The Martha Bassett Show

Crys Matthews / A Tale of Two / Claire Holley

Thu, Aug 15, 2024
The Reeves Theater & Cafe

Crys Matthews


Already being hailed as “the next Woody Guthrie,”DC resident Crys Matthews is among the brightest stars of the new generation of social justice music-makers. A powerful lyricist whose songs of compassionate dissent reflect her lived experience as what she lightheartedly calls "the poster-child for intersectionality,"Justin Hiltner of Bluegrass Situation called Matthews’s gift "a reminder of what beauty can occur when we bridge those divides." She is made for these times and, with the release of her new, hope-fueled, love-filled social justice album Changemakers, Matthews hopes to take her place alongside some of her heroes in the world of social-justice music like Sweet Honey in the Rock and Holly Near. Of Matthews, ASCAP VP & Creative Director Eric Philbrook says, “By wrapping honest emotions around her socially conscious messages and dynamically delivering them with a warm heart and a strong voice, she lifts our spirits just when we need it most in these troubled times.

”Matthews began performing in 2010, but cemented her acclaim at Lincoln Center as the 2017 New Song Music and Performance Competition grand prize winner. That year she also released two new projects—her album of thoughtful songs on love and life called The Imagineers, and her EP called Battle Hymn for an Army of Lovers, which tackles social justice themes. Matthews also won the People’s Music Network’s Social Justice Songs contest at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance. Loyal fans quickly followed as Matthews racked up performances at large music festivals and prestigious venues across the country including the Sundance Film Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, and locally at venues like The Birchmere, TheHamilton, Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, and Jammin' Java. In her TedTalk about difficult conversations called "Sing, Don't Shout—An Alternative Approach" Matthews spoke about being born and raised in a small town in southeastern NorthCarolina by an A.M.E.preacher, and how she witnessed the power of music from an early age. A former drum major and classically-trained clarinetist turned folk singer, Matthews is using her voice to answer Dr. Martin Luther King's call to be "a drum major for justice."

“I believe in hope,” Matthews said. “As a social-justice songwriter, it is my duty to keep breathing that hope and encouragement into the people who listen to my music.” And, from the title track to the last track, Changemakers does just that all while tackling some heavy topics like immigration, the opioid crisis, Black Lives Matter, and gun safety to name a few.“ Ani DiFranco said, “People used to make records as in a record of an event," said Matthews, “so I hope that these songs will serve as a time capsule, a record of the events of the last four years and what it was like to live through them.” Crys Matthews's thoughtful, realistic and emotional songs speak to the voice of our generation and remind us why music indeed soothes the soul.

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A Tale of Two


Following their Bluebird Cafe debut, Nashville based “A Tale Of Two” is an undeniable rising duo in today’s roots music scene. 

“Official Showcase Artist: 2022 Folk Alliance International Conference”

Combining the best of Americana and blues melodies with timeless Southern storytelling, award-winning vocalist Stephanie Adlington and guitarist Aaron Lessard draw influence from the likes of Tom Waits and Ray LaMontagne, along with bedrock artists such as Patsy Cline and Hank Williams Sr. Not unlike the artists who inspired them, the duo’s songs frequently dabble in stories of revenge, drinking and feature sinners of all stripes and persuasions. Oozing an infectious stage presence and chemistry that carries over from the music to the back and forth banter between songs, “A Tale Of Two” offers a different kind of Americana – storytelling by a swampy pair of retro raconteurs spinning blues arias with soul, intrigue, and power. 

On their debut EP which was recorded completely live, Adlington and Lessard channel southern lullabies, front porch blues, and even hints of nostalgic love songs. The resulting body of work is a refreshing take on timeless themes of loyalty, heartbreak, and the struggle of the human condition.

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Claire Holley


Claire Holley writes songs that are literary, playful, meditative, and earthy. A native of Mississippi, she owes much to the southern tradition of storytelling, and just as much to the southern tradition of charm. With spare, delicate arrangements and a frank, lovely, and versatile sound, she sings deceptively simple songs. Claire began playing music when she was just two years old, when she and her grandmother, an accomplished jazz pianist, would play chop sticks on the piano at her home in Jackson, Mississippi.

But it was the guitar that really got her interested in playing music. She would take a ukulele to church and sit out in the hot car strumming it between Sunday school and the church service. She ruined her father’s classical guitar by replacing the nylon strings with steel strings so she could imitate what she’d been hearing on her favorite record, Chet Atkins and Merle Travis Traveling Show.

She moved to Chicago for college and began performing at coffeehouses and writing songs. At the suggestion of one of her professors, she studied the poems of William Blake and set one of them to music. That, along with two songs she wrote for the college arts CD, Kodon, set a nice foundation for recording songs for Night Air, her first independent release. Soon after college she moved to Chapel HIll, North Carolina, where she began recording in earnest, getting radio play on WUNC’s Back Porch Music. She signed with Yep Roc Records and her self-titled debut was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

She moved to Los Angeles in 2003 and, after falling in with some stellar west coast musicians, recorded Hush in a friend’s living room. She also began collaborating with directors and filmakers on their projects. She was nominated by the 2006 LA Weekly Theatre Awards for Best Original Music for the songs she wrote for the play, See Rock City. She has composed music for a feature length documentary, three short films, and two of her songs have been on ABC’s Men in Trees.

These songs and performances display Claire’s commitment to staking out new musical ground while still remaining true to her southern song-writing roots. She has released six records, and of her latest, Hush, one blogger wrote “…just plain, unabashed, good quality songs…delightful.”  In 2009, Image Journal featured Holley as April’s artist of the month (from which some of this bio was taken). She lives in Los Angeles but goes home to Mississippi a lot!

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Season sponsored by
  • Bowen Town & Country Furniture
  • ICON
  • Mast
  • Buckeye Advisors
  • Sponsor
  • Atrium Health - Wake Forest Baptist
  • Explore Elkin
  • G&B Energy
In partnership with
  • Lowes Foods
  • Piedmont Opera
  • The Carolina Experience
  • Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County
  • Reeves Theater
  • Historic Elkin
  • WFDD
  • ElectroMagnetic Radiation Recorders