Americana duo BumpKin Pie were recently honored when they were invited to perform at the Washington Area Music Association music awards in February; but they have been performing their “slice of Americana with a side of suburban twang” together for over a decade. It is no surprise that their musical lives began long before.
Michael Dunkley began his musical career as a young folksinger turned rock-and-roller, but was always in love with the bluegrass and mountain music of his ancestral North Carolina. He shared his warm voice and steady guitar playing as lead singer and rhythm guitarist with ground-breaking “Rhythm and Bluegrass” band Coup de Grass well into the 1980s.
Suzanne Ives has been writing songs and playing guitar since before she was 14 and got an acoustic Silvertone for Christmas, but resisted performing in public until the late 1990s. After attending the debut years of the SummerSongs songwriter camps in Ashokan, New York, her stage fears were quieted and she later worked there as a harmony vocal instructor. The teaching staff at SummerSongs consists of talented and successful singer-songwriters, including Tom Prasada-Rao, Severin Browne, Sloan Wainwright, Penny Nichols, and Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen, and the support and insight they gave helped inspire the formation of BumpKin Pie. Her initial recording, “Faraway Girl”, was produced at the camp by accomplished singer-songwriter and former Bonnie Raitt bass player Freebo, who also played second guitar on the track.
When a larger band is needed, BumpKin Pie expands to include a host of eminent D.C. area musicians to accompany them on stage, including Scott McKnight, David Kitchen, Larry Benade, Ron Goad, Maria “Pete” Durgan, Robert Spates, “Kentucky” Jim Faris, Eric Rose and many more. Performance venues include The Birchmere, Iota, Galaxy Hut, Jammin’ Java, Bangkok Blues, Brewers Alley, The Athenaeum, St. Elmo’s, Potter’s House, Borders, Focus Music Concerts, Songwriter’s Association of Washington showcase events, local festivals and house concerts, and numerous Hungry For Music benefit concerts.
Though their own CD is in production, there are a number of other recordings on which they already appeared. Suzanne’s original Christmas songs are on four Hungry For Music “Holiday Feast” compilations, including the greatest hits “Crème de la Crème” CD. Featured on Holiday Feast 9, the rollicking “Party in the Stable” was reviewed as “…one of the best original seasonal songs to appear this year” by Charlie Backfish, host of Sunday Street on WUSB 90.1 FM, Stony Brook, NY. The inspiring comfort of “Pilgrim’s Lullaby” closes out “Focus Presents: Capital Acoustics Vol. III.” The Vegas themed “Dollar Moon” was released as a video by DC-based Blues Condition and is on their Wammie nominated CD, “Swingin’ Blues & Rockin’ Roots Music.”
They have helped out on other musicians’ projects, too. Suzanne recently recorded background vocals on Wammie award-winning Loralyn Coles’ CD “Blue Moonlight.” Suzanne’s and Michael’s vocals are on Scott McKnight’s contribution to the “Papa Nez: Tribute To Michael Nesmith” CD, and members of Michael’s other band, The Del Swarthmores, appear on several tracks of “Americana Motel”, a locally produced project that was listed as one of The Wall Street Journal’s Top 10 Albums of 2001.
There is so much more to come. Please come along!
“BumpKin Pie combines two of the best voices in the area, harmonizing beautifully. Add in brilliant songwriting and a charming stage presence, with a pinch of sass, and you’ve got the recipe. Highly recommended!”
Dan Grove, Entertainment Chair – Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival