Carolyn Cruso

Carolyn Cruso

BandPopSinger/Songwriter

Beautiful instrumental music combined with soulful songwriter material, for hammered dulcimer, guitar, voice and flute. At once transportive and funky; lush and gritty, creating a sonic complexity for listeners to lose themselves in. Innovative and evocative. www.carolyncruso.com 360/376-5290

Biography

It’s a gypsy life of adventure, chance encounters and the solace of the landscape that inspire her. Her music not only reflects this in its timeless and transportive nature, but her life represents it. “Elegant melodies…painting vivid pictures with a sensual palette of poetic images…hypnotic and alluring,” says Richard Middleton of Victory Review. From street performing to Renaissance Fairs to folk festivals, to coffeehouses, to theaters, Carolyn Cruso has traveled the world moving audiences with her expressive voice, flute, guitar and hammered dulcimer playing.

Carolyn’s musical adventures began as a recent college graduate when she moved from New Hampshire to Seattle in 1985. The Seattle folk scene was already vibrant and the grunge scene just starting to bubble. The energy was contagious and artists from all over the U.S., including Carolyn were drawn there. The smells and sounds of Pike Place Market, and the interaction with everyday people and other musicians made street performing an alluring experience. It was her first week in Seattle playing Pike Place Market when Carolyn met Robert Almblade, whom she’d perform and write with for the next decade. On a whim, they moved to Orcas Island, a decision that would shape the rest of her musical life.

Robert and Carolyn moved on to the land of master dulcimer and harp maker David Will. Carolyn had first heard the sound of the dulcimer at 17 years old at the Hudson River Revival festival. So moved by the enchanting sound, she literally ran towards it and saw the fantastic instrument it was coming from. She never forgot the sound or the image. Now she was presented with the opportunity to explore that sweet sound. Robert and Carolyn bought a dulcimer and with their natural musical talents, easily taught themselves to play. They worked as a great team, each coming at the dulcimer from different angles: Carolyn with a flute background and Robert with a guitar and mandolin background. They were able to teach each other new techniques and share their individual discoveries, accelerating the learning process. “Without being exposed to any other players or the tradition, Robert and I just found our own way,” says Carolyn. This was a blessing as it allowed her to develop her own style; a style that reflects her life; innovative and adventurous.

The duo decided to take their show on the road to Europe where the busking scene was thriving. Amongst other musicians, jugglers, comedians, one- man bands, mimes, and contortionists, they were able to carve out a lucrative career. They performed and sold original music in the streets of Germany, Holland, Demark and Switzerland. It was during this time, that Carolyn honed her dulcimer skills and developed her truly unique style. She was exposed to traditional Celtic sounds and was able to incorporate them into the sound that became her own. As a result Carolyn pushes the boundaries of the traditional approach while still honoring the original spirit. Her style is improvisational, lyrical and percussive. She uses effects like bending notes and playing two notes with one hammer, as well as an independent hand technique. “Through her hands the instrument becomes a living organism of beauty…this music must be what heaven sounds like,” says Charlie Vervalin of the Black Rose Acoustic Society.

Two albums and three years later, with highly developed dulcimer skills, Carolyn and Robert returned to the U.S. Not ready to give up the wandering lifestyle, they began performing at Renaissance Fairs becoming part of the circus like family. They traveled the circuit playing dulcimer, flute, guitar and cittern. On the road for five months at a time they live a migratory life for seven years until Robert passed away.

After Robert’s death in 1997, Carolyn began more seriously to explore singing and songwriting; something she’d been doing since she her teens. Her songwriting ranges from poetic to narrative. Her lyrics, exploring love, loss and regeneration convey a compelling sense of longing. She masterfully lays these over an intricate finger picking guitar style and open tunings, which allow her to find the rich voicing in the chords she hears. The Eugene weekly calls her music, “Intricate musical poetry…fine guitar work.” In 2001, she released her first singer/songwriter album (her seventh album) “As Clear a Hue.”

