Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan traverse a wide Americana landscape, stopping at wondrous musical landmarks along the way, tipping their hat to bluegrass bands, blues divas, jazz cats, Village folkies, and singing cowboys. Lesser performers might stumble or sound fake, but driven by Claudia’s expressive voice and distinctive guitar style, it all comes together beautifully.
Claudia has a knack for crafting tightly written songs that carry you to the sweet spots of youth and the autumn colors of growing older. Kaplan’s melodic accompaniment, on mandolin and electric guitar, is spot-on. All of this is served up with a generous helping of homespun humor and shaggy dog stories, making for a heartfelt and humorous evening of deeply engaging music.
Indeed, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote “Russell has a voice that was born for folk music – she breaks hearts.” Russell has won numerous other accolades including Best New Artist from WUMB FM in Boston, Best Musician in the East Bay Express Reader’s Poll, 2x Kerrville New Folk Songwriting Finalist, and high praise in Sing Out, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Boston Globe. Paul Zollo, senior editor of American Songwriter magazine, called her latest CD, All Our Luck Is Changing, “a masterpiece.”
Russell and Kaplan have toured across the country, performing at the Boston Folk Festival, the New Bedford Folk Festival, Black Hawk Folk Festival, and concert appearances at major venues such as McCabe’s, Club Passim, The Turning Point, and more than a half dozen appearances at the Freight & Salvage.
The duo’s many live on-air radio performances include West Coast Live, Roz and Howard Larman’s FolkScene, KPFA’s Dead to the World, WUMB’s Live at Noon, Folk Stage with Rich Warren, KUNI’s Live From Studio One, The Morning Show on Minnesota Public Radio as well as appearances on WORT, KCBX, KSUN and numerous other stations. Claudia and Bruce were interviewed by Robert Siegel for All Things Considered on what would have been her father’s 100th birthday. He (Val Rosing) was a British dance band singer best known as the vocalist on the original 1930s recordings of classics such as Teddy Bears Picnic and Try A Little Tenderness.
Before starting her solo career, Claudia was a member of BMG recording artists Maggie’s Farm – performing around the country, including Farm Aid where she shared the stage with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. She was also one third of the Life Is Grand Band, an award-winning vocal trio with Jill Freeman and Laura Zambo. Their 1990 FastFolk recording has been added to the Smithsonian/Folkways collection, making them a bona fide national treasure!
Kaplan has played in bands most of his life, starting in the world of New Wave music in such bands as the The Young Adults, The Allison MacLeod Band, The Toasters, Annyland, and The Tearjerkers, where he met Russell backstage on a shared bill. That was 1988. Russell and Kaplan were married in 1990 and will celebrate their 25th Anniversary this year – by getting on a plane for their East Coast tour.
“Making music is our favorite thing to do, and we put a lot of love into it.” says Kaplan. “But playing in a band with one’s spouse is not without its hazards. Some couples argue about sex or money. We argue about song keys, set lists, and ‘who stole my capo?’ But all in all, we’re very lucky to have found each other.”