Raison D'Etre
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Raison D'Etre

Wilder, Kentucky, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1990 | INDIE

Wilder, Kentucky, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 1990
Band Folk Americana




"Cover Story:MPMF Festival"

The three hyper-talented women of Folk trio Raison D'Etre have been astounding audiences with their gorgeous three-part harmonies for more than a decade and a half; regular visitors to the Cincinnati Museum Center will know them from their frequent appearances as a musical adjunct to various historical exhibits. With five albums and a shelf full of awards to their credit, Raison D'Etre will Folk your world.

You'll Dig It If You Dig: The Roches tribute the Andrews Sisters at an Emmylou Harris/Linda Ronstadt all-night backyard Folk slam. (Brian Baker)
Brian Baker - CityBeat/Midpoint Music Festival Preview (Sep 26, 2007) - Brian Baker, CityBeat

"Today's Indie Suggestion: Raison D'Etre"

Today's Indie Artist Suggestion: Raison D'Etre
Posted at 02:20 AM on April 14, 2010
This month's Themed Show is "Women in Harmony", and who better to represent that than the 3 women of Raison D'Etre. Hear two of their songs online today on the show (3-7 PM EST, noon-4 PM PST) at www.womenofsubstanceradio.com. A simple folk melody with lush, complex harmony is this Kentucky trio's trademark. Violet Rae, Vickie and Roberta each bring something valuable to the creative process; each is an award-winning songwriter, accomplished instrumentalist, and talented singer. The women profess that singing together is thier reason for being, which is why they chose the name Raison D'Etre (meaning "reason for being" in French). Although they are best known for charming folk tunes with down-to-earth lyrics, they throw in the occasional swing tune like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" or "In the Mood" which lend themselves splendidly to the trio's tight three-part harmonies.
Bree Noble - Women of Substance Radio (Apr 14, 2010) - Women of Substance Radio

"Queens of "Hearts""

Queens of "Hearts"
Northern Kentucky's Raison D'Etre has released its latest CD, Hearts Content. The trio performs Sunday at 8:15 p.m. as part of the Leo Coffeehouse music series at Old St. George in Clifton Heights. Friday, the band participates in a benefit for Women's Way at the women's retreat center, Grailville (grailville.org), in Loveland. The group performs at 7:30 p.m., followed by Katie Laur and her All-Girl Bluegrass Band (call 513-923-1414 to reserve tickets).

The Folk/Americana-flavored group features the accomplished vocal and instrumental skills of area musicians Roberta Schultz, Violet Rae Downey and Vickie Ellis, who offer some of the finest three-part harmony singing you'll likely ever hear. On Hearts Content, the trio mixes well-selected covers with their own equally effective compositions. The loose theme of the album is "love," be it for a person, a book or a simple cup of coffee. With an unfussy mix of lilting piano and acoustic guitar (plus the occasional bass, banjo, mandolin and light percussion), the troupe's harmonies glow unimpeded. Highlights include Downey's strident "I've Got the Heart," Schultz's gorgeously melancholic "No Blues On a Mandolin" and beautifully executed renditions of Neil Young's "After the Goldrush," Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" and a divinely stirring A Cappella take on Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More." Local fans of the trio albums made by Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris will be happy to know that there's a comparable version in their own backyard. (raison3.com) - Mike Breen, CITYBEAT

"Extraordinary Women's Trio"

Our Review:

Sweet! Raison D'Etre, which in French means "the reason for being," may just give you reason to listen to holiday music this Christmas season. Raison D'Etre is also an extraordinary women's trio(Vickie Ellis, Roberta Schultz, and Violet Rae Downey) from Northern Kentucky. In Christmas Belles, these women offer voices that are crystal pure and harmonies that are bright, tight, and bursting with beauty!

These artists sing with a warm folksy feel, but deliver pristine clarity. I have tremendous admiration for these women--their craft is extremely difficult, and they excel at every level. For the most part, they sing a cappella, which forces every vocal wart to the forefront, but Raison D'Etre (so far as I can tell!) is a delightfully wart-free group. Their voices blend in virtually seamless precision, and their harmonizations are liquid gold.

The 16 holiday selections err on the side of traditional folk music and are mostly well-loved carols. This album is jam-packed full of crowd-pleasing moments; for example, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" has an excellent chorus, with lower harmonies dropping in deliciously on "Shall come to thee, O Israel..." The vocal blends in "Light of the Stable" are also priceless, and the spiritual numbers, like swingin' stars, shine especially brightly here ("Sweet Little Jesus Boy," "Mary Had a Baby," and "Go Tell It on the Mountain").

In the end, you can just sense that these women LOVE what they are doing, and that emotion permeates every note. Such fun! Although life perpetually raises perplexing questions with few answers, Raison D'Etre's Christmas Belles may give you reason for being well-satisfied, musically speaking, throughout the holiday season.

--Carol Swanson

More about:

From the liner notes:

Raison D'Etre:
Vickie Ellis: vocals, keyboard
Roberta Schultz: vocals, guitar
Violet Rae Downey: vocals, guitar

All arrangements: Raison d'Etre
Bruce Ellis, engineer

From the Website:

Three women who know their reason for being: they live to sing together.

Raison D'Etre is a women's group from Northern Kentucky specializing in tight vocal harmonies, introspective original songs, and a performing repertoire featuring everything from Shaker to swing.

The trio features Violet Rae Downey on vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion, Roberta Schultz on vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion and Vickie Ellis on vocals, keyboard, (occasionally adding mountain dulcimer and autoharp.)

- Christmasreviews.com/Carol Swanson

"Holiday Stocking Stuffers"

Band: Raison D’Etre
Release: “Heart’s Content”
Label: Detremental Records

Northern Kentucky all female folk act Raison D’Etre have been recording music together for the past decade. Their experience shows on their fifth album, 14 tracks of awe inspiring folk inspired original and cover songs. The group shines on covers of Michael Nesmith's "Some of Shelly's Blues", Neil Young's "After the Goldrush", Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Jesse Winchester's "Nothing But a Breeze" by adding their own classically trained voices to the uniquely arranged songs. However, the groups beautiful voices and skilled musicianship doesn’t truly begin to show until originals tracks “Heart’s Content” and “Broken Radio” unleash their haunting, soulful vocal melodies. Feature guest musicians Danny Wilson on electric bass and Randy Brewer on mandolin merge seamlessly with the trio’s use of piano, guitars, banjos, and six-string mandolin to create heartwarming, folk-laden songs perfect for a cold winter’s night by the fire.
Genre: Folk
For fans of: Dolly Parton, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Folk music, and a Capella three-part harmonies
Web-site: www.raison3.com
- Cincypunk.org/Adam Rosing"No Use"

"Hearts Content"

Raison D'Etre ~ Hearts Content
Date: Saturday, April 05, 2008 @ 14:22:05 EDT
Topic: Reviews

Artist: Raison D'Etre

CD: Hearts Content

Home: Wilder, Kentucky

Style: Folk

Quote: "Like a less quirky version of the Roches, their melted chocolate harmonies pour over everything."

By Jamie Anderson

This is a pleasing mix of covers and originals from a trio of women who lean toward folk with an occasional nod to country and swing. Like a less quirky version of the Roches, their melted chocolate harmonies pour over everything and frankly, if they did nothing but sing I’d be happy. In fact, one of the best cuts on the disc is an acappella version of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More.” Each of their voices is distinctly different but yet they have a sweet blend. Roberta Schultz has a rich alto and Violet Rae Downey is a soprano with a lovely Patsy Cline ache. Vickie Ellis has a higher voice too, one that blends well for harmonies. (At least that’s what I think. It was hard to tell from the liner notes.)

“I’ve Got the Heart” is great for Violet Rae’s lead vocals. That, combined with a few country licks on Vickie’s keyboards and damn, it’s a nice little country arrangement. The bongos seem out of place though. A drum set or no drums at all – for a more traditional feel – would have set up the song better.

“Broken Radio” is the best written of the originals, with wistful lyrics about classic top forty, even including snippets of the lyrics. The liner notes on this are great (as are many of the songs). They say, “Roberta used to sleep with a transistor radio under her pillow tuned to a program called Moon River. It changed her circuitry.” A lot of us would nod our heads in agreement.

A couple of my favourite tunes, “Java Jive” and “Some of Shelly’s Blues” (Michael Nesmith) are included here and I’m sure they’re popular at their live shows.

“No Blues on a Mandolin” is cute and reminds me of Steve Martin’s comedy routines where he joked about how you could only play happy songs on a banjo. Somewhere there are mandolin and banjo cops who will write you a ticket for any scofflaw who dares challenge the status quo. On the next cut you won’t hear sirens but you’ll hear Randy Brewer playing some pretty fine blues licks on a mandolin in a short snippet titled appropriately “Blues on a Mandolin.” They should have included him on more cuts.

The calmness of the title cut is appealing, with lyrics extolling the virtues of a place where you can go to get away from it all and sort things out.

The ladies would have benefited from a good producer, because the arrangements all start to sound too much the same with their parallel harmonies and straight ahead instrumentation that never really heats up. I would’ve loved more syncopation on “In the Mood” and a hot solo or two on any of the songs. Some of the tunes are done too slow. While the vocals on “After the Goldrush” are pretty, they drag the song down. A faster a cappella version would’ve raised the roof.

Raison D’Etre is perfect for country fairs and folk coffeehouses. I’ll bet their live show is full of wonderful sing alongs and great stories. - Indie-Music.com


"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.



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.