About Alison Brown
When we needed help to spread the Wells for Zoe message and pay tribute to the amazing women of remote, rural, Malawi in musical form, our very dear friend Alison was up to the challenge straight away. With husband Gary, they couldn’t have been more helpful and it couldn’t have happened without them. It is said if you want a job done, go to a busy person, so read on
Since founding Compass Records ten years ago, banjo virtuoso Alison Brown has been a busy woman. In addition to running what Billboard Magazine calls “one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade” and releasing three critically-acclaimed albums including the 2001 Grammy-winner Fair Weather, she has maintained an international touring schedule, playing over 60 dates a year in the US and abroad. “We [Brown and husband/bass player/label co-founder Garry West] used to think it was difficult to find time for writing music when we were just touring and running the record company, but since my daughter Hannah and then Brendan came along, I’ve been amazed at how often my hands are occupied with everyday chores – cooking, straightening up, changing diapers.…It’s been a challenge to carve out a place for my own music in the midst of everything.”
The title of Brown’s recent release, Stolen Moments, is a nod to the task of balancing work and parenthood with her own creativity. “We were literally stealing moments in between everything else,” she said of both the writing and recording of the CD. “We would do a take, then run down to the office and answer emails or make sure the three o’clock babysitter had shown up before the morning babysitter left.
Alison Brown began her music career at a young age, playing banjo in several Southern California bands alongside fiddler Stuart Duncan as a teenager. After graduating from high school, bluegrass took a back seat while Brown attended Harvard University, earned an MBA, and worked as an investment banker. Following successful tours with both Alison Krauss and Michelle Shocked, a Grammy-nomination for her first solo effort Simple Pleasures, and the Banjo Player of the Year award from the International Bluegrass Music Association, Brown put her business skills to work, founding Compass Records in 1995 with her husband Garry West. Brown’s discography includes 5 releases on Vanguard Records as well as 4 on the Compass Records label. Brown tours internationally with the Alison Brown Quartet, has been a guest speaker at Harvard Business School, Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck School and the University of Colorado Boulder, and currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.
Alison Brown’s Myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/abonbanjo.
The Wonderful Sea Voyage (of Holy St. Brendan) is the ABQ track on the album, which recalls the unbelievable expedition of St Brendan and his monks from Ireland to Newfoundland, long before Columbus and maybe his inspiration.
Saint Brendan – The Navigator
Saint Brendan was born near Fenit in 484. He travelled extensively and founded several monasteries. Many places are named after him: places in Ireland, England, Scotland, the Faeroes and Brittany. There is compelling evidence to suggest that he visited Greenland; Iceland; Newfoundland and other places in North America.
The traditional craft used in this period was made with leather over a wooden frame. Tim Severn, the modern-day explorer, studied up on St. Brendan and crossed the Atlantic in a replica boat. This boat is on display at Craggaunowen, a historical interpretative centre, near the village of Quinn in Co. Clare
Saint Brendan is the Patron Saint of the Navy of the United States of America.
The track always brings me into the sea journey and suggests the power of the human will. St Brendan asked his monks to launch out into the deep unknown, with faith and belief. I feel this is something one does when heading for Malawi.
The new version on the album has John Doyle and Eamonn Coyne pulling some oars in this amazing composition, by Alison.
Just what I had dreamed of: a strong, bright, creative woman, like Alison, helping to give a voice to my other strong, illiterate, bright and beautiful women in Malawi, who are enslaved by poverty, tradition, religion and the world. Not a St Brendan in sight but:Sisters doing it for one another!
Thank you Alison, Gary, Hannah and Brendan and all the gang at Compass.
To hear a little taste from the Album click here