News from the Stairwell

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

September News


Welcome Home…

News of where weve been and where well be is below. Weve had some fabulous summer touring, and were happy to be back in the Bay where the real summer weather starts now! Coming very soon: new pics from summer tours on our Photo page. Gearing up for our big hometown throwdown, the Berkeley Old-Time Music Convention see you there!

xo, Evie, Lisa, Sue, Martha & Stephanie


August started off with a bang South Dakota with the Dirk Powell Band and Balfa Toujours, fireflies, HOT weather and cool new fans. Fried cheese curds and cotton candy at the Empire Fair, beautiful lake swimming, and on to Minnesota for their big festival what a great old-time music scene theyve got. We enjoyed the Ditchlillies, Poor Benny, more Dirk Powell Band, more Balfa Toujours, and hometown favorites Monroe Crossing. Late night jamming in Sherwood Forest with the most kickin southern music scene north of the great lakes! What a joy to get that campfire smell on our clothes, something we dont get in California these days, no way!

Check out some photos of the wild dance at Live Oak Festival in Santa Barbara earlier this summer!




Our green Cadillac Eldorado “limo” ride to our set in S. Dakota



Final bang with Dirk Powell Band in S. Dakota 

(Dirk, Christine Balfa, RIley Baugus, Joel Savoy, Foghorn Sammy & Caleb, us Sisters, and even Lisa’s little Harlan helping on the dobro)




This third Stairwell Sisters album is their best yet. With Lloyd Maines on production the Sisters are freed to do what they do best: play the heck out of their materialmountain music with total commitment and almost unbridled energy, exuberance and abandonthe performances are tart and bracingoriginals that nestle so comfortably you need to check the credits to make sure which are traditional and which are original and thats meant as a high compliment.



Whether performing traditional tunes or original compositions, The Stairwell Sisters come on strong, passionate, and most importantly, authentic.a warm, polished release. FEMINISTREVIEW.COM


A highlight was watching the Stairwell Sisters give a workshop on tap, hambone, and other lessons on dance. They are truly unique, and one of my favorite bands. TERRI HENDRIX, singer/songwriter


The Stairwell Sisters got people out of their seats! Review from Rockygrass, FESTIVALPREVIEW.COM


A brilliant band Mike Harding, BBC RADIO 2


These girls know how to party – I love it Frank Hennessy, BBC RADIO WALES



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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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Oh How Sweet…

Happy Summer Everyone!

The Bay Area has actually graced us with some hot hot weather, and were getting out in it, heading to the Live Oak Festival down South this weekend. Weve gotten some awesome reviews of the new release (see below), plus tons of airplay all over the country, and in Europe. Its an exciting ride! 

Happy festivating, and we hope to see you out there -

xo, Evie, Lisa, Sue, Martha & Stephanie


We had a some very fun CD Release shows this past month, from as far south as LA to as far north as Vancouver, BC to a very enthusiastic response. A big thanks to the Tallboys who rocked with us in Seattle, and Viper Central who hosted us in Vancouver, and heres to getting down on Nancys Farm! If only the border crossing werent so durn sssllllooowww, wed go to BC all the time! 

At the end of this month we go on Honeymoon Hiatus, and jump back in with both feet mid-July with shows in Berkeley & SF, WY, CO, SD & MN.

Here are some of the reviews that have been coming in:

These women attach a rock-and-roll energy to an acoustic mountain sound…bandanas and whiskey are at home with Chuck Taylors and wine coolers…The seamless instrumentation along with each band members musicianship help this album stand out from others of its genre…stories that coalmen from the 1800s can relate to as well as someone driving home in rush hour. 


It’s hard to say what is more striking: the Sisters clear passion for old-time string band music, or the thoroughly modern exuberance of their performing style. It is, however, the originals that really underscore the band’s distinctiveness. The Stairwell Sisters organically and emphatically connect their democratic music with their democratic values. Together with the implicit empowerment aspect of their being an all-female band, Get Off Your Money adds up to quite a statement.



They create a rustic wall of sound where the backing rhythms are as important as the principal melodic line. This group music approach makes every song they perform, whether it’s an interpretation of a Roscoe Holcomb blues or one of their own original tunes, sound organic and ancestral. Want a tonic for modernity? The Stairwell Sisters have a cure for what ails you.. 


The Stairwell Sisters have a knack for writing old timey songs that sound like they were pulled out of the dirt of a century agostrong and tight, as if they’re playing one big, multi-layered instrument. 


With an able assist from co-producer Lloyd Maines, the Bay Area-based female old-time quintet deliver a smooth, banjo- and fiddle-happy follow-up to 2005′s “Feet All Over the Floor.” Songs like “Who’s to Blame” and the day laborer dedicated “Shuffle and Shine” place their underdog sympathies front and center, but they’re best on the upbeat tunes; the whooping traditional “Stay All Night,” “Swing Low” (a quick-tempoed variation on the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”) and especially “Sleep When You’re Dead” serve as insistent reminders that old-time is meant to be dance music.


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Here she comes – Get Off Your Money!

Weehoo!  As of today, the 1st of May, we are taking pre-orders for our new CD Get Off Your Money before the official national release May 12! The first 50 sold from our website will be the first to be distributed anywhere, and are autographed by the band. You can be among the first to hear it! 

Order here: 


Our Big Hometown CD Release is May 16 @ The Freight & Salvage.  All tour dates here.


Weve had a minor hiatus before the CD storm…Evie toured throughout Ohio with partner Keith Terry, and visited family in NYC, enjoying the first week of East Coast spring from the top of the Empire State Building…Stephanie moved into her new house with her new almost-husband…Sue took her beau back to Oklahoma to meet the family. As we had hoped, Granny approved….Lisas boy turned ONE…and Martha’s been playing locally with the Knuckle Knockers and buying/selling cars, looking to find another home for her beautiful biodiesel ’83 Mercedes wagon.


From the top of the Empire State Bldg!Step’s new house! Harlan is Onebiodiesel anyone?


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Almost Done…

We are happy to report we have our upcoming CD almost out of our hands, and it will be in your hands mid-May when we start doing some CD release touring! Until then, the big news is a rare local-talent show at GREAT AMERICAN MUSIC HALL – details below. We hope to see you. Also, be sure to check back in with us later in the week – we’re launching our new website!


Really people we’ve had our noses to the grindstone fine-tuning and detailing this new record and we’re real proud of it. We did manage to squeeze in some great times at the San Francisco Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival – including our sold-out show at the Noe Valley Ministry, and excellent music from the Freight Hoppers, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the most recent incarnation of The Crooked Jades. A great excuse to party the rainy nights away!

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