Rachel Nelson
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Rachel Nelson

Band Folk Acoustic


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"Chris Riemenschneider column"

"Violin-playing folk singer Rachel [Nelson's] singing and idealism recall Joan Baez...[her CD]Change is a Thousand Hearts features songs about peace and compassion that speak to the times." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Hot Picks"

"With a plaintive voice recalling 19th century Appalachia, a wonderful fiddle technique, and lone guitar-based songs, Rachel Nelson has emerged as a musical voice for peace...Her first CD...consists of delicate narratives...and includes not only anti-war sensibilities but also a portrait of redwood tree-sitter 'Julia Butterfly' and other originals." - Lydia Howell - Pulse of the Twin Cities

"Mikko Cowdery review"

[The evening's performers]are each authentic artists and consummate musicians, each playing a variety of acoustic instruments, and singing with heart in clear, rich, elegantly blended voices. And if that's not enough, all three women are accomplished poets who write their own songs with humor, heart and intelligence.

The real magic of the performance...grew out of the love these women have for the music, and the joy they so obviously share in performning together. - Echo Press, Alexandria, MN

"Peaceworker's Hello: The Musical Stories of Rachel Nelson"

"Although she is best known as a musician, Ms. Nelson found storytelling to be a natural extension of her studies in English literature and her love of oral performance. . . .Her new children's CD . . . features three stories, two accompanied by fiddle music." Caren Niele, Winter, 2003. - Healing Story Alliance Newsletter

"Andrew Calhoun review"

"Rachel Nelson's work on fiddle and banjo is a sparkling addition to [the Granary Girls'] enduring message: at the end of the day, it is still and always love that gives life meaning."
Andrew Calhoun, reviewing the Wild Roses CD by the Granary Girls - Waterbug Records


Change is a Thousand Hearts, 2002 release of original songs. Preview each cut at http://cdbaby.com/cd/rachelnelson

"I'm Awesome!" said the Possum, 2004 children's CD of songs & stories. Preview each cut at http://cdbaby.com/cd/rachelnelson2

The CDBaby links above will get you 2-minute streamed previews of all CD cuts.

Hear or download the complete songs "In Spring" or "Whoa Back" at www.bardlive.com



Rachel Nelson -Biography

Songwriter, storyteller, and spoken word poet Rachel Nelson has a passion for live performance. "The old Celtic bards felt that a song, a story, and a poem were simply three versions of the same thing—the oral tradition of live performance."

Nelson’s 2002 CD Change is a Thousand Hearts features her original, often jazzy or blues-influenced songs. This CD marked her turning point from traditional musician to songwriter. While some of her originals have roots in the Celtic/Appalachian music she has performed for years, others have a swing or bluesy feel. The common denominator, perhaps, is her lyrics, which often tell stories in the first person. Lydia Howell of Pulse Magazine enjoyed this CD's "delicate narratives," while Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Chris Riemenschneider found that her "voice and idealism recall Joan Baez back in the day."

In her 2004 children’s CD I’m Awesome! Nelson again broke new ground by recording stories (two original and one true) along with the songs and music.

Nelson has taken her live shows to Arkansas’s Acoustic Sounds Café, North Dakota’s WomanSong Festival, and Minnesota’s Cedar Cultural Center and Oak Center General Store. She was a featured teller for two years running at the Northlands Storytelling Network Conference in Madison, WI.

In her BardLive shows, Nelson mixes songs, stories, and poems with a well-honed theatrical sensibility. Since 2000, she has been using this mix to create theatrical evenings around a single theme. She received a Minnesota State Arts board grant to record her environmental show No Time Like the Present. She received another regional Arts Board grant to premiere her show Living the Questions, which debuted at the MN Fringe Festival in 2007.

For Nelson, the wild card in scripting any BardLive show is the audience. "I think of performing as communicating, so I’m always trying to ‘listen’ to my audience. Depending on what I hear or see, I throw over my best-laid plans in the service of the show’s main idea. There’s an element of improvising in the moment." This immediacy and presence connects with audiences.

To hone this theatrical sense of improvisation, Nelson studied with master physical acting teacher Kari Margolis for five years. This training added acting know-how to Nelson’s long list of theater music credits. She has composed, directed, and played music for theaters in Minnesota, North Carolina, and Tennessee, including Margolis-Brown Theater, At the Foot of the Mountain Theater, In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theater, Park Square Theater, and Wood and Strings Puppet Theater.

Musically, Nelson’s territory has been constantly expanding. Her early days found her playing fiddle and banjo in old-time and contradance stringbands like Mama’s Apron Stringband, Buttermilk Hill, Spider on Ice, and Joe Shannon’s Appalachian Acoustic Ensemble. Later, in North Carolina, she founded the Irish ensemble Bonnie Kate. She expanded into vocal features and harmony arrangements with the Boswell-style harmonies of the Virtue Sisters, the swing harmonies of the Tony Lama Country Swing Band, and the bluegrass and country harmonies of Wild Mountain Rose.