Coryell usually accompanies his singing with clawhammer banjo, and sometimes with guitar and harmonica. He also sings a cappella and performs instrumentals. Coryell appears on two earlier recordings: "Red Leaf" (cassette, released 1992) and "The Reston Folk Club Presents" (cassette, released 1988). "Cornbread & Rum" is his first solo release.
Coryell has performed music since 1985, mostly in Northern Virginia and around the greater Washington, D.C., area. He performs as a solo folk singer and in a duo with Arlington-based singer/songwriter Joan Kennedy. For ten years he was a member of the band Red Leaf (with Joan Kennedy, Dennis Doyle, and Martha Doyle). Sometimes he performs with The Wagon Road Singers (with Ralph Lee Smith, Koyuki Smith, and Shirley Leedy).
Coryell's musical influences are many and varied. "I would include anyone who inspired me to try," he says. His list (far from complete, and in no particular order) includes Ralph Lee Smith, Joe Hickerson, Norman Blake, Bob Carlin, Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Wade Ward, Bob Flesher, Cliff Haslam, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Cisco Houston, Sheila Kay Adams, Mike Seeger, Joe Ayres, Little Walter, Odetta, Miles Krassen, Ken Perlman, Tommy Thompson, Big Bill Broonzy, and Uncle Dave Macon. There are many others.
Lea started playing music during the early 1970s. "I listened to a lot of blues. I wanted to learn blues harmonica because I liked Sonny Terry, Little Walter, and Sonny Boy Williamson. But I got sidetracked and started playing straight-harp fiddle tunes. I first took up guitar so I could accompany myself on the tunes."
Coryell bought his first banjo in 1976. David Brose, who was then an instructor with the Columbus (Ohio) Folk Music Center, first introduced Lea to the clawhammer style. "I've acquired a lot of banjo music and listen to many players," says Coryell. "It's surprising how much of what you hear comes out in your playing."
"Cornbread & Rum" was recorded, edited, mixed, and mastered by Bill McElroy At Bias Recording Co. (Springfield, Va.) and Slipped Disc (Richmond, Va.). Musicians include: Lea Coryell (lead vocal, banjo, guitar, harmonica), Joan Kennedy (vocal and guitar), Ralph Lee Smith (dulcimer and harmonica) Don Stallone (vocal, concertina, melodeon, bones, and forks), Dennis Doyle (vocal and guitar), Martha Doyle (vocal), and John Gorozdos (vocal and tin whistle).
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