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Shannon Wurst commands a stage.  Born in the Ozark hills, this singer-songwriter can keen out a soulful, old-time ballad just as well as she wails on a rockabilly anthem in full-throated force and strum.  Blending classic country with traditional bluegrass, Wurst’s musical arrangements effortlessly push her style into new territory. This work has landed her national attention.  The timeless, roots-based songs from her latest album Sugar and Kerosene (released in Spring 2018) like “Better Than Bourbon” and “Devil and Saint” have a yearning tension that she delivers with sweet smile.  “Shannon Wurst is among that rare breed who can make you sit upright and wonder aloud, ‘Who is that?’ She is unquestionably arresting” (from Sing Out Folk Music Magazine, John Lupton).  Shannon Wurst, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, is a rising star who has opened for Robert Earl Keen, Railroad Earth and Carlene Carter.  

Character-based narrative is at the heart of her songwriting.  Through other people’s stories, Wurst begins writing in first-person.  Her comfort with the audience often lets her take on stories that are dark.  Her humility in the work keeps these reaches from feeling false. “Writing in first-person gets me closer to a situation, and I want these songs to be more about those listening than about me,” says Wurst.  When asked about taking these stances while performing and what folks might think, Wurst jokes that vulnerability is hard. “On stage, you’re exposed. When a song takes a turn so that it’s really no longer about me, in that moment, it’s only what’s in the song that’s being understood.  So there’s a risk where the song gets confused with the real me. No way to avoid that.” Wurst also relies heavily on metaphor. For example, in “Measure Twice,” the speaker admonishes a carpenter-beloved to take care in his approach toward life, just as a skilled craftsman knows to take care before cutting boards in constructing.  

“I write to better understand the world and myself, even if most of the details in my songs take on a life of their own,” Wurst says.  The emotion in Wurst’s songs exists somewhere at the edge between the tragedy of what almost was and hope of what can yet still be. While resolute in the emotion of that place, her songs are not sentimental.  

The quality of her voice is sweetly feminine; she’s been compared to Emmy Lou Harris and Gillian Welch.  It is in the softness of her soprano that juxtaposition comes against the message she delivers. Her big sound moves folks beyond the surface of inherent ease and charm into deeper themes of love, loss and heartbreak.  In soft angelic voice that often falls away just behind the beat and her own guitar, the toughness is that Wurst tells it like it is. Her worldview, if determined, is not bleak. There’s resolution in her honest tone that promises better is coming—for us all.  “{Wurst’s} voice has the simple mountain purity of Maybelle Carter and Dolly Parton, yet her songs have a simple and timeless edge that shines” (from Blueground Undergrass, Jeff Mosier).

The title song from her latest album, Sugar and Kerosene, earned her recognition as a Telluride Troubadour finalist at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival where she performed alongside artists such as Sam Bush, Margo Price and Norah Jones.  Inspired by cures for children’s coughing during the American “Dust Bowl,” Wurst wrote the title track shortly after finding out she was pregnant with her second child.

Sugar and Kerosene was recorded in Kansas City and produced by Mike West of Truckstop Honeymoon, who brought direction for a full electric band.  West, who spent most of his musical life in New Orleans, integrated a Cajun sound—adding squeezebox and fiddle—to fill out the instrumentation.  “West has this immediacy with each step of the process. It was fun to watch him work. In “Kissing in the Kitchen,” West had pots and pans clanging, even an egg timer going off in the background.  He has this childlike way of playing in the studio that really brought these songs alive,” Wurst says.

Shannon Wurst first appeared on stage at age 5.  It was as an assistant in a magic act where she inadvertently made the audience laugh.  The magician, when he called up his new assistant hadn’t noticed she didn’t have pockets, which the trick required to work.  She announced, “But, I ain’t got no pockets.” And that was all it took for her to understand the power of the stage to make people feel better and to pay attention, even if, or maybe because of, her innocence. She grew up surrounded by her musical influences: her father, Ronnie Wurst, who plays country and classic rock in bars across rural Arkansas, and her flat-picking stepfather, Ed Carr, who often performs with Wurst.  Wurst has been speaking the plain truth from that platform as a singer and songwriter ever since.


 

 

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"Shannon Wurst is among the rare breed who can make you sit upright and wonder aloud, "who is that?" She is unquestionably arresting."-Sing Out Folk Music Magazine, John Lupton

"If there's any justice in this musical world, you'll be hearing a lot more of Shannon Wurst."-Bluegrass Unlimited

"Quite honestly, I think Shannon may be the best local performer I have heard and I can only hope that someone discovers her quick." Littlerocklivemusic.com

"Stellar debut album."-Arkansas Times, Lindsey Millar

"Sharing other peoples' stories is at the heart of Wurst's songwriting."- Triad, Winston-Salem, NC

"There is no stage she won't shine on! She will, not doubt, have the crowd asking for more."- Matt Johnson, Boone Saloon, Boone, NC

"Add to the growing list of impressive Ozark-grown talent the name SHANNON WURST...there  is a new voice on the scene worth paying attention to. One that could easily emerge from our radios in the coming years." Ozark Mountaineer, Branson, MO

"Shannon can sing with the best of them. I'd walk a mile just to hear her hum."-Mark Bilyeu of Big Smith

"Shannon's voice has the simple mountain purity of Maybelle Carter and  Dolly Parton, yet her songs have a timeless and hopeful edge that shines..."-Jeff Mosier of Blueground Undergrass