And now 17 years later, her life has come full circle. She is again living on Orcas Island with her life partner David Will, the man who made her first hammered dulcimer. Although she has made this her permanent residence, she is still a gypsy at heart. Carolyn is on the road touring the U.S. at least 3 times a year playing solo or sharing the stage with a variety of artists such as Susan Osborn, Peter Mayer, Marjorie Richards, Orville Johnson, Jim Page, Artis the Spoonman, Holly Figueroa, Libby Kirkpatrick, Randal Bays, Jim Craig, Stanley Greenthal, Tom May, The Granary Girls,

Lyrics

Evangeline

Written By: Carolyn Cruso Copyright 2003

I met her one autumn
In west Minnesota
Out on the plains
With the sky and the corn

She said, “If you are headed
On off towards the coast
Would you for me to my son
Please say hello”

"What’s his name?"
She said, “Richard.
He lives there in Billings
He works at the quick lube at the truck stop and grill”

I said, “If I pass through there
I will bring him your greeting
What is your name?”
She said, “Evangeline”

Chorus: Evangeline, Evangeline
Bringing your message
‘Cross the high prairie

Oh Evangeline, Evangeline
Tidings of good news
Is what you bring

I set out the next morning
Across North Dakota
High tailin’ it towards home
After four weeks on the road

I stopped for some sleep
And awoke to the settin’ sun
Painting the Badlands
Oh the magic’s begun

Chorus: Evangeline, Evangeline
Bringing your message
‘Cross the high prairie

Oh Evangeline, Evangeline
Tidings of good news
Is what you bring

I pulled in to the quick lube
Figured I get my oil changed
I asked after Richard
They sent me his way

I said, “I have a message
From your dear mom”
We’ll he looked at me funny
But I just pressed on

Well he looked like maybe he was too old
And he pointed behind me to a much younger mold
I realized that the first guy was the son’s dad
Which meant Evangeline was the wife he once had

Chorus: Evangeline, Evangeline
Bringing your message
‘Cross the high prairie

Oh Evangeline, Evangeline
Tidings of good news
Is what you bring

Oh maybe he left her out alone on the plains
Maybe he felt bad and here was his chance
To make it all up to her by treating me well
That new oil pan to me
Cheap did he sell

Chorus: Evangeline, Evangeline
Bringing your message
‘Cross the high prairie

Oh Evangeline, Evangeline
Tidings of good news
Is what you bring
Tidings od good news
Is what you bring
Tidings od good news
Is what you bring

Somebody Like You

Written By: Carolyn Cruso Copyright 2000


You came to me
So soon after I lost my sweet love
You came a knockin’ at my door
And I heard it from above

Oh it was you
The sweet, sweet you
Like a gift easin’ the pain
As I grew through it

I’ve had to open up to you
In so many stages
Just like one of those century flowers
That takes a lot of years to bloom

Oh and I know
It hasn’t been easy on you
Waiting so patiently
Always three steps ahead of my
Letting go

Chorus: I am so sorry
And I do feel blessed
To be loved by somebody
Somebody like you

Each year I go out on the road
Like some kind of pilgrim
Each year I go out there alone
To a Mecca unknown

Oh and each year
I return
A little more healed
From the fire by which I was burned

I know you’re getting tired
And it feels like in mud we’ve been mired
But if you could hold out just a little longer
I know we can get this rig wired

And we can roll on down the road
Together
Watchin’ the sunset in our rear view mirror
And the moonrise in each others tears

Chorus: I am so sorry
And I do feel blessed
To be loved by somebody
Somebody like you

Break

You’ve got your sorrows
You can see it in your eyes
And I’ve got my losses
It’d been so hard to say good bye

Oh and I am a nomad
Travelin’ with words for wheels
And you are of tradition
In the past so much is revealed

Chorus: There is this freedom
That we do tap
And there is this place
Where we overlap

And in that flying
And in that garden
The garden in which we toil
The one with the deep rich dark fertile soil

I know it will carry us along
Well if you’re still up for the trip
We could keep on
Writing this song

Chorus: I am so sorry
And I do feel blessed
To be loved by somebody
Somebody like you

Flyway Zone

Written By: Carolyn Cruso Copyright 1995

Minnesota flyway zone
River winds and takes me home
Waiting for the flocks of birds
To show me where to go

Silver maples have shaded me
Now they’re gonna color me
Chilly nights are coming soon
Gold will come from green

Ch: And the wind
Blows across the prairie
Bringing with it a rain to cool the air
And as sure as the sun rises
I will sing again

The pelicans have returned this year
After three years they had disappeared
The flooding has subsided
In their absence they’ve grown dearer

Oak forest opens to prairie
A shadow of what it once had been
These pockets of true beauty
Are all we have it seems

Ch: And the wind
Blows across the prairie
Bringing with it a rain to cool the air
And as sure as the sun rises
I will sing again

Bridge: I have wandered all across these lands
Time and time again
Still I’m wondering where all the lost beauty she went
And where our travels will have an end

Autumn is advancing ion us
The wind blows straight from Canada it’s
Time to move on further
Before the snow she finds us

I’m longing for my home to find
Longing for the roots that bind
Perhaps it’s something I’ve lost along
The long and weary line

Ch: And the wind
Blows across the prairie
Bringing with it a rain to cool the air
And as sure as the sun rises
I will sing again


Ethereal Cowboy

Written By: Carolyn Cruso Copyright 1999


Ethereal Cowboy
Spicy and strange
Wooin’ the spirits
Out on the range

Drinkin’ Tequila
In the uptown bars
Feelin’ kind of festive
And the Mexican Guitars

Chorus: Ethereal Cowboy
Ethereal Cowby
Ethereal Cowboy

Mornin’ comes
and all is pure
What the future will bring
He’s not too sure

So he picks up his bow
And his quiver of arrows
Up into the high desert
You can feel the earth way deep down in his marrow

Chorus: Ethereal Cowboy
Ethereal Cowby
Ethereal Cowboy

Night falls and he
Shape shifts to crow
Astride a roan horse
Until dawn he will roam

Waiting for the moon to rise
As if with child
Light up the canyon
Unleash his wild

Chorus: Ethereal Cowboy
Ethereal Cowby
Ethereal Cowboy

Dawn comes
And all washed gold
A man again
Yet way more bold

As town draws nearer
Puts on his hat
Cries out a hardy hello
To all the alley cats

Chorus: Ethereal Cowboy
Ethereal Cowby
Ethereal Cowboy
You got me

Discography

Discography

“Boundless” – 2005 (Blue Heron Music), solo hammered dulcimer, original.
Recorded at Big Red Studio, in Corbett, OR.

“As Clear a Hue” – 2000 (Blue Heron Music), songwriter, original.
Recorded at the David Lange Studio in Edgewood, WA

“Transformation” – 1998 (Blue Heron Music), instrumental, original.
Recorded at the Billy Oskay Studio in Portland, OR

“Great Blue” – 1995 with Robert Almblade (Blue Heron Music), instrumental, original. Recorded at the Billy Oskay Studio in Portland, OR

“Ballincheol” - 1993 with Robert Almblade (Blue Heron Music)
Instrumental, traditional (Irish, Scottish, French, Breton, Swedish).
Recorded at the Billy Oskay Studio in Portland, OR

“The Fifth Element” – 1991 with Robert Almblade (Blue Heron Music)
Instrumental, original. Recorded at Nightnoise Studio in Portland, OR

“Tone Poems” – 1989 with Robert Almblade (Himmelreich Music)
Instrumental original. Recorded at Tonstudio Tucan, Kornwestheim, Germany

Set List

Set I (approximately 45-50 minutes)
Maria da Peninha - dulcimer
Solstice - dulcimer
Sleep Soon's I'da Mornin'/The Wailing Banshee/Sean Ryan's Jig - dulcimer
Evangeline - singer/songwriter
Flyway Zone - singer/songwriter
Improvisation/Leap of Faith - flute
New Joe Clark - dulcimer
What About the Mystery - singer/songwriter

Set II (approximately 40-45 minutes)
As the Sun was Setting/The Dusty Windowsill - flute
Cloudbreak - dulcimer
The Elbow Polka/The Dulcimer Polka/The Market Polka - dulcimer
Language - singer/songwriter
Wandering But Not Lost singer/songwriter
Ethereal Cowboy - singer/songwriter
The Magic Shirt - dulcimer
Small Coals For Nailers/Black Nag/Morrison's Jig

This of course is only an example of my set list. I mix it up from night to night to keep it fresh and to respond to the audience and the ambience of the room. But in general I always include the diversity of the different genre's and instruments I play.