Stairwell

The weblog of The Stairwell Sisters – All-Gal Old-Time String Band

Archive for July, 2008

August rolls right along


Diving headlong back into festivals, we’re sending this out from a very short breather here at home.  Turning it around and heading out to the Midwest to swim in beautiful lakes, bet on chicken fights and play music for many late nights in a row.  We’re looking forward to joining Southern Routes (Dirk Powell, Christine Balfa, Riley Baugus, Sammy Lind and Caleb Clauder) – at both upcoming festivals.  See below for news of where we’ve been, and more new reviews of Get Off Your Money!


Airplay all over the nation and then some – thanks to the fabulous DJs for spreading the music!

Stephanie was featured in Strings magazine, with a great interview:
And we would be remiss if we did not throw in a lovely photo of us lovelies at Stephanie & Dave’s gorgeous wedding in the Berkeley hills.  Do you recognize us out of our traditional red & black?

July saw us revving back up with a few fun local shows, including a freezing outdoor Berkeley show and a beautiful sunny San Francisco show (isn’t that supposed to be the other way around?).  Then we hit the expansive state of WY, where we found ourselves on our first Billboard, and shopped in the very first JC Penny’s, established in the tiny town of Kemmerer in 1902, and still going!  The crowd was rowdy and dancing, not surprising as they repealed the open container laws for the weekend, but only between the hours of 9am and 2am…hmmm.  We truly enjoyed having the fabulous Lloyd Maines join us for a rousing Hangman – what did he do to get that incredible sound on the dobro!  It was great to reconnect, and hear him & Terri Hendrix play.  We were followed by the amazing L’Angelus – from Louisiana, these siblings were totally off the hook, dancing like deer on speed, while playing and nailing sibling harmonies.  Very cool.

Drove across the state to ROCKYGRASS – our first Planet Bluegrass festival – and for sure the greenest festival we’ve seen – artists got their own stainless water bottles, instead of the endless plastic, and their emphasis on minimal impact was extremely well done.  We rocked our set, jealously eyeing the fans watching from the river, having to wait until after our workshop to DIVE in!  Enjoying the red rock cliffs, the fabulous hospitality and sound, and the great entertainment that followed – chilling out to Peter Rowan, digging the Chocolate Drops, who got everyone to their feet with a fiddle-led Beyonce tune.  Now that’s old-time!


a mesmerizing project chock full of energy, excitement, poignancy and musical surprises.  It’s a boldly original album that looks both forwards and backwards simultaneously using old-time underpinnings to create a killer new sound.

Five multitalented woman with diverse skills and backgrounds who are as famous for their for devotion to icon Hazel Dickens as they are to presenting their musical offerings with an “in your face rock n roll” attitude…The Stairwell Sisters represent the personification of traditional string music con mucho gusto!

High on raw energy the girls throw off the shackles as they race through opener, Kentucky Winder before settling into a deep smart groove on the gritty Hangman Tree… here is string band fare at its best.

The Stairwell Sisters lead off with a foot-stomping, hand-clapping instrumental, “Kentucky Winder,” showcasing the band’s picking and fiddling talents and infectious energy. But the real fun begins when the women add their vocal harmonies to the mix. This collection of originals and old-time folk songs demonstrate the talent of this rompin’ and stompin’ all-girl string band.

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July Daze!

With a nice honeymoon hiatus for our fine fiddler and our newest mister sister, the gals have slowed down in some ways and sped up in others. We only wish the summer went on a bit longer, dont you? Were revving up together again and taking our new CD in and out of town, proudly playing a bunch of shows you can see for free!


We’re honored to be named BEST STRINGBAND from the East Bay Express 2008 “Best of the East Bay: Old School” Rock!

Evie is featured in the July issue of Banjo Newsletter, including tablature of tunes off the new CD.

New Live Tracks from our Freight & Salvage CD Release on Myspace

Airplay all over the nation and then some – thanks to the fabulous DJs for spreading the music!

Highlights of June include the Live Oak Festival down in SoCal listening faves: Campbell Brothers Sacred Steel Band, Gibson Brothers, and this raunchy blues singer filling in for Nappy Brown. Never did catch her name but she was great! By far the largest square dance weve ever played/called. Were looking for some photos of our head rooster on the fiddle, or the 400 plus people (half-dressed, somewhat intoxicated, oddly dancing all together in time) we led through a dance that started late and went later – what a sight! Thanks to Bill Foss and Josefina Craven for sitting in on the raucous and trance madness. Amazing hospitality, including a mushroom grove and masseurs right outside our outrageously decorated dressing room…not to mention the several hundred folks we taught some hambone to bada boop boop, pada poom!

And the lightest highlight of all was our Summer Solstice in Nome check us out at midnight, coming out squinting from a wild bar show into the midnight sun see also Marth & Evie fresh from the frigid Bering Sea!…we filled the town with music and dance and really enjoyed the lay of the land and all the fine people who treated us right. Where else could you play tunes on a flatbed followed by diabetic moose and pup seals throwing candy? See a shootout where nobody dies? Eat Musk Ox chili? A trip we will never forget. Thanks to Jim & Carol for hauling us around and Brian DeMarcus for Rays amazing Vietnamese Halibut – delish!


OK, I’ll resist the temptation to say that these gals are sittin’ pretty, but they are. The gifted all-female string band known as the Stairwell Sisters … deliver a feisty set of hillbilly originals and traditional fiddle tunes from Appalachia, Mississippi and North Carolina’s Piedmont region, all marked by virtuoso playing, sweet harmonies and a wry sense of humor. The group’s engaging third album is produced by seasoned country producer Lloyd Maines, who also contributes pedal steel to one track. Essential download: “Who’s to Blame.”


There is a tendency for some bands who marry old time tunes to a modern political bent to be right on in a didactic sense. The Stairwell Sisters avoid this trap, providing a thrilling burst of joyful hallelujah. 


While this third disc, Get Off Your Money, is good, to do the girls justice, you have to see them live. All girl string band, The Stairwell Sisters play old-time string style music with the energy and excitement of a great rock band. Their influences are varied, but guitarist Sue Sandlin says it was listening to Flatts and Scruggs that did it for her. It was akin to the hair raising excitement I felt the first time I heard the Clash as a teenager. And that hair raising excitement shows on stage. Way cool.


From the first song until it ended this project just leaps out at you and won’t let you go. This is old time music on steroids. The more you play it the more you find new and different things to like. I played the entire CD and my request line was ringing off the hook. 

- KCBL/Backroads Bluegrass

The Stairwell Sisters have loads of fun and they care. Both show.


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