Mother Banjo is a one-woman band featuring Ellen Stanley on banjo and vocals. Her music combines the haunting sounds of traditional folk and gospel with contemporary alt-country and Americana hooks. Poetic and rich, her songs are sad, sweet and full of the stories that inhabit the wide open prairies of the Midwest.
Raised on rock and pop music and trained classically on piano, oboe and voice, Ellen fell in love with folk music as a teenager as she became hooked on public radio and discovered the church coffeehouse scene in southern Connecticut. It was there that she got exposed to a wide variety of acoustic artists and devoured the sounds of singer-songwriters, bluegrass bands and old-timey ballads. Although an avid prose and poetry writer, Ellen did not connect with her own songwriting voice until she graduated from college and moved to Minneapolis where she bought a house, got a cat and took up the banjo. After performing pretty regularly at cabaret-style variety shows and open mics, Ellen has started touring nationally, hitting clubs and coffeehouses from New York City to the Montana Rockies.
An engaging live performer, Mother Banjo weaves humorous stories with fun covers and her own original material. She has performed at prestigious venues like The Ark (Ann Arbor, MI) and the Cedar Cultural Center (Minneapolis, MN) and has shared the stage with such notable songwriters as Cliff Eberhardt and Tracy Grammer. She showcased at the 2009 International Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis, TN and will be touring throughout the country in support of her new album.
Produced by Darren Jackson (Kid Dakota, The Hopefuls) and John Hermanson (Storyhill, The Hopefuls), Mother Banjo's first full-length album The Sad and Found was released April 23, 2009 and follows up on the success of her EP Swing Low (named one of the top local releases of 2007 by St. Paul Pioneer Press critic Ross Raihala). The album was recorded at Darren's studio and features performances by the best acoustic talent in the Twin Cities, including members of The Roe Family Singers, Eliza Blue, “Sneaky” Pete Bauer, Jaspar Lepak, Art Vandalay and Matt Novachis (Keri Noble, Molly Maher, Tina Schlieske).
The Sad and Found starts with a bittersweet break-up song (“One Hello”) and travels through the heartache and hope that lie along the rocky road of love. Original story songs like “This Fall” and “Green Jacket” sit comfortably alongside unique covers of Josh Ritter’s “Leaving” and Stephen Foster’s “Oh, Susanna.” Mixing contemporary indie-folk sounds with traditional folk and gospel energy, Mother Banjo’s full-length album showcases her commanding vocals and minimalist banjo playing, creating a unique sound that appeals to Americana, country indie and folk fans alike.