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Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick pay tribute to Vern and Ray

Before Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick became successful singers, songwriters and bandleaders, they were founding members of Northern California bluegrass band the Good Ol’ Persons. Though Lewis remained in the group for only a short time before moving on to lead her own bands, she and Kallick forged a lifelong personal and professional friendship.

In 1991, they recorded a collaborative album, "Together," for Kaleidoscope Records, which included an interpretation of "Little Annie," learned from hardcore bluegrass duo Vern Williams and Ray Park. Last August, Lewis and Kallick released their tribute CD, "Laurie & Kathy Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray," featuring 18 songs from the Arkansas duo, whose music was a tremendous influence on bluegrass in California.

Williams and Park grew up a few miles apart in the Ozark Mountains, but didn't meet until they were both living in Stockton, Calif., in the '50s. Their band brought the sounds of the Ozarks to the West Coast, playing concert and dance halls, radio and television. They played a raw, authentic style that was new to the region and many California bluegrass musicians learned to play in such a way. 

The new album, in which Lewis and Kallick perform music exclusively drawn from the repertoires of those early mentors, is the latest coming-together of the multi-talented twosome.

"It’s straight-up, meat-and-potatoes bluegrass music of the kind that all too rarely features prominent female vocals. ...Truly great stuff," according to CD Hotlist.

Lewis and Kallick will present songs from the album at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 28, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets cost $25 in advance and can be purchased online at stclairevents.com, at Music Coop, 268 E. Main St., or by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $28 at the door, $10 for age 12-17. Kids 11 and younger get in free. 

Fiddler Lewis and guitarist Kallick will be joined by Tom Rozum on mandolin, Patrick Sauber on banjo and Cary Black on string bass at the show.

Look for such songs as "Oh! Susanna," "Cabin on a Mountain," "Cowboy Jack," "Little Birdie," "If I Had My Life to Live Over Again," "Happy I’ll Be," "Black-Eyed Susie," "My Clinch Mountain Home," "My Old Kentucky Home" and many more.

Lewis and Kallick won a Grammy and two International Bluegrass Music Association awards for their contributions to "True Life Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe." Lewis twice won the IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year award, and has recorded more than 20 albums — with the Good Ol’ Persons, Grant Street, Tom Rozum and the Right Hands, as well as several solo projects. Kallick has been leading bands since co-founding the Good Ol’ Persons. Her latest solo CD, "Cut to the Chase," is her 19th release.

In the early '70s, Lewis performed with The Phantoms of the Opry, a San Francisco Bay Area bluegrass band. When the Phantoms broke up, she and Kallick co-founded the Good Ol' Persons, an all-female bluegrass band. In 1979, Lewis founded the Grant Street String Band and brought her own songwriting to the forefront. In the late '80s, she formed Laurie Lewis and Grant Street. Since then, she has recorded solo and duo albums, usually accompanied by mandolin artist and singer Tom Rozum. She often plays under different names with a fairly regular roster of musicians.

Kallick has 19 albums to her credit, the newest of which is "Cut to the Chase." She performs and records with the Frank Wakefield Band and appears on three Rounder collections of bluegrass music by women. She's received a lifetime membership from the California Bluegrass Association. 

Fiddler Laurie Lewis, left, and guitarist Kathy Kallick pay tribute to Vern Williams and Ray Park. Photo courtesy of St. Clair Productions