Richmond Sessions ’22–’23

VMFA presents Richmond Sessions ’22–’23, a series of studio recordings by an eclectic roster of guitarists performing in the art exhibition Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art. The specially constructed studio and Bristol Sessions–inspired series expand the exhibition’s exploration of the guitar as subject, symbol, and storyteller’s companion. Recordings will be featured on VMFA’s YouTube channel and can be accessed here. See the complete Richmond Sessions schedule of YouTube releases below.

The recording studio is fitted with equipment loaned by Digital Video Group, Ear Trumpet Labs and Sennheiser and Neumann. Award-winning Richmond-based recording studios In Your Ear produce Richmond Sessions ‘22–’23 in partnership with VMFA.

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Latest Release

Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Sunny War / Released: March 15, 2023 / Folk, blues

“Sunny War enlivens traditional folk and blues by freshening her musical attack and writing lyrics that reflect 21st century concerns. Her first album, ‘Worthless,’ arrived in 2014, and she continued to gain attention over the next few years as she built up a cult following that crested with the release of 2018’s ‘With the Sun.’ After a series of independent releases, War moved to New West for the 2023 album ‘Anarchist Gospel.'” —Biography excerpt by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Past Releases

The first Richmond Sessions ’22–’23 recording, featuring folk musician Lucy Kaplansky, dropped on October 12. Musicians who appeared in sessions included Wilco guitarist Nels Cline; guitarist Felicia Collins (Late Show with David Letterman); acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel; blues and roots guitarist Corey Harris; jazz guitarist Joel Harrison and multi-genre guitarist Anthony Pirog; The Long Ryders’ Stephen McCarthy (who has also toured and recorded with The Jayhawks) and The Bitter Liberals’ Charles Arthur; Retrosphere’s Seamus McDaniel; folk and blues guitarist Elizabeth Wise; and acoustic guitarist Yasmin Williams.

Cat Dail performing in VMFA's Richmond Sessions ’22–23

Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Cat Dail / Released: March 8, 2023

Cat Dail is an internationally touring singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. The indie rock artist has been awarded prizes from Billboard Magazine, Musician Magazine, and the Independent Music Awards among others. She is also the founder of Lucky Magnet Records, a recording label under which she has released five albums. A highlight of the national indie rock scene since her debut in the 1990s, Dail’s music can be heard on TV (CBS Sports, PBS) as well as in feature and independent films.

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Elizabeth Wise performing in VMFA's Richmond Sessions ’22–23

Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Elizabeth Wise / Released: March 2, 2023 / blues

The Memphis Blues Society has called Elizabeth Wise, “authentic yet refreshingly original.” Her career spans more than a decade of performing professionally in bars, clubs, living rooms, and festival stages up and down the East Coast. Her songbook includes her tenacious yet nuanced takes on timeless blues tunes popularized by artists like Elmore James, Memphis Minnie, and Sippie Wallace, swing-era classics by the great Duke Ellington, songbook standards by Irving Berlin, and original material that channels all of her musical experiences. New York musician Kenny White notes that Wise has emerged as one of those rare artists who can mine deeply from the past while moving steadfastly forward with her work.

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Tommy Emmanuel performing in VMFA's Richmond Sessions ’22–23

Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Tommy Emmanuel / Released: Feb 15, 2023 / Jazz, pop, rock, country

Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel played in his family band from the age of six, touring his home country in the early 1960s. He gradually developed a formidable technique in many musical styles, including jazz, rock, and especially, country, where his deft playing is particularly at home. Following his origins, he played electric guitar with several rock bands in stadiums all over Europe. Yearning for something purer and closer to his heart, he has found his greatest success as a solo acoustic guitar artist. Emmanuel’s albums have gone gold and platinum, and he is widely revered as a master finger-picker, even collaborating with his hero Chet Atkins on a popular ’97 release.

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Seamus McDaniel performing in VMFA's Richmond Sessions ’22–23

Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Seamus McDaniel / Released: Jan 25, 2023 / Classical and modern guitar

Seamus McDaniel is an aspiring guitarist and musician based in Richmond, VA. After graduating from VCU magna cum laude with a degree in music, he’s had his sights on teaching, composing, and performing in the styles of classical and modern guitar. Seamus was concertmaster of the VCU Guitar Ensemble and performed as a soloist in the 2019 Experiencing Villa-Lobos International Festival. Seamus currently has two full-length records released with his band Retrosphere, and is working on an upcoming solo album.

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Yasmin Williams performing in VMFA's Richmond Sessions ’22–23

Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Yasmin Williams / Released: Jan 4, 2023 / Acoustic fingerstyle guitarist

Based in Alexandria, VA, Yasmin Williams is an acoustic fingerstyle guitarist with an unorthodox, modern style of playing. She utilizes various techniques including alternate tunings, percussive hits, and lap tapping in her music to great effect. Her “radiant sound and adventitious origins have made her a key figure in a diverse dawn for the solo guitar” (The New York Times). Williams’s music has been described as rich, harmonious, and “in a lot of ways, the joy and possibility she brings to the guitar reminds me more of Eddie Van Halen than any of the other fingerstyle guitarists to whom she’s compared” (NPR Music).

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Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Stephen McCarthy & Charles Arthur / Released: Dec 21, 2022

Born and raised in Richmond, Stephen McCarthy is a multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter. His work with the Long Ryders, starting in the 1980s in southern California helped establish the genre of modern Americana. Currently McCarthy divides his time between family and touring the US and Europe with The Long Ryders and The Jayhawks. Two collaboration albums with California based singer-songwriter Carla Olson are being released this year as well as a just-completed Long Ryders album due in early 2023.

Charles Arthur is also a guitarist/multi-instrumentalist living here in Richmond. He has taught since 2001 at the University of Richmond, where he directs an ensemble. Arthur is deeply influenced by the blues, and he began the blues-based American Roots Festival in 2008. He has toured nationally and internationally (perhaps most notably with Slaid Cleaves). He also provides music for public radio’s A Grain of Sand, which airs on Richmond’s WRIR.

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Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Nels Cline / Released: Dec 7, 2022 / Indie rock, punk rock, free jazz, experimental

Nels Cline is best known as the lead guitarist in the band Wilco. His recording and performing career—spanning jazz, rock, punk, and experimental—is well into its fourth decade, with over 200 recordings, including at least 30 for which he is leader. Cline has received many accolades including Rolling Stone anointing him as both one of 20 “new guitar gods” and one of the top 100 guitarists of all time.

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Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Joel Harrison & Anthony Pirog / Released: Nov 9, 2022 / Jazz

Guitarist, composer, arranger, lyricist, writer, educator, and vocalist Joel Harrison has “created a new blueprint for jazz” (New Orleans Times-Picayune). A Guggenheim Fellow (2010) whose compositions have been commissioned by Chamber Music America, Meet the Composer, New Music USA, the Jerome Foundation, NYSCA, and the Mary Flagler Cary Trust—Harrison is a two-time winner of the Jazz Composers Alliance Composition Competition and has appeared repeatedly on DownBeat magazine’s “Rising Star” poll.

Washington DC’s jazz and experimental music scenes wouldn’t be quite where they are today without Anthony Pirog. The guitarist, composer, and loops magician is a quiet but ubiquitous force on stages around his hometown. With fearsome chops and a keen ear for odd beauty, Pirog has helped expand the possibilities of jazz, rock, and experimentalism in a town long known for its straight-ahead tradition.

Pirog’s roots as a guitarist are in the work of DC guitar heroes Danny Gatton and Roy Buchanan, and their virtuosic technique that blended all styles of popular music. He has taken and built upon those roots, working in straight and experimental jazz, improvisation, and electronics/looping. Having mastered these styles, he somehow makes them all work together and makes them all his own.

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Richmond Sessions ’22–23 featuring Corey Harris / Released: Oct 26, 2022 / Blues & roots

Corey Harris is a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and band leader who has carved out his own niche in blues, with one foot in tradition and the other in contemporary experimentation. He began his career as a New Orleans street singer, traveling throughout the southern US, and has since appeared at venues worldwide. Harris has performed, recorded, and toured with many of the top names in music such as B.B. King, Taj Mahal, Buddy Guy, R.L. Burnside, Dave Matthews Band, Wilco, and others. He is a 2007 MacArthur Fellow.

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Richmond Sessions ’22–’23 featuring Lucy Kaplansky / Released: Oct 12, 2022 / Folk (singer-songwriter)

Lucy Kaplansky started out singing in Chicago folk music clubs as a teenager and found herself at the center of a community of songwriters and performers in New York City. After breaking from music to receive a doctorate in clinical psychology, she was pulled back into the studio by friends and signed with Red House Records. Two of her albums have been awarded Best Pop Album of the Year by the Association for Independent Music. She has appeared on CBS Mornings; NPR’s Weekend Edition, Morning Edition, and All Things Considered; Mountain Stage; and West Coast Live. Her latest album, Last Days of Summer, was released in June 2022.

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About the Exhibition

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Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art

On view at VMFA from October 8, 2022, to March 19, 2023, Storied Strings: The Guitar in American Art will explore the guitar as a visual subject, enduring symbol and storyteller’s companion. Strummed everywhere from parlors and front porches to protest rallies and rock arenas—the guitar also appears far and wide in American art. Its depictions enable artists and their human subjects to address topics that otherwise go untold or under-told. Experience paintings, sculpture, works on paper, and music in a multimedia presentation that unpacks the guitar’s cultural significance, illuminating matters of class, gender, race, ethnicity, and identity.

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Jessie with Guitar, 1957, Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975), oil on canvas, 42 x 30 ½ in. Jessie Benton Collection © 2022 T.H. and R.P. Benton Trusts / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York