There are two meanings behind the title Shout and Shine, the debut album of the trio Fink, Marxer and Gleaves. The title track captures the spirit of the diversity and inclusion movement sweeping through bluegrass, as covered here last Fall. The other, expressed in the original "Moonshine" by Sam Gleaves, is literally about spirits. As a child and student of Appalachia, he knows whereof he sings.
Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer are a veteran folk music duo who picked up techniques, songs and an activist outlook at the feet of icons Pete Seeger and Ola Belle Reed. They have released nearly 50 albums and won two Grammy Awards. They’re also a married lesbian couple from Kensington, MD. Gleaves is a 25 years old gay man based in the folk music scholarship hotbed of Berea, KY. They met five years ago at a music workshop and camp and found common cause at several levels.
“And it’s not easy for someone to come into a tight duo and find where the space is between the two voices and the instruments we pick up," said Cathy Fink during a visit to Nashville recently for a show at the City Winery. But she said that she and her partner were deeply moved by Gleaves' songwriting - in particular a ballad about a gay man trying to find a footing in coal country called "Ain't We Brothers?" - and his complete musicianship. So they wound up producing his first album and singing together.
“The harmonies are right there. And the commitment to social justice is right there. At the same time the love of sitting down and just cranking out a bunch of fiddle tunes that people can dance to is right there," Fink said.
Fink, Marxer and Gleaves are touring in support of their co-produced Shout And Shine. Besides its title track, directly inspired by two showcases during World of Bluegrass of diverse artists not conventionally associated with the field, the project features a mix of originals and older folk songs by the likes of Tom Paxton, Maybelle Carter and Alice Gerrard.
Gleaves moved from Virginia to Kentucky to do academic work on American folk music. He's been identified as a rising star of traditional folk, embracing the mountain culture of its origins and its political activism as expressed in the 60s folk revival. Familiar with Fink and Marxer before he met them, he now calls his new trio mates his “sheroes.”
“I admire the way that they have taken these traditions and breathed life into them and reapplied them in meaningful ways.”
The movement to create a secure and prominent place for LGBT artists in bluegrass and old-time music is growing. For a Q&A by Gleaves of Fink and Marxer, see the Bluegrass Pride website here.