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2016 Guest Artists
for the Alaska Folk Festival

The Carper Family

The Carper Family

Web site:

The Carper Family is a family band like no other, spinning out the effortless harmonies of a born-family with the range and diversity of a made-family...  Whatever the bloodline, the music hits the ear with both depth and simplicity, capturing the essence of true country music.  The Austin-based trio of Melissa Carper [upright bass], Beth Chrisman [fiddle], and Jenn Miori [guitar] applies their signature, stunning three-part harmonies to bluegrass, old-time, country and swing tunes of the standard and original variety, pushing and honoring American musical traditions at every step. Joining the band on lead guitar is Sophia Johnson (not pictured).

By the time this musical ‘family’ was born in the winter of 2010 to take a weekly residency at Austin’s legendary Hole-in-the-Wall, each of the members had already established a reputation with her voice and instrument by playing with some of the best local acts.  When their debut studio album “Back When” was named Best Country Album for the 2012 Independent Music Awards, it seemed like an appropriate recognition for the both the upstart band and for the Austin community that they emerged from.  

For several years now, they’ve been at the very core of the thriving young country music scene there, a vibrant combination of talented bands, lively venues [country hot-spots like the Continental Club, the White Horse, and the hallowed Cactus Cafe], and a passel of locals and visitors who love good country music for dancing, listening, or otherwise good-timing. Each still keeps busy schedule, moonlighting with several other bands, from Melissa’s collaboration with Sad Daddy, to Jenn’s bluegrass duo Hem & Haw, and Beth’s side-work with James Hand, Brennen Leigh, and a handful of other honky-tonk standouts.

Affectionately known within the band and around town as Daddy, Melissa Carper grew up in Nebraska playing country music with her family and performing in a family band.  By the age 10 she had already started studying her instrument, taking the classical lessons that would lead to a lifetime love of the bass.  She later discovered bluegrass, old-time, country blues and swing with time living in the Ozarks of Arkansas and busking on Royal Street in New Orleans. 

You can hear the high-lonesome of her birth-state Kentucky in the voice and fiddling of Beth Chrisman, but the warmth comes straight from the festive and tight-knit picking community of Alaska, where she grew up and absorbed the variety of American country music traditions that have a special place among the snowy peaks and pine forests of the far north.  She’s come a long way since then, showing up in Austin in 2006 when she started fiddling with local bluegrass and honky tonk groups, and is now well-known for her sit in and studio work with local and touring artists.

Jenn Miori is Texas born and bred, and like many Texans, she grew up playing music with her family, learning guitar from her dad and harmony singing from her mom at a young age. She fell in love with old country music when she moved to Austin in the early oughts to go to the University of Texas.  When she eventually put together her first country band, the Corn Ponies, they quickly became an important part of that blossoming country scene.

Joining the band on lead guitar is Sophia Johnson, a recent addition to the Austin music scene who hails from Birmingham, England. Before moving to Texas, she performed all over the UK and Europe as a founding member of family band, the Toy Hearts. Sophia is equally adept at playing vintage Western swing guitar as she is flatpicking hot bluegrass leads.

In the last few years, the Carper’s rise has impressed and entertained audiences and their fellow musicians all over the place.  They’ve shared stages with any number of country notables, including steel-guitar master Cindy Cashdollar, West Virginia’s Ginny Hawker, and Kansas City fiddle legend, Betse Ellis.  And, like any country band worth its salt, they tour hard, crisscrossing North America and Europe to play gigs at festivals from Alaska [Kantishna] and Arkansas [Fayetteville Roots, Ozark Folk] to Norway [Risor, Vinstra, Seljord], and at storied venues like Nashville’s Station Inn.

While playing gigs and festivals is clearly at the top of any band’s agenda, The Carper Family is equally committed to sharing American country music in educational and communal settings.  To them, country music isn’t just about entertaining; it’s also about understanding, honoring, and developing American country communities in the city and on the farm.  As such, they’ve taught workshops and lessons at a variety of gatherings and regularly play at country dances, farmers’ markets, and farm potlucks.  Their aspirations, professional and personal alike, point to spirit of the rural places from which they have come and to which they hope to go.

As Jim Caligiuri of the Austin Chronicle has written, “[They] blend their voices immaculately... and write warm and enticing songs that sound like they were new 50 years ago.” 

Their original songs range from the deeply-moving to the profoundly quirky and their catalogue of lesser known country music is impressive for such a young group. The Carper Family’s dedication to the rich and sprawling history of American country music and the joy they bring audiences with their crystalline sound guarantee that these ladies will be introducing this new-old music to folks for years to come.