"Sweetest voice this side of heaven."-Tim Willems, Mayor of Scranton, AR


Awards and Achievements

Telluride Troubador Finalist, 2017 

Songwriter Showcase Folks Fest Honorable Mention 2017

Instructor at Song School 2015

2011 Zoogobble Top Ten  Album Packaging
Arkansas Govenor's Fellowship Award in Folk Music Composition, 2011
Grassy Hill Emerging Artist at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, 2010
Selected for The Internation Folk Alliance Offical Showcase Artist, 2008 and 2011
Telluride Troubadour Honorable Mention, 2009 & 2010
Kerrville New Folk Finalist, 2009
NAMA Nominated best female singer/songwriter 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012
NAMA Winner Best Female Singer/Songwriter 2010
NAMA Winner for best new band (3 Penny Acre), 2009
Recipent of the Arkansas Heritage Grant to perform the "Arkansas Traveler" program to school children, 2009
Selected (with 3 Penny Acre) for the 21st Annual International Folk Alliance Offical Showcase Artist, 2009
Winner of New Song Contest at Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS, 2008
Semi-finalist in Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion Talented Twenties Contest, 2008

Recipient of North Northwestern Carolina Regional Artist Grant, (to record Sunday Pie) 2007

Venues and Festivals

Folks Fest, Lyons, Colorado

Fayetteville Roots Fest
The Grey Eagle, Asheville, NC
Ozark Folk Center, Mountain View Arkansas, Summer 2009
George's Majestic Lounge-Fayetteville, AR
Good Folk Productions (Mike Shirkey) -Fayetteville, AR
Sticky Fingerz-Little Rock, AR
Whitewater Tavern-Little Rock,AR
The Lyric Theater-Harrison, AR
The Palace Theater-Crossville, TN
The United Center-Idaho Springs, CO
Boone Saloon-Boone, NC
Boticelli's-Austin, TX
Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival, 2008 and 2009 Ozark, AR
Walnut Valley Festival, 2008, Winfield, KS
Kerrville Folk Festival, 2008, Kerrville, TX
Eureka Springs Folk Festival 2008, Eureka Springs, AR
Merlefest Songwriter's Showcase, 2007
4 State Homegrown Music Festival, 2007 & 2008, Neosho, MO
SXSW, 2007, Austin, TX
Eureka Springs Bluegrass Festival, 2007, Eureka Springs, AR

TV/Radio Appearances
"What's More Honest Than a Song?" #7 on Folk DJ Chart in 2010
Featured Artist on Front Row Music Program on Jones Television Network
Interviewed on Mountain Television Network by the North Carolina Arts Council
Featured on Nationally Syndicated Program,
Folk Sampler, with Mike Flynn
Live Studio appearance on Mike Shirkey's
Pickin Post
Live Studio appearance on Daniel Gold's Honest Tunes Radio Show
Live Studio appearance 
Blue Plate Special with Matt Morelock's
FolkAlley.com
Frontporchradio.com







 

Press

The “Lionheart” in Folk Americana

Posted by Terrah Baker | 

Staff Report

Local artist Shannon Wurst is releasing her fifth studio album “Lionheart Love” and with it — to include her soft, poetic voice, story-telling ability, and lyrics about nature, community and survival — she’s defining what folk Americana means today.

To find out what gives “Lionheart Love” such an ear pleasing, heartfelt and much-needed-for-the-genre originality, The Free Weekly asked her a few questions.

What is your history with music?
I grew up in a musical family. My dad played a lot of rock and roll and country. My stepdad is a blue grass picker. I grew up singing within both of those genres … I started taking guitar lessons when I was 16 and then I started picking it up on my own and played throughout college. It’s been in the last six years or so I’ve been doing it full time for my living. I’m lucky enough to be a part of the Arkansas Arts Council Touring Artists Registry, so I get to go into schools and libraries and do writing workshops with kids and adults.

What inspires your music?
I really love stories. I love hearing other people’s stories. I’m also inspired a lot in nature and being out in the woods. A lot of my songs are inspired by a job I had as a dog musher. A lot of it is just from my life experiences and other people’s stories and also that of nature.
I create the music that is in my heart and I feel like I want to express to people. I’m lucky enough to have a small niche and a small fan base that supports what I do. It’s not to promote my music to this large genre that people are really use to but to provide a service to those who are interested in my type of music.

What have been your accomplishments in your music career to date?
I feel like my greatest accomplishment is all the great friends and musicians I’ve met and got to play with along the way. That’s what keeps me going and writing songs are the people who come to my shows and I have these personal connections with. I do a lot of home concerts so I get to dip into these people lives. I want to make the personal connection with all of these people that wouldn’t have been possible without the music.

“Lionheart Love”, recorded in Bozeman, Mont. was made possible by the Arkansas Fellowship Award and fans supporting the project through an online crowd sourced fundraising site, Kickstarter. During the CD release party at Greenhouse Grille, the stories from the songs will be paired with multi-media footage and actor’s interpretations, while Wurst and her band perform. The audience will be part of a fiction radio show hosted by Director Jason Suel. All this while supporting the causes mentioned above. A portion of ticket proceeds will benefit Trike Theater, and a portion of the CD sale proceeds will benefit caringbridge.org. Seating is limited, so pre-purchased tickets are strongly encouraged: $10 at shannonwurst.com, and $12 at the door.
What: Multimedia, Live Theatre, Audience Participation, CD release party
Where: Greenhouse Grille
When: Jan. 27.