"On Drama Queen, Edelman eschews the self-indulgent, and instead gives the listener spare, carefully colored portraits of ordinary people in simply significant lives...intelligent, story-driven, and refreshingly restrained." - Country Standard Time... more
It’s hard to deconstruct Judith Edelman. While the music she plays may be rooted in simplicity, she is not and her music is all the more affecting because of the shadows lurking beneath the surface. As Dirty Linen Magazine observed, "On one level, Judith Edelman’s music...is progressive bluegrass with occasional slips into Irish jigs....but lyrically, her songs and themes are a lot closer to the streets of her native New York and the dark musings of Richard Thompson..."
Manhattan-born Judith Edelman arrived at what she calls "the front porch sensibility" of her music through an unlikely route. She grew up on New York’s Upper East Side, daughter of 1972 Nobel Prize-winner Gerald M. Edelman and educator/editor Maxine Morrision, the youngest of three children. Musical study was mandatory in her household and Judith opted for classical piano lessons. She followed one of her brothers, coincidentally a bluegrass-loving fiddler, to Swarthmore College. But life as a professional musician was still not in her sights.
After graduation, Judith pursued a career in Third World development in the Bay Area and eventually landed in Kenya and Zimbabwe. In Kenya, Judith contracted a serious illness that eventually brought her work there to an unexpected conclusion. She returned to San Francisco to recuperate and, inspired by a cassette tape a friend had made of groups such as The Stanley Brothers, Tim O’Brien, and The Nashville BlueGrass Band, began to study bluegrass guitar.
In the mid-90’s Judith set out on the bluegrass touring circuit with bands such as Coyote Ridge and Ryestraw. Life with Ryestraw meant traveling on a shoestring and sometimes finding herself in accomodations no more elegant than a sleeping bag and tarp thrown down on the side of the road. Despite such hardships, the community of acoustic musicians held endless fascination for Judith. She found a sense of place, a grounding, in both the music and the lifestyle it inspired.
In Nashville in 1995, then-BMI executive Jody Williams introduced Judith to Grammy-award winning engineer/producer Bill VornDick who worked with her on her first two Compass releases, PERFECT WORLD (1995) and ONLY SUN (1998). Both albums received high critical praise with particularly effusive accolades coming from Billboard editor Timothy White. Judith’s diverse array of musical influences impressed pundits. Glimmers of contemporary Celtic melodies, blues, jazz, country string bands and British acoustic music illuminated her interpretations of bluegrass with a unique spark.
Judith produced her latest release DRAMA QUEEN in Nashville, with the intention of creating of a very intimate and immediate sound. She describes the process as getting her complex lyrical and harmonic ideas distilled into a simple essence that does justice to the quotidian tales she likes to tell. Judith finds her songwriting to be story-driven and her characters seem to come to life from the dark corners of her imagination.
Although she’s a well-seasoned touring veteran, (having appeared with such artists as Arlo Guthrie, Townes Van Zandt, Ben Harper, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Peter Rowan, The Sam Bush Band and The Fairfield Four), Judith’s looking forward to playing some of the major bluegrass festivals this year including a first-ever appearance at Telluride. She took up bouzouki just a few months ago and her quickly acquired proficiency is evident on the new album. As The Judith Edelman Band evolves and changes, Judith finds the ensemble becoming an ever more authentic reflection of the artist herself. "Everyone wants to travel the path of being as true to oneself as possible, don’t they?", she muses. All listeners know is that they’ll travel down any path Judith wants to take them, enthralled by a rich and delicious talent coming into her own.