Raison D'Etre

Raison D'Etre

 Wilder, Kentucky, USA

"Some of the finest three-part harmony singing you'll likely ever hear."--Mike Breen, CITYBEAT. Divinely stirring harmonies, songs from the heart.


Violet Rae Downey, Vickie Ellis, and Roberta Schultz are three women who live to sing together. Described by one critic as divinely stirring, their singing seems to define this team of singer songwriters. According to Mike Breen of Cincinnati CityBeat, the folk trio offers some of the finest three-part harmony singing youll likely ever hear. However, when these women invite you around their hearth of heart, it's for the purpose of sharing lifes journey through original songs about love, loss, and redemption. Sometimes they even find redemption by "googling themselves" or by assuring us all that bad days are caused when "mercury is retrograde again." These women view the "tall side" of life with a top-of-the-world perspective and a healthy dose of humor. Even their carefully selected covers from Mark Weierman, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Jesse Winchester welcome the audience into a world where dogs are "twice the human being that you are," a drunken cafe-dweller plots her metamorphosis, space ships save the environment, and a woman decides it's OK to be "an old gray grandma as long as you'll be my gray grandpa." Traditional folk songs, a capella swing tunes, and Shaker hymns round out their versatile repertoire, all delivered in their pure Kentucky blend.

Juried into Kentucky Arts Council's Performing Arts Directory since 2000, the trio takes the stage at key venues from east to west in their home state including Richmond Area Arts Council in the east, Singletary Center for the Arts in Lexington and Glema Mahr Center for the Arts in Madisonville.

Outside of Kentucky, this folk trio appears at arts venues and festivals from the North Coast of Ohio to the Gulf Coast of Alabama and from the Blue Ridge to the Ozarks.

From 2000-2006, Raison D'Etre hosted the popular Coffee Cup Concert Series at Northern Kentucky's Behringer-Crawford Museum, Covington. While showcasing the diverse blend of folk, acoustic, jazz and singer songwriter musical heritage of the Ohio Valley Region, the series featured such national headliners as folk performance artist, Christine Lavin and Grammy winner, Bill Miller, with whom Raison DEtre shared the stage. They have also appeared several times with blues artist, EG Kight.

Raison D'Etre has 8 recordings available on iTunes and CD Baby.

Individual Bios:

Violet Rae Downey - guitar, vocals, percussion, uke

A background in musical theater drives Violet's dramatic sense of song and fuels her incredible range as her percussive guitar pounds out the heart beat for the trio. Violet's songs, "Legacy" and "I've Got the Heart" continue to gather awards from songwriting festivals and critics alike. Her "ultra-Violet" vocals are the highlight of every Raison D'Etre concert.

Violets Honors:

MOVA Songwriting Festival 1st Prize for Humorous/Children's Songs--"Legacy(I Googled Myself)," 2007

Judges Choice Award, MOVA, 2005 for "I've Got the Heart."

Honor Award from 2008 West Coast Songwriter's Competition for "Legacy."

Swing Canary identity: Violet Rae

Favorite color: purple(duh, Violet!)

Vickie Ellis - keys,banjo, banjuke, percussion,vocals

Vickie combines classical piano training, a passion for folk instruments (banjo and banjuke) and her background in radio and theater to add spice and nuance to arrangements and homey chat to performances. Her story-telling spills over into songs like "Another Train," about her aunt's home place in Wayland, KY where coal companies "sliced up the hillside" and fouled the drinking water.

Vickie's songs "Batten Down the Hatches" and "Another Train" speak for the voiceless and powerless in our society. "Batten Down the Hatches" received an Honor Award from the MOVA competition while "Another Train" was recently recognized for Honors by the 2008 West Coast Songwriters Competition and has been selected for airplay at Women of Substance Radio.

Swing Canary Alias: Vickie Lynn

Favorite color: I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say yellow.

Roberta Schultz - guitar,vocals,percussion,6-string mando,bass

Robertas finger-picking guitar styles, soulful song writing and Native drums(including a few that she made) craft Raison DEtres Americana feel.

Roberta's songs have ranked as Judges Choice and finalists in the MOVA Competition("Broken Radio," "This Kind of Rain," respectively.) "This Kind of Rain" earned third place in the Folk/Bluegrass category.
Roberta's songs also appear on "Isn't it a Wonder," (children's CD, 2008, The Ceilidh Group) and on "Diva Kangaroo," (children's CD, 2011, The Ceilidh Group.)

"Be True" won an Honor Award from the Great American Song contest, 2006 while "Broken Radio," and The Hard Truth have been selected for airplay by Women of Substance Radio.


