If you're any kind of music fan, you'll know what I'm talking about when I mention the thrill of discovery. It's that moment we all listen for, that instant when someone fresh and unknown pierces right into your core and touches your musical heart. It's exciting. You feel like you're present at a birth or something. And from that time on, you feel like that artist is your special treasure.
As I recall it, it was just another night wandering around Music City. The bar was smokey. The band was playing. I was drinking a beer. And then there was that Voice.
It was something silvery and bright, a lark's song at morning on a spring day, wafting over the barroom haze and the din of conversation. I stood up to see over the heads in front of me to see a little woman with a heart-shaped face enthralled with the joy of melody.
On that night and many others I hae seen Kathy Chiavola with that same expression on her face. I really believe that is when she is in the arms of God: She was born to sing.
She has the unusual ability to "cry" like a country star, moan like a blues mama and maintain the clarity and purity of tone of a folk soprano, often all in the same song. In a town full of great vocalists, I know few who have such perfect pitch, who can keep pace with even the trickiest jazz instrumental breaks with such ease.
Kathy can sing just about anything, but where she chooses to put her heart and soul is in the bluegrass/acoustic music scene. Nashville's finest pickers experiment there and she is their singer of choice.
With them, she's wowrked out some of the niftiest arrangements you'll hear on any record from Music City this year. They range from a propulsive, gospel-fervor workout on Buddy Holly's "Well All Right" to a stunning, poetic, prayer-at-midnight treatment of the Peter Pan lullabye "Distant Melody".
In between you'll find everythng from sweetly melodic works from the pens of Kathy's Nashville contemporaries or half-forgotten songs of old polished to a golden glow with her remarkable singing. Kathy wrote the lilting, gentle, folkie "Labor of Love" herself and that's what her debut record is.
Sit down. Relax. Clear your mind and listen. You're about to experience that same thrill of discovery I once felt. You'll feel as I did, that you've just encountered one of those special, personal treasures.
It may be an old cliche, but I can't help thinking, "to know her is to love her" whenver I play this music.
I love this voice. I love this woman. I love this record. And I bet you will too.
Robert K. Oermann, Music Columnist/Editor for the Tennessean , Nashville, Tennessee
Kathy Chiavola is a premier voice in bluegrass and acoustic music. Her newest recording FROM WHERE I STAND, A Personal Tribute, is dedicated to world champion fiddler Randy Howard, her partner of nine years. "This doesn't fall under any genre--it's emotion, raw and rare. I feel I may never hear anything so eloquent again...unbearable beauty." Ginger Boatwright. FROM WHERE I STAND was awarded five stars and featured CD of the month in Country Music People magazine which selected it as one of the top recordings of 2001. The Chicago Tribune named it #6 of the top ten bluegrass cd's of 2002.
Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine proclaimed, "stunning, emotional... beautifully compelling...Kathy's vocal style and range fill a huge gap in today's world of female bluegrass singers....An inspiring and courageous album to be treasured." June, 2002
In March, 2002, Kathy was the featured interview on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered, titled "Brahms, Bluegrass and Backup Singing." Listener response was overwhelming. (To listen: www.npr.org, click on archives, select "Weekend All Things Considered" and type in Kathy Chiavola)
Kathy's band includes veterans Richard Bailey, banjo; Aaron Till, fiddle and vocals; Steve Thomas, fiddle, mandolin and vocals and Todd Cooke, acoustic bass. In 2001, Kathy and her band completed five international tours which included England, Ireland, Wales, France, Spain, Japan and the Faroe Islands, (where she was the first ever bluegrass artist to perform) at sold out concerts and rave reviews. "It was nothing less than a volcano of a concert, a country and bluegrass victory, where the acoustic instruments and a big voice filled every corner." in the Faroes to Castleford, England "nothing short of incredible", to Kenilworth, England "The audience - not all bluegrass fans, were captivated....Awesome." Kathy co-wrote and recorded a new city song for Toulouse, France to promote the Garonne River Festival which she headlined.
Drawing on her classical roots, Kathy performed the roles of the witch and narrator in the Bell Witch Story for the NCO/Nashville Ballet premiere in 2004 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. In April, 2003, Kathy appeared on the American Song Festival featuring members of the NCO along with Tim O'brien, Peter Rowan, Guy Clark, Kathy Mattea, Darrell Scott, Bill Miller, Marcus Hummon and Jim Lauderdale. As festival co-artistic director, she also organized the first ever Belmont and Blair School of Music voice faculty joint recital.
Kathy's previous recordings include THE HARVEST which features her band, the late Randy Howard, the late Roy Huskey, and Brent Truitt with guests Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris, Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, John Cowan, Bill Monroe, and Vince Gill. The Chicago Tribune hailed it one of the top five bluegrass CD's of '96. The songs span traditional bluegrass to the contemporary songs of Peter Rowan, Marcus Hummon, John Hartford, Bob Lucas & two originals. Her duet with Bill Monroe is believed to be his last vocal recording.
Kathy's country debut LABOR OF LOVE gathered unanimous critical acclaim in 1990. It was London's Tower Records' No. 1 country CD for two weeks and reached No. 2 on the UK country chart. Kathy's recorded "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" for A PICTURE OF HANK, Mercury Records and "Won't Be Long" for CLASSIC RAILROAD SONGS, VOL 4, Rounder Records.
Kathy was voted 1995's Outstanding Background Vocalist in the Nashville Music Awards having recorded with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Tammy Wynette, Kathy Mattea, Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, Bill Monroe and many others. Television jingles include State Farm Insurance and Country Time Lemonade.
Kathy grew up singing folk, blues and rock in Kansas City, MO and was awarded a scholarship to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music where she earned her bachelor's and masters degrees in voice. She studied in a doctoral program at Indiana U. with Metropolitan Opera star Eileen Farrell and has sung opera professionally. Before forming her own group, she toured with The Doug Dillard Band, Vassar Clements, The Country Gazette, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor.
She is a voice instructor at Belmont University, endorses D'Addario strings, and serves on the board of directors for the Nashville chapter of The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Recorded Event of the Year, FOLLOW ME BACK TO THE FOLD, IBMA 2001
Female Vocalist of the Year, nominations, 1998 & 2000 SPBGMA
International Artist of the Year Independent Label - British Country Music Awards, nomination 1997
Female Vocalist of the Year, SPBGMA Bluegrass Awards 1997
Top 5 Bluegrass CDs, Chicago Tribune 1996
Backup Vocalist of the Year, Nashville Music Awards 1995
FROM WHERE I STAND
"With a voice that borders somewhere between Patsy Cline and light opera, Chiavola puts across every emotional moment with grace, confidence and tremendous comprehension....listen to the incredibly deep quality of her delivery. " Stephanie Ledgin, SING OUT MAGAZINE, Summer 2001
"Chiavola has one of the purest, most refined voices in Nashville, and it commands attention here on a variety of music, from folkie material like Kate Wolf's 'Across the Great Divide' to her own heart-breaking folk aria 'Senza Parole'." Craig Havighurst, THE TENNESSEAN, MARCH 8, 2001
"Setting aside the emotional charge that pervades this recording, the selection of material is first-class and the performances, wholly acoustic, are divine....she holds the listener spellbound." Craig Baguley, COUNTRY MUSIC PEOPLE MAGAZINE, March 2001
"She's pure of heart and pure of voice. Somehow equal parts classical soprano and mountain folkie." Robert K. Oermann, MUSIC ROW, March, 2001
"Only superlatives can describe this stunning album. Wonderfully sung, superbly played, but, more importantly, constructed with care and not constrained within the bluegrass straitjacket. Explodes another theory-no one sings a John Hiatt song better than John Hiatt. Should be compulsory listening for anyone about to record an acoustic album." John Atkins,
Critics Choice Favourite albums of 1996, Country Music People
"Her new self-produced album...is as passionate as it is virtuosic. More than
just a terrific album, The Harvest is testimony to Chiavola's musical vision and to the esteem of her friends and peers." The Nashville Scene
"Chiavola is simply a highly talented bluegrass-style performer who possesses a golden ear for great songs plus the sterling voice and delivery needed to do them justice." Bluegrass Unlimited
"Anyone with an interest in acoustic music, whether it be bluegrass, singer-songwriters or simply superlative musicianship should head out and buy this album right away....The highest of this album's high spots is Kathy's arrangement of John Hiatt's Thirty Years of Tears. It's stunning, even better than Hiatt's version, and I can give no more praise than that." Country Music People
"the voice is back....one of the best releases of '96...Kathy Chiavola has once again, if that's possible, surprised many of the critics in country music with her breathtaking and stunning vocal presentation on the new album." The New Country Music Gazette
"This is by far the best release this year." Bradford Telegraph & Argus
"a follow up of the highest order......one of the most beautiful voices around. Her poise and total command of the material echoing class at every turn." Country Music Roundup
LABOR OF LOVE
"I love this voice. I love this woman. I love this record." Robert K. Oermann
"The Voice...the find of the country year."Folk Roots
"Stunning!" Country Music People
"Chiavola has one of the sweetest and most sought after session voices in Nashville"
"Time and time again her stunning performance raised the roof.." Country Music People
"I adore Kathy's wonderful voice and so did this festival audience. She cast a musical spell over all of us that I will long cherish...an unforgettable performance. International Country Music News and Routes
"Backed by just her own guitar and the hugely expressive fiddle work of world champion Randy Howard, she enthralled the audience with a vocal purity, pitch and control that was nothing short of beautiful..." Country MusicPeople
"Kathy, 'the voice', holds any audience spellbound when she sings, we sat there absolutely entranced as did other members of the audience. Absolute bliss." North Country Music
Check out the artist's website:
1. Well All Right
2. A Woman In Love
3. A Man After My Own Heart
4. Cry Cry Darlin'
5. Traveling At Night
6. The Passing Of The Train
7. A Fool Such As I
8. Lost Dog Blues
9. Labor Of Love
10. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star/Distant Melody
11. Faithless Love