Heather Styka dances where others fear to tread, gleefully cutting to the truth with gutsy vulnerability. She combines the lyrical intricacy of folk with a catchy melodic pop sensibility and the grit of classic country in songs that are smart and disarming. Call it folk, call it Americana, call it alt-country, but Styka’s heartfelt croon draws as much inspiration from classic warblers such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald as it does from Shawn Colvin and Eva Cassidy.
After growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Styka moved to the city to studying creative writing, meanwhile honing her song craft among Chicago’s long-standing folk community. Her 2011 release Lifeboats for Atlantis brought her to national attention, hitting #3 on the FOLK-DJ charts. Styka’s honest, image-heavy songs have garnered her a number of awards, including being a New Folk Finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival (2015, 2017) and official showcases at Folk Alliance International, NERFA, SWRFA, and FARM.
While living in Portland, Maine, Heather Styka released While This Planet Spins Beneath Our Feet. Recorded in the Adirondacks with Beehive Productions and printed by Styka on a 1901 letterpress in Maine, this 2014 release charted for four months on FOLK-DJ. Styka’s next album, The Bittersweet Tapes (2016), “tugs the ear on first listen and greets you like an old friend on subsequent visits” (Simon Rigby, Indie Music Portal). These gut-punch pretty songs nod to traditional folk, classic country, and even garage rock, carried by Styka’s emotive vocals. Recorded in Tulsa, Oklahoma on an old four track recorder with sparse, ethereal production by John Calvin Abney (John Moreland, Samantha Crain), The Bittersweet Tapes retains an unfiltered immediacy. “In this raw and intimate portrait of life, disguised as a collection of songs, Heather Styka has truly created a masterpiece… A writer with this kind of vision and ability doesn’t come along very often” (Chris Darby, Independent Melody).
Live, Heather Styka comes off as something like Leonard Cohen crossed with Patsy Cline. Armed with a guileless, unvarnished delivery, she’s equal parts wordsmith and entertainer. Styka’s energetic shows feel as intimate and candid as late night conversation, peppered with a quirky sense of humor and confessional storytelling. Once again working with Beehive Productions, Styka is currently releasing her her fifth full-length studio album, North, which was recorded with Danish backing band The Sentimentals in a cabin in northern Wisconsin.
Lauded by UK music reviewer Three Chords and the Truth as sounding like she was “…born to gypsy poets and raised by Emmylou Harris,” Asheville, North Carolina songstress Jane Kramer has garnered international recognition for the sultry, heartrending originality of her vocals and for the heavy-hitting lyrical eloquence of her songwriting.
With deep roots in the music and traditions of her beloved Appalachia, Kramer’s songs are introspective, gracefully gritty and fiercely memorable. They elegantly sweep listeners down the gravel roads and southern coastal highways, midnight truck stops and lonely motel rooms of “hard learning” and lead home to the wooded Blue Ridge Mountains with moving acceptance of our flawed human experience. Kramer’s live performances are equally as poignant and engaging; rich with accessible, warm, often hilarious storytelling and gracefully lifting the veil between audience and performer.
Following the February 2016 release of her second studio album, Carnival of Hopes, Kramer has been touring nationally and internationally, playing for sold-out audiences in listening rooms, theaters, pubs, festivals, living rooms and arts councils in support of the record. This has gained her a loyal following from Portland, Oregon to Scotland, U.K.
A social worker, former domestic violence crisis counselor and avid humanitarian, Kramer continues to perform and teach about the songwriting process in prisons, rescue missions, programs for at-risk youth, classrooms, hospitals and animal shelters, sharing her message of music as a powerful tool for healing, connection and compassion.
Whether Kramer is solo, wielding only her EJ Henderson guitar and her most important instrument: her emotive, ethereal voice, or backed by her full band featuring the virtuostic instrumentalists that comprise Asheville’s Free Planet Radio and internationally renowned multi-instrumentalist Billy Cardine (Biscuit Burners, Acoustic Syndicate, The Bluegrass Journeymen,) the power and poignance of this truly gifted songstress is deeply felt and long-remembered.
Quoted as “…an artist on the rise” by acclaimed American songwriter Mary Gauthier and as “…a voice that can only be described as one of the purest in modern Americana” By Dave Stallard of Blue Ridge Outdoors, Kramer has performed with such well-known artists as Joan Osborne, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Appalachian troubadour Malcolm Holcombe, two-time Grammy award-winning bassist Eliot Wadopian, The Steep Canyon Rangers, Ricky Scaggs and Leyla McCalla. Kramer is set to release her much-anticipated third studio album featuring her band, Free Planet Radio, in the fall of 2018.