BURR BEARD took up the hammered dulcimer in 1975 after hearing John McCutcheon, Guy Carawan, Sam Rizzetta and many old-time musicians in tradition-rich southern Appalachia. Two years later while attending the University of Pittsburgh, Burr played with the popular dance band Buckdancer’s Choice, where he developed a unique approach to old-time and Irish tunes. In 1978, he helped form Devilish Merry while hosting a folk music show on community radio WYEP-FM, which started his three-decade career as a professional producer and station manager for public radio stations in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virgnia, and Mississippi. Burr was among the pioneers in developing the Americana and Adult Album Alternative musical formats. Currently, Burr teaches in Ohio University’s Scripps MFA program in Communication Media Arts, where he creates award-winning video documentaries on the labor and social history of Appalachia.
JEFF BERMAN is a multi-instrumentalist, improvising artist, composer and educator whose work reflects his global musical vision spanning many genres. Jeff’s performing and recording collaborations include clarinet/mandolinist Andy Statman, pianist Paul Bley, tabla master Samir Chatterjee, singers Linda Thompson and Susan McKeown, saxophonists Dave Liebman and Erik Lawrence, cellists Robert Een and Arthur Russel, guitarist Matt Balitsaris, banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka, flamenco dancer Carolina Loyala-Garcia, Tibetan singer Pasang Dolma, songwriter Peter Stampfel of the Unholy Modal Rounders and choreographers Yin Mei and Gia Cacalano. Jeff has three recordings on Palmetto Records featuring his own compositions, and his music has been used for a wide range of performance, dance, theatre and film scores including the Academy Award nominated documentary In Our Water. He is a founding member of the fusion trio Appalasia, with whom he has recorded two albums.
JAN HAMILTON was a classical violinist and psychology grad student at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University before immersing herself in American, Scots and Irish fiddling. Early stylistic inspiration included old-time performers Melvin Wine, Tommy Jarrell, Allan Block and Highwoods String Band. A member of the Run-of-the-Mill String Band before joining Devilish Merry, Jan has performed in London, England with Jordan’s Dead Roses and throughout Western Pennsylvania for a vast array of community events from poetry readings and art happenings to festivals and museum programs.
L.E. McCULLOUGH has recorded with Irish, French, Cajun, Latin, blues, jazz, country, bluegrass and rock ensembles on 52 albums for Angel/EMI, Sony Classical, RCA, Warner Brothers, Kicking Mule, Rounder, Bluezette and other independent labels. In 1978 he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh for what was then the first dissertation on Irish traditional music ever published and has authored over 150 books and articles on Irish music including Favorite Irish Session Tunes, The Complete Irish Tinwhistle Tutor and St. Patrick Was a Cajun. Dr. McCullough has composed filmscores for three PBS specials produced by WQED-TV, three Celtic Ballets co-composed with T.H. Gillespie for Dance Kaleidoscope and has performed on the music tracks of Ken Burns PBS television series The West, Lewis and Clark, The Dust Bowl, The Roosevelts, Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and the Warner Brothers film Michael Collins starring Julia Roberts and Liam Neeson.
SUSAN POWERS grew up in a family with deep roots in Western Pennsylvania’s traditional music and began playing banjo and singing folk music in high school. Her parents were sacred singers, and her grandfather and great-grandfather were old-time fiddle players who performed for local square dances. A founding member of Devilish Merry, Susan adapted her unique ‘claw hammer’ style to blues, rock and pop music; her innovative use of the five-string banjo in Celtic music is showcased on several recordings featuring her playing, singing and songwriting. Her original music has been used in modern and traditional dance, performance, theater and film, including the Smithsonian exhibit Lewis and Clark: Clash of Empires, a Roger Sayers documentary about “outsider” folk-artist Howard Finster and Jerry Starr’s stage play Buried: The Sago Mine Disaster. A multi-discipline visual artist and teacher for 30 years, Susan holds a BFA in Painting from Carnegie-