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Andy Cohen is a virtuoso finger-style guitarist and a walking folk-blues-roots music encyclopaedia.
Growing up in a house with a piano and lots of Dixieland Jazz records, he got hooked on the music of Big Bill Broonzy and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band during the Folk Revival of the sixties. Then, when he was 17, Andy heard South Carolina’s Rev. Gary Davis play at the Brandeis Folk Festival, and the effect on him was profound. He has devoted the rest of his life to studying, performing, and promoting traditional blues and folk music of the pre-World War II era.
Beyond his virtuosity on guitar, Andy also plays Clawhammer banjo, Boogie Woogie piano, Old Time fiddle and pretty much anything else with strings on it. He is also an enthusiastic proponent of a miniature piano called a Dolceola, a chord zither with little piano keys. His music is a product of that era, interspersing intimate first-generation Delta, Piedmont and big-city covers with a handful of originals, providing aural relief for those seeking a respite from the misery of modern times.
He has toured with Martin, Bogan and Armstrong, John Jackson, Rev. Gary Davis, Brother Daniel Womack, Rev. Dan Smith, Jim Brewer, and Honeyboy Edwards. He also worked extensively with Walt and Ethel Phelps, Big Joe Duskin, Pigmeat Jarrett, Etta Baker, Big Boy Henry, and Son Thomas.
He’s also helped support a number of his mentors and younger players, by organizing festivals and other venues for them to play in, and by releasing on his Riverlark Music label new recordings of their traditional repertoire.
Andy has written about several of the old masters and studied their work in a systematic way. Many of his students are now professional touring musicians. One thing for sure is, the boy can pick. He is one of a few people around today who had a chance to learn from the old generations, get this good at it and continue to cherish and preserve the old traditions. He has been assiduous in sharing that expertise in classes, camps, and anywhere people are making music.
Andy has about twenty full length recordings to his credit on multiple labels.
At an Andy Cohen concert, expect to hear blues rooted in Mississippi, the Piedmont, Memphis, and Chicago, as well as some ragtime, gospel, and original tunes.
“With tons of style, a well-used voice and an astounding familiarity with early folk/blues, Memphis-based guitarist Andy Cohen sounds as if he’s been playing on somebody’s front porch for generations. But Cohen doesn’t just perform these tunes, he lives in them.” Fred Kraus, BluesInTheNorthwest.com.
"Andy Cohen is our roots. His reverence for the greats of yesterday, and genuine love of the flawed humans that inhabit the lyrics, shows us how to listen to these old songs. The years fall away when you listen to Andy, and you get to see the strong shoulders that the current generation of music makers is standing on.” Sarah Craig, Executive Director, Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY