Chris Vallillo
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Chris Vallillo

Macomb, Illinois, United States

Macomb, Illinois, United States
Solo Folk Acoustic


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"Chris Vallillo, “Abraham Lincoln in Song” (Gin Ridge Records,"

Chicago may have been the unofficial capital of the Midwest since at least the turn of the 20th century, but the true soul of Illinois lies several hundred miles farther to the South. Along the banks of the mighty Mississippi and Ohio Rivers lurk the spirits of a bygone era, throwbacks to a wide-open time when riverboat rounders and runaway slaves thought nothing of throwing it all down on the turn of a card and when a young bachelor named Abraham Lincoln put down the roots that allowed him to blossom from obscure prairie lawyer to one of the most important figures in the development of the Western world as we know it today. Illinois songsmith Chris Vallillo captures the frontier spirit and energy of the time brilliantly in his newest Gin Ridge Records release, “Abraham Lincoln in Song.”

This album is a collection of songs from a variety of sources, including some newer tunes but mostly consisting of works dating to the mid-19th century. Several Stephen Foster classics can be found, including “Hard Times Come Again No More” and “We Are Coming, Father Abraham.” Vallillo’s earnest baritone does them great justice, with his trademark slide guitar flourishes polishing the arrangements with a touch of true Americana. Another great track, newer but no less classic, is “Let The Band Play Dixie” by singer-songwriters Bob Gibson and Dave North, telling the tale of the moment when Lincoln announced Lee’s surrender to the gathered crowd around the White House and, in a beautifully-timed gesture of reconciliation, intoned that classic phrase to the band and let the population of Washington know that the time for divisiveness had passed and the time for healing had begun.

With the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth fast approaching, anything and everything Honest Abe will soon be in high demand. Take a few moments from your busy life to honor him by checking out this disc, and get a glimpse of what life on the Mississippi River flatboats was really all about.

– Ian Simons

- Omaha Weekly



Chris Vallillo knows better than to mess with Abraham Lincoln. The Illinois-based folk and roots singer said only after a long road that wound through work as an archaeologist, interviews on the dusty porches of rural Illinois and hours of practice on musical instruments would he venture to tell the story of the nation's 16th president. "I knew to be careful," he said. "Because you don't want to make a factual error with Lincoln's story, or everyone will tell you about it." The result of two years' worth of research and sharpening - not to mention a lifetime full of historical interest and reading - is Vallillo's one man show, "Abraham Lincoln in Song." He'll perform the show Saturday night at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.

To fully understand the genesis of his idea to tell the story of Lincoln's life through period music, Vallillo said, a person has to start at the beginning. And for Vallillo, that beginning was more than 30 years ago in Gettysburg, when as a young man he toured the battlefields and found an artifact he took home to research. "It was that first experience at Gettysburg that helped spur me on to school for archaeology," Vallillo said. A few years later, Vallillo had graduated from Beloit College with a degree in anthropology. But he found that after three years of work as an archaeologist, what he was doing wasn't as rewarding as playing music, which he'd always loved. So he decided to take another path, which, Vallillo said, led to "music collecting" work in rural Illinois. It's a process he began in 1986 that involved searching the countryside for older people "born at a time when if you wanted music, you had to make it." The result was wonderful old stories and unforgettable
experiences. And it was through this most unusual but rewarding work that Vallillo said he first realized he could make a living simultaneously
pursuing his two loves. "That experience opened my eyes to the history around me, and I discovered my love of the past could really meld with my love of music," he said.

The "Abraham Lincoln in Song" project, which Vallillo said he began about four years ago, really represents a coming-home for someone whose love of history started in the fields of Gettysburg. And it's a project that's been a labor of love for someone with great respect and admiration for
Lincoln. "He was a wonderful storyteller and a really remarkable
individual," Vallillo said of Lincoln. "And through months of research, I found a way to tell his story entirely through song." During the show,
Vallillo performs a "carefully scripted" program of period pieces, in which he plays acoustic guitar, bottleneck slide guitar, a 129-year old hammer dulcimer and a jaw harp, an instrument which, according to Vallillo', Lincoln himself was fond of playing when he traveled and worked as a lawyer.

"Abraham Lincoln in Song" has had hundreds of performances, Vallillo said, including several at the Lincoln
Presidential Museum in Illinois. But this Saturday night's show will be the first for the public at Gettysburg. Vallillo said the music of the show is always well-received, but he was surprised and excited when it recently climbed to
No. 10 on Billboard's Top Bluegrass Album chart. "But I think that was a lot more about the name Abe Lincoln than Chris Vallillo," he joked. The best thing about the show, according to Vallillo, is the way it tells Lincoln's story to a large degree through his own stories and sayings. Achieving that effect, he said, was well worth the effort and hours of the long journey to get there. "This show is about Lincoln the man," he said. "And it's something people will really

- York Daily Record


Sunday June 22, 2008

As Abraham Lincoln, Ward Hill Lamon and other lawyers traveled the central Illinois judicial circuit, they would entertain each other in the evenings by telling stories and singing songs. One of the songs, with Lincoln on the jew's-harp and Lamon strumming
a banjo, was "Hoosen Johnny." "As near as I'm able to get, 'hoosen' might be a root expression to express somebody of a crude rural nature, like redneck today," said Chris Vallillo, a singer-songwriter based in Macomb.

With a backup band, Vallillo will perform "Hoosen Johnny" and other Lincoln-period music at 3 p.m. June 29 at Krannert Center as part of the Abraham Lincoln in Song program he created. The free event will mark the first time that the 53-year-old roots musician will present the program with a backup band; it will include Champaign percussionist Rocky Maffit. Vallillo always performs Lincoln in Song as a solo act, but recorded it with a band. At Krannert, he and other musicians, except for Maffit, will perform on vintage instruments from Vallillo's collection. Musicians used those in the recording sessions for the CD, Abraham Lincoln in Song, which has received great reviews and hit No. 10 on the Billboard bluegrass albums chart after its release in February. “The show itself is actually a structured program, almost theatrical in nature," Vallillo said. "Not only will I do songs, but I also tell his life story, from beginning to end (1809-1865). I include stories he told to illustrate different points, and a historical narrative to tie it together." The historically accurate program has been endorsed by the Illinois and National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commissions, which means Vallillo will be performing it more frequently as the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth rolls around.

One of Vallillo's chief sources for Lincoln in Song was the book American Songbag by Carl Sandburg, who was an avid folk-music collector and performer himself. Vallillo found in that and other books a substantial amount of material from which to draw, eventually winnowing it to 11 songs. One is Shawneetown, a well-known work song that flatboat deckhands sang on the Ohio River at the same time that Lincoln worked as a ferryboat deckhand. No one knows for sure that the future president sang Shawneetown, but the chances are good that he did, or at least knew the song. "There are references to him singing as a young man," Vallillo said. "While he didn't have a beautiful voice, he was noted as an enthusiastic participant. Later, when he became a politician, he would never sing in public and denied that he ever had. "He loved music, though. He was a huge fan of all kinds of music, especially the humorous songs which he would use to bring himself out of his bouts of depression and such."

Other songs that are part of Vallillo's program are Lorena, Lincoln's Funeral Train and We Are Coming, Father Abra'am" The last one was written in response to Lincoln's challenge for 300,000 more men to join the Union. "The Union troops sang the song under his window the night before he gave the 'Gettysburg Address" Vallillo said. Vallillo has found no references to Lincoln playing a musical instrument other than the jew's-harp.

In Lincoln in Song, Vallillo plays that as well as a six-string guitar and resonator slide guitar. Besides Maffit, other musicians who will back Vallillo at Krannert are Ross Sermons of Nashville, Tenn., on upright bass, and Mark Stoffel of Carbondale, on fiddle, mandolin and a 1926 Gibson tenor lute that Vallillo called extremely rare, saying he's seen only one – his own. "Gibson made only 2,000 of them. It has a very thin, reedy sound that lends itself to an old-timey soundscape." Gary Gordon of Sparta will play an 1890s high-string parlor guitar as well as a standard guitar, mandolin and a nine-string bottleneck slide guitar, again from Vallillo's collection. His instruments date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, but not as far back as the Civil War.

In addition to collecting acoustic instruments, Vallillo has collected folk music of rural Illinois, most notably as part of the Illinois Mississippi River Valley Project, funded by the Illinois Arts Council. That work brought him a Quality of Life Award. Among other honors he has received are the National Federation of Community Broadcasters' Special Merit and Bronze Reel awards in the national music/entertainment series category for the "Rural Route 3" radio show, which airs on WIU's public station, and through which Vallillo met his wife. The past two years, Vallillo has been an Illinois State Scholar for "New Harmonies," the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition on roots music.

Vallillo has an anthropology degree from Beloit College, which he put to use as a staff archaeologist for three years at Western Illinois University before deciding to pursue music as a career. Critics have written that he is exceptional on six-string, flat or finger-p - News Gazette, Champaign, IL

"Abe Lincoln, In Lyrics"

Chris Vallillo uses folk music to show the legacy of our 16th president

By Jamie Greco
Daily Herald Correspondent February 9th, 2006

Chris Vallillo's first career in anthropology isn't as far removed as it seems from his current vocation as singer/songwriter.

Touring the Midwest presenting "Abraham Lincoln in Song," a program of music and narrative meant to give fresh insight into the life of Lincoln, Vallillo has put his first career to work for him within his second.

"(The program) traces the life of Abraham Lincoln using folk music that he knew, or was directly associated with him - even songs specifically written about him in the Civil War era and a few contemporary songs written about him today." Vallillo explained.

"These will be performed on a variety of instruments, primarily guitars. And I will tie the whole program together with a narrative of his life and a number of stories he used to tell," he said.

"He (Lincoln) was a very famous storyteller."

Vallillo's previous career in anthropology comes into play when rooting out these stories and songs.

"I've located and documented a number of actual Lincoln stories as part of the narrative," he said.

Vallillo, a resident of Macomb, in western Illinois, expected that traditional anthropology, defined as the study of humanity, would be the direction his life's work would take after he graduated from Beloit (Wis.) College with a degree in that subject.

But his passion for music would soon redefine his studies.

"After about three years of struggling to make a living as an anthropologist, I decided if I was going to struggle making a living I'd rather do something I truly love, which is music."

He ended up blending the two careers in an innovative way, mining the musical memories of southern Illinois with a process called music collecting, an effort to record songs that were popular in the time before recording devices were available.

This twist on anthropology has resulted in a body of work that Vallillo has organized into an historic record of music that might otherwise be lost.

"I've incorporated a fair amount of the material I've collected and researched into a body of music that I perform that illustrates Midwestern history."

Much of what Vallillo has learned has been filtered through his interest in Lincoln and will be presented at the Old Main Museum in Elgin on Feb. 12, Lincoln's birthday.

"This was a remarkable man, a self-made man who had very strong beliefs of a moral nature, even though he was not outwardly religious," Vallillo said.

Vallillo believes that what makes Lincoln one of the most beloved figures in history has more to do with his commonality than the lofty heights he achieved. He never lost his innate sense of humanity, his very strong touch with the common man.

"Those are values you rarely see in people that achieve that level of office."

Vallillo created the program under
illo created the program under the sponsorship of the Illinois Illinois Humanities Council’s Road Scholars, a speakers bureau of the council.

"I would think someone like Lincoln
could be elected today," Vallillo said.

"The politics of today are so bitter
and divisive.

Here was a man who really avoided that and stayed to the issues at a time when there was every bit as much mud-slinging as there is today.

I think people thirst for that."