The Papers

Written By: Roberta Schultz

The Papers by Roberta Schultz ©2010
Babe sits at the table
in the bright, white kitchen light
and pours a drop of coffee in my milk.
She laughs like a coyote at Red Skelton's latest plight.
My head leans on her knees that feel like silk.

She hands me half a Brillo pad and
we begin to scrub
the stove, the sink, the table and its chrome.
When gray linoleum's shining and
there's nothing left to rub,
we fill our cups and talk about her home.

Oval portrait of her love: all that woolly, black hair raging,
glowering at us from above on the wall.
And the praying hands of Jesus in a golden, lighted frame
sees us all, he sees us all.

"Well, I was doing mill work when I was just your age."
She says this as a fact, without regret.
Then she pulls out some papers from a little cedar chest--
a ritual that I won't soon forget.

"My dad was from Montana, a Blackfoot Indian boy,
the meanest indins in the old wild West."
I touch the papers' edges like
they are the sacred scrolls.
Her story takes the turn I like the best.


"My daddy and his daddy joined
the troupe of Buffalo Bill.
They traveled east and camped out at the zoo.
They played the part of indians in the wild west traveling show.
That wasn't hard because that part was true.

When grandpa got in trouble in a bar in Portsmouth town,
they sold my daddy to a farm up there.
These papers tell how daddy would work 'til 21 for
readin;, 'ritin, 'rithmatic and care."


Babe folds up the papers with her hands so smooth and brown
and tucks them very gently in their place.
The ceremony ended, we drink our coffee down
and share a little silence in our space.


Sure Thing

Written By: Roberta Schultz

Sure Thing ©Roberta Schultz 2011

Will you always tell me that my jokes are funny?

Will you always ask me if I have enough money?

If my hat's on crooked, will you tell me, honey?

Listening for that one "sure thing."

Will we walk down to the lake on Sundays?

Eat the same spaghetti after yoga on Mondays?

Plan our next vacation on a list of somedays?

Gotta hear that one "sure thing."


Sure thing, sure thing

The answer makes me want to sing.

A simple agreement that we hold so dear.

Got to have that one sure thing.

2. When I feel alone and the world upsets me,

Will you play along and say that nobody gets me?

Hand me a beer to cheer whatever else frets me?

Hoping for that one sure thing.

When I ask you questions and you can't reply,

Will you still look me in my right mind's eye?

Tell me that a love like this can never die.

Speak the silent truth: sure thing.



I am not a gambler, but I know this much is true:

IIf I had a million bucks, I'd bet it all on you.



"Broadman Babies," Detremental Records, 1996
"Better Medicine," Detremental Records, 1999
"Christmas Belles," Detremental Records, 1998 & 2001
"Queen Anne's Lace," Detremental Records, 2002
"Hearts Content," Detremental Records, 2005
"Swing Canaries," Detremental Records, 2008
"Tales from the Tall Side," Detremental Records, 2009
"Golden Girls of the West," Detremental Records, 2011

Tracks from "Queen Anne's Lace" and "Hearts Content." and "Tales from the Tall Side" have received airplay in New Jersey, New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati and throughout Kentucky.

"Live@Java5" is a two-hour live concert on DVD produced by Mudbrick Media in Mobile, AL.(2007)

Most tracks are available at iTunes.

Tracks from Raison D'Etre's cowgirl CD have received airplay on WDIY and on Women of Substance Radio.

Three studio videos produced by Mudbrick Media are currently available for download at iTunes.

Raison D'Etre recorded a vintage baseball tune with the Jump 'n' Jive Showband for the documentary "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" which premiered at Cooperstown, NY.

Set List

Close three-part harmonies define Raison D'Etre's style. In a typical performance, the women offer their own compositions about connection, a sense of place, and bearing witness as well as carefully selected covers from Mark Weierman, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Jesse Winchester. Traditional folk songs, a cappella swing tunes, and Shaker hymns round out their versatile repertoire.

Don't Worry About Me*
Hearts Content*
I've Got the Heart*
Broken Radio*
Mercury is Retrograde Again*
Don't Take the Dog
Queen Anne's Lace*
Baby Goodbye*
Braver Self*
After the Goldrush
Singing the Blues
Be True*
In the Mood
Java Jive
Nothing But a Breeze
Another Train*
Some of Shelly's Blues
No Blues on a Mandolin*
Legacy(I Googled Myself)*
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
This Kind of Rain*
I Will Always Love You

*original tunes in our one-hour set