Streaming Friday, November 20-
Friday, December 11
From the Archives:
Listen to audio from the Dec. 4, 2015 and Jan. 16, 2009 performances below.
Joel Mabus is a longtime fixture in the American folk music scene. He’s a songwriter with roots deep in tradition, and a risk-taking multi-instrumentalist with a well-travelled voice. He’s toured the major folk clubs and festivals all over North America but is firmly centered in the Midwest. Joel was born in 1953 to a family of old-time country music performers, who had worked in the 1930’s in a traveling “Hillbilly” troupe for Chicago’s WLS, home of the famed “National Barn Dance” radio show. His father was a champion fiddler, his mom a singer and banjo & accordion player. Widowed when Joel was 2 years old, Ruby Lee Mabus raised her three kids in a small Southern Illinois town on meagre survivor-benefit checks from Gerald’s social security, plus income from accordion lessons and other odd jobs.
Joel started on the family mandolin at age 9 and played bluegrass with his older brother at home; he learned his gospel by singing in a store-front Pentecostal church. Guitar, banjo & fiddle were soon in Joel’s mix. Despite the family’s poverty, he earned a National Merit Scholarship, attending Michigan State University. Studying cultural anthropology and English Lit by day, he earned his spending money at night as a folk & blues performer in local bars.
Making Michigan his home after college, Mabus traveled the folk & bluegrass circuit, playing festivals and small concert venues. Beginning a recording career in 1978, Joel has since traveled all over America (and parts of Texas, he adds) performing for all the fabled folk clubs and festivals.
He has played on stage with many of his heroes: Tom Paxton, Doc Watson, Peggy Seeger, Jethro Burns, Sonny Terry, Buffy Saint Marie and many more. He has worked alongside many of his friends & songwriter fellows: Greg Brown, John Gorka, Claudia Schmidt, Si Kahn, Christine Lavin, Jack Hardy, Susan Werner…and the list goes on.
He has 27 solo albums to his credit (some featuring songwriting, others focusing on traditional guitar or banjo, and some very eclectic), along with studio work as side musician. His latest album is Time & Truth in 2019.
“The dean of singer-songwriters” – Rich Warren, host of Chicago’s Midnight Special on WFMT-FM
“Joel Mabus is the Joe DiMaggio of the folk music world – a virtuoso who can make the toughest plays appear effortless.”
Ron Olesko of WFDU-FM(Fordham University, New York)