- Daily Herald, Suburan Chicago

"Surviving on the Lonesome Prairie"

January 11th 2007

By Tom Irwin

If success in the music business world is measured on the basis of peer recognition, good bookings, and creative output, singer/songwriter/player Chris Vallillo deserves a gold star for achievement. The multitalented multi-instrumentalist from west-central Illinois began more than 25 years ago as a songwriting guitar picker looking for steady work. Today Vallillo is recognized as one of the Midwest's premier artistic voices in traditional and contemporary roots music. Since his 1985 finalist placement at the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival songwriting contest, he has forged a career that includes several respected releases of his own work, plus numerous outstanding special projects.
From 1990 to 1997 Vallillo hosted and co-produced Rural Route 3, an award-winning public-radio music program. He developed education-oriented historical programs based on original and traditional folk music, including a successful show on Springfield's most famous citizen, called Abraham Lincoln in Song. His days and nights are filled with folk-festival showings, county- and state-fair bookings, kids' shows, a monthly hosting slot for an acoustic-music concert, and the occasional gig on the Twilight, a steamboat that cruises the Mississippi up Iowa way." I always say there aren't really any bad shows," Vallillo says, "though some are definitely better than other ones."

During 2006, Vallillo broadened his range from the familiar vistas of west-central Illinois by co-hosting Arts Across Illinois on Chicago public television, a live program later broadcast statewide. In September he appeared at Millennium Park in Chicago for the newly instituted Great Performers of Illinois Festival. Recently he was chosen state scholar for New Harmonies, a traveling roots-music exhibit created by the Smithsonian Institution that's scheduled for six museum stops in Illinois. "It's part of a program called Museums on Main Street that brings an exhibit about the national history of roots music to smaller towns," Vallillo says. "Each region adds its own local history to the show." Vallillo has always been known for his strong, melodic voice and exemplary finger-picking. Lately, though, he's acquired a different technique.” I find playing bottleneck slide an interesting art form and a very expressive medium," he says. "It incorporates well into the songs I do, from Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family to Civil War songs, a John Gorka tune or an original. It translates an emotive sound."
How does Vallillo explain his ability to maintain a successful career? "I want to play music, so I do it more as a survival technique than anything else," he says with a laugh. Chris Vallillo performs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, sponsored by the Prairie Grapevine Folklore Society.
- Illinois Times

"Chris Vallillo: Abraham Lincoln in Song"

Chris Vallillo
Abraham Lincoln in Song
Gin Ridge Music (GR-1009) By Donald Teplyske
4 stars (out of 5)

An album of old-time folk music from and inspired by the times of Lincoln; now there’s a commercial bonanza just a-waitin’! Fortunately, folk singers don’t worry about such matters.
Recently endorsed by the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, Illinois songwriter and musician Chris Vallillo celebrates on his fifth studio release the times and music of the early- to mid-19th Century.
In the detailed liner notes, Vallillo outlines the connection each track has to Lincoln, whether a personal favorite of the 16th president, an artifact of the time, or a contemporary piece reflecting a historical perspective. Anticipating the bicentennial of his birth, Abraham Lincoln in Song presents thirteen tunes and songs from the familiar- “Lorena,” “Hard Times,” and “Dixie’s Land­”- to the less known- “El-A-Noy” and “Let the Band Play Dixie.”
The album works most completely as a unified listening experience. Although not placed chronologically, one traces the events and times through Lincoln’s life in the songs.
Individual performances do stand out, however. Vallillo’s treatment of the Civil War standard “Lorena” is especially effective. The steel guitar work by Vallillo on “Shawneetown” fits the melancholy mood of the tune ideally, and the additional guitar picking on this number — either by Vallillo or accompanist Gary Gordon — complements the phrasing of the steel bits.
Vallillo’s voice is ideally suited to the timbre of “Lincoln’s Funeral Train,” and he conveys the song with such conviction that one may be forgiven for believing he wrote the Norman Blake song.
Vallillo has a pleasant, masculine voice that is fully capable of carrying the nuance of a popular sentimental melody while bringing a bit of bombast to more inspirational numbers. Vallillo’s guitar arsenal is large, and he is accompanied by mandolin, fiddle, bass, and harmonica.
Beyond the stellar musicianship and singing, Abraham Lincoln in Song is further impressive because of the care that has gone into packaging the album. From the cover art featuring an uncommon photograph of Lincoln’s hat and glasses, to the multiple panel fold-out featuring the notes and additional photographs, Vallillo has elected to place emphasis on creating a product that puts quality over profit margins.
Those interested in the aural tradition and historical basis of familiar songs within a stunning acoustic context are well advised to investigate Abraham Lincoln in Song.

- Lonesome Road Review


BMNN wrote: on Jan. 24, 2008:

Nashville, TN -- On February 12th, the official the kick off of the two year
bicentennial celebration of Presi dent Abraham Lincoln's birthday, roots musician
and folklorist Chris Vallillo will release Abraham Lincoln in Song, a unique and
eclectic collection of songs for lovers of history and roots music alike. Recently
endorsed by the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, Abraham
Lincoln in Song weaves historic, period music and contemporary folksongs into a
celebration of the life and times of one of our nation's favorite sons.

Lincoln's life spanned a period of great change, growth and struggle in our young nation, and the music of his era movingly characterizes these remarkable times. "I hope the collection of music in this project helps shed light on one of history's most beloved figures; not only as a remarkable leader, but as a man, who knew and loved many of these very songs himself," Vallillo says.

The project is educational as well as entertaining, with comprehensive liner notes including interesting anecdotes about the songs and composers. "I wanted to show the importance behind that particular choice of music in relation to the life of Abraham Lincoln," said Vallillo. The songs were recorded using Vallillo's extensive collection of vintage instruments in order to capture the correct sonic texture. Even the cover art reflects meticulous attention to detail, with a rare photograph of the actual Lincoln stove pipe hat now in the collection of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, IL.

Vallillo is an award winning performer with an affinity for American roots music and a gift for translating historic topics into modern day understanding without losing the bedrock and foundation from which they surface. An accomplished six-string and bottleneck slide guitarist, Chris is well known for incorporating original and traditional material to make the people and places of "unmetropolitan" America come to life. From 2006 through early 2008, he served as the Illinois State Scholar for New Harmonies, the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibit on roots music. During that time Vallillo worked with a world class exhibition that told the story of roots music in its many forms, from blues to folk to gospel, to country, to ethnic to bluegrass and more-a virtual sound track to the melting pot that is America.

Syndicated columnist Ken Bradbury notes, "Chris Vallillo is the complete package...a haunting voice, a master at his instruments, and a stage presence that holds anyone of any age spellbound. Chris pulls off the nearly impossible task of making poetry of our heritage while maintaining the integrity of the original material. And in Chris's case, that material is the very stuff of which we are made...our history."

Vallillo's Abraham Lincoln in Song is an ideal soundtrack for the bicentennial celebration honoring one of our country's most beloved leaders. From the haunting "Battle Cry of Freedom," through the poignant "We are Coming Father Abra'am" and the original Minstrel song version of "Dixie's Land," Abraham Lincoln in Song is a fitting tribute to the man, the place music held in his life, and the place both still hold in American life today.

- Bluegrass Music News Network

"Featured Cool Spins: Abraham Lincoln in Song"

Chris Vallillo: Abraham Lincoln in Song (Gin Ridge)

And now for something completely different: genuine early American folk music! February 12 marked Abraham Lincoln's 199th birthday (back when I was a kid, February 12 was a school holiday; now Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays have been shmushed together into a single ski weekend), so I though it would be nice to give a little virtual ink to this fine album of folk songs, most of them from Lincoln’s time; a few are even about Lincoln.

When I put it on for the first time, I was immediately struck by the lovely instrumental version of “Battle Cry of Freedom,” with mournful Dobro leading the charge—it instantly reminded me of Ry Cooder’s excellent version of the same tune from the underrated classic Boomer’s Story.

From there, we get into vocal pieces that cover a broad range of folk styles from the mid-19th century: ballads, work songs, political tunes. When “Aura Lee” came on, I realized I’d learned it from my fifth grade teacher back in the mid-1960s (a hundred years after it was written), and could sing along from hazy memory.

Guitarist/singer Chris Vallillo is an appealing guide through this forest of mostly obscure folk material—he delivers the songs completely without irony or modern cynicism, and he’s a sterling picker to boot. He’s ably assisted by a small group of acoustic players.

The liner note annotations reveal that this or that song was a favorite of Lincoln’s, while this other one was used during his campaign. The notes on “Dixie’s Land (Dixie)” are particularly illuminating: “The famous line ‘I wish I was in Dixie’ is not a Southern expression as most folks might expect. It actually came from the circus people of the North who began to yearn for warmer climes as the increasingly cold weather began to make life in the tents unbearable.” Lincoln liked “Dixie” so much he has it played as his inauguration…and as the true uniter that he was, he also had it played to crowds outside the White House following Robert E. Lee’s surrender. Also cool is the 1990 Norman Blake tune “Lincoln’s Funeral Train,” one of just two modern songs on the disc.

The sound is both rich and pristine; top-notch all the way.

Must play: “Battle Cry of Freedom,” “Dixie’s Land”

Produced and engineered by Chris Vallillo. Mixing by Vallillo.

—Blair Jackson
- Mix Magazine

"A Song Collection, Inspired by Lincoln"


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Just in time for Presidents Day comes a new album saluting Abe Lincoln. Honest. Chris Vallillo's "Abraham Lincoln in Song" is a collection of mostly Civil War-era songs, including "Dixie" and "Battle Cry of Freedom."

The target audience? Certainly not the Britney Spears crowd. "Lovers of acoustic music, history buffs and especially the educational audience," will enjoy the album, said Vallillo, a singer-songwriter from Macomb, Ill., who has studied Lincoln's life and Illinois folk traditions.

This album probably won't shoot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 or dominate radio play. But Mark Summers, a history professor at the University of Kentucky in Lincoln's native state, said the project can educate as well as entertain. "Music shows you a good slice of the time period, tells you about sentimentality and the emotions at the time. I'd like to have it for my classes," he said.

The album of mostly acoustic ballads — released on Feb. 12, Lincoln's birthday — grew out of a one-man show in which Vallillo used period music to illustrate Honest Abe's era. "Battle Cry of Freedom," written by George F. Root, was inspired by Lincoln's call for Union volunteers in 1862. "Hard Times Come Again No More" is by Stephen Foster. There are additional songs about Lincoln's funeral train, a runaway slave and tunes said to be liked by Lincoln. "Aura Lee," written in the 1860s, is the melody for Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender."

"This should be of interest to anyone who loves Lincoln," said Vallillo, 53. "Dixie," though popularly associated with the South, was written by a Northerner and was reportedly Lincoln's favorite song.
"On the day peace was declared, he broke the news to the crowds by having the White House band perform the song," Vallillo said.

Instruments on the CD include guitar, fiddle, mandolin and harmonica. Vallillo will be selling it at his shows and on the Internet. He said recent projects like Ken Burns' "Civil War" documentary and the film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" have made roots music more accessible to mainstream America.

From 1990 to 1997, Vallillo was host and co-producer of the award-winning public radio series "Rural Route 3." He has sung at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Ill., other Lincoln historic sites, performing arts centers and small theaters.

Vallillo has no illusions about selling as many records as Garth Brooks. But he said the popularity of the 16th president should not be underestimated.
The album has the endorsement of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission, which is overseeing two years of events to celebrate Lincoln's birth on Feb. 12, 1809. "With the upcoming bicentennial of Lincoln's birth, that interest should be significant," he said.

On the Net:: Gin Ridge Music:
- Associated Press

"Review of Abraham Lincoln in Song"

From Espie Estrella,
Your Guide to Music Education.
Guide Rating - 5 STARS

The Bottom Line:
Chris Vallillo is an Illinois State Scholar for the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition on Roots Music, New Harmonies. His passion for music and history is clearly evident in his latest cd offering titled Abraham Lincoln in Song. This cd makes history come to life and celebrates Lincoln's legacy through music that you'll love listening to.

Pros --
Historically-rich selection of songs
Excellent vocals and arrangement
Great packaging
Very informative liner notes
Used vintage instruments such as a 1940's Gibson Southern Jumbo guitar and a 1927 Gibson tenor lute

Cons --

Produced by Chris Vallillo and released under Gin Ridge Music
Contains 13 carefully selected songs that are associated to Abraham Lincoln.

Songs were researched to be historically accurate and highlights Lincoln's life through contemporary folk and period songs.

Showcases Chris Vallillo's vocal ability and musicianship through the use of vintage instruments
Endorsed by the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission
Cover photo is from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and the cd is packaged in an environmentally-friendly cardboard
The liner notes contains historical information pertaining to each song.

For teachers, this cd will make a great addition to any history, social studies or music curriculum
Songs are expertly arranged and recorded made more appealing by Chris Vallillo's singing.

Guide Review - Product Review of "Abraham Lincoln in Song" Music CD

In honor of President Abraham Lincoln's bicentennial birthday celebration this February, Chris Vallillo, a singer-songwriter, performer, six-string and bottleneck slide guitarist, has released his latest cd titled Abraham Lincoln in Song. The said cd contains 13 carefully selected songs that celebrate the life and legacy of one of America's most beloved presidents.

Abraham Lincoln in Song takes you to a historically-rich voyage through contemporary folk songs and period music such as "Battle Cry of Freedom" and "Aura Lee." The musical instruments used in each song (e.g. harmonica, jews harp and bottleneck slide guitar) add to that nostalgic feeling and Chris Vallillo's ability as a singer/storyteller holds you captive.

The packaging is well-designed with a cover photo from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and additional images of Lincoln on the inside. The information under each song gives you a better understanding of its connection to Lincoln. For example, the song "El-A-Noy" is said to be a favorite of his and the song "We Are Coming Father Abraham" is said to have been sung to him by Union Troops before he delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.

This is a perfect example of incorporating music to teach history in an engaging way.


Hear the entire Abraham Lincoln in Song CD at and sounds clips for all of Chris's in print recordings at his web site


Battle Cry Of Freedom
Lincoln's Funeral Train
We Are Coming Father Abra'am
Hard times come Again No More
Dixie's Land
Aura Lee
Hoosen Johnny
Darling Nelly Grey
Lincoln And Liberty
Let the Band Play Dixie



2005, “The Dance” features Chris Vallillo on acoustic guitars, bottleneck slide and vocals and includes seven original songs and instrumentals along with four contemporary folk songs and an old Stephen Foster tune just to keep things interesting.


"Now that's real music!"
- Old Man, Hannibal Folklife Festival, Hannibal MO

The late 1800's and the early 1900's were a time of growth and prosperity for the Midwest. With the introduction of radio, musical styles merged and grew replacing the old with astounding speed. AURAL TRADITIONS captures that time presenting a slice of the musical pie that entertained, enlivened and strengthened the people of the rural Midwest between the 1860's and the 1930's.

1. Life’s Railway to Heaven
2. Traveling Blues
3. Bayou Sarah
4. Shady Grove
5. Midnight On the Water
6. Darlin’ Pal Of Mine
7. When Katie Comes Down By the Gate
8. Sittin On Top of The World
9. Keep On the Sunnyside of Life
10. Ragtime Annie
11. Glendy Burke
12. The Sinking of the Titanic
13. Golden Slippers
14. I’ll Fly Away


"This is a Classic of the Genre."
- Kerrville Kronikles

"Vivid, original story songs... delivered in his crisp, expressive tenor... accompanied on this fine recording by some of Nashville's best."
- Dirty Linen

Co-produced with Grammy nominee Rich Adler at Suite 2000 in Nashville, The Best Of All Possible Worlds features some of the best acoustic players in the business: Folks like the late Roy Huskey Jr. on bass, Kenny Malone on drums, Andrea Zohn on fiddle, Deanie Richardson on mandolin, David Schnaufer on dulcimer, Ron Ickes on dobro and Jim Hoke on harmonica.


"It is a beautiful recording and will be enjoyed by all those, like me, that enjoy evocations of rural America so well done."
- Peter O'Brian
Omaha Rainbow, Surrey, England

Ten original songs comprising a portrait of rural America in words and music. Recorded at the University of Illinois Historic Experimental Music Studio, this fine recording features the fiddle playing of the then teenaged Olympian fiddler Alison Krauss.





One Man Show Tells Lincolns Story Through Music

On February the 12th, 1809, Abraham Lincoln came into this world in a dirt floored log cabin on the Big South Fork of Nolans Creek in Kentucky says folksinger Chris Vallillo as he launches into the combination of
narrative, storytelling and music that make up his one man show Abraham Lincoln in Song. Vallillo, a former archaeologist turned musician and folklorist, created the show using period music that was directly associated with Lincoln as the vehicle to tell the story of our 16th Presidents life and times.

With Abraham Lincoln in Song, Vallillo combines Lincolns own words and stories with period folk songs and contemporary folk music to shed light on one of our nations most beloved historical figures -- not only as a
remarkable leader, but as a man who knew and loved this very music himself. Skillfully presenting both well known and obscure songs from Lincolns time, Vallillo tells Lincolns story -- from his birth in Kentucky through his death in 1865 at the hand of John Wilkes Booth. From an old jews-harp tune Lincoln used to play as a circuit riding lawyer, to political songs like Lincoln and Liberty, to the moving civil war song We Are Coming Father Abraam Vallillos show lets the music to tell the tale in a way that words alone cant match.

Extensively researched and historically accurate, both the live show and compact disc recording of Abraham Lincoln in Song have been endorsed by the National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Commissions of Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. When released last year, the CD of music from the show hit #10 on the Billboard Bluegrass Album Charts.

Vallillo himself is a performer with an affinity for American roots music and a gift for translating historic topics into modern day understanding without losing the bedrock from which they surface. A former archaeologist turned folksinger/songwriter, he is a skilled six-string and bottleneck slide guitarist whose love of the past evolved into a love for old music.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museums Phil Funkenbusch notes, With Abraham Lincoln in Song, Chris Vallillo takes the audience on a musical journey, making history come alive with his excellent blending of music and storytelling. He grabbed hold of the museum visitors here, establishing excellent rapport with the audience with this thoughtful, humorous and moving show."

Vallillo has performed Abraham Lincoln in Song at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, The Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum, the Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic Site, President Lincolns Cottage in Washington DC and theaters, museums and historic sites around the country to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincolns birth.

Hear the entire Abraham Lincoln in Song CD at * 309-833-4838 *


2013: Scored and recorded music for the film, The Old State Capital, Witness to History.

2013: Produced the Double Live CD set of the Midwest Folklife Festival for the Illinois Arts Council.

2010: Presenter at the Smithsonian Institution's conference on Traveling Exhibits, Performance Rights Issues in a Museum Context.

2009-20011, 2006-2008: Two time Illinois StateScholar for the SmithsonianInstitution's travelingexhibition on Roots Music, NewHarmonies.

2008: The audio CD Abraham Lincoln in Song reaches #10 on Billboards Bluegrass Album Chart.

2008: Abraham Lincoln in Song receives the endorsement of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, as well as that of the Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania Bicentennial Commissions. The show will go on to be performed at The Abraham Lincoln and Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museums, The Lincoln Home National Historic site, The Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum, President Lincolns Cottage, and hundreds of sites across the country.

2008: Keynote Speaker, Conference of the Midwest Open Air Museum Coordinating Council, Using Music in

Band Members