Russ Rentler

Russ Rentler

 Pennsylvania, USA

Award-winning singer/songwriter performing original acoustic roots music on traditional stringed instruments including hammered and mountain dulcimers, guitar, bouzouki, autoharp, dobro and claw hammer banjo. "A One Man Folk Festival!" His performances are laced with funny stories of his life and times in the medical world trying to survive the medical industrial complex with the tender heart of a troubadour.


Russ started playing stringed instruments with his first ukulele in 5th grade purchased with S+H Green stamps in Dover, NJ. After a brief stint in hard rock bands in his early high school years, he discovered bluegrass which led to a life-long love of acoustic music. At his first night at Moravian College, he met John Gorka where they were both playing at an open mic. They soon formed the now legendary Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band and were joined the following year by Rich Shindell on lead guitar. Throughout all four years of college, they played in the Lehigh Valley centering on Godfrey Daniel's and the south side of Bethlehem, PA.
After college, Russ went to medical school and John and Rich went on to well-deserved fame and glory in the folk music world. During his medical training, Russ continued to pursue his passion of acoustic music and picked up hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle, Dobro, autoharp and bouzouki. He also started building hammer dulcimers and uses his own instrument on stage.

      While continuing to practice medicine, Russ has performed at bookstores, coffee houses, schools, churches, and music festivals in eastern Pennsylvania, NJ and NY. He has accompanied John Gorka on several of his return performances to the Valley and has opened for Patty Larkin, Bill Staines, Rich Shindell and shared the stage with John Gorka, Susan Werner, Michael Manring and Amelia K. Spicer. Russ gave several performances at Bethlehem's MUSIKFEST and was honored to have the Martin Guitar Company ask him to play their new resonator guitar at the Martin Showcase. His song "Nazareth Pike" is being used on their phone call waiting system at the Nazareth guitar factory and his hammered dulcimer piece "Planxty Fluharty" won first prize in the 2004 Mid-Atlantic Songwriter's Contest instrumental category.
His CD "Acoustic Minstrel" made it into the list of top CD's played in April 2004 on folk radio stations and has garnered positive reviews including one in Sing Out! Magazine. The title track of his newest release, "Scarecrow's Lament" has won honorable mention in the 2005 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and finalist status in the Unisong International Song Contest and Susquehanna Folk Festival Song Contest. NPR's Car Talk just featured "New Car Smell," another track from this CD and Scarecrow's Lament has made it on the list for top airplays for March and April 2006 Folk Radio. WLVT/ PBS 39 in Allentown has filmed a feature on Russ and his music that aired in late March 2004 and he has appeared on "Horses Sing None of It" , an award-winning folk music cable TV show broadcast nationally.
His performances are a mix of original folk, Celtic and blues-inspired tunes with multiple instrument changes interspersed with great stories about the songs and instruments.

  In November of 2016, Russ left the practice of medicine to devote more time to writing, recording, teaching and performing. In Spring of 2017, he released his fifth CD, "Escaped the Tide" that charted in the top 100 albums for April and May in Folk Radio.


Just Yulin' Around 1997(Yuletide instrumentals)

My Old Uncle Martin 2000 (Vintage Martin guitars and mandolin instrumentals)

Acoustic Minstrel 2004

Scarecrow's Lament 2006

John Gorka's A Gypsy Life Live DVD (mandolin accompaniment) 2007

Way To Emmaus 2009

Escaped The Tide 2017

Still Yulin' Around 2017

Set List

Typical set is two 45 minute sets with a 15 minute break.
Sample Set list:

Planxty Fluharty (hammer dulcimer instrumental)
Girl Like You (Open tuned ballad on guitar)
Maggie's Blues (blues on Dobro)
Hills of Connemara (rousing irish tune on Bouzouki and harmonica)
One Eyed Grandma (Hilarious fingerstyle blues on open tuned guitar)
Jesu Joy of Man's Desire (Instrumental on Diatonic Autoharp)
New Car Smell (Clawhammer banjo tune, aired on NPR's Car Talk)
Scarecrow's Lament (original ballad on guitar)
Jewel of the Carribean (Song dedicated to the people of Haiti)

Typically, I have multiple instrument changes throughout each set with stories between songs to set up the song or describe what inspired the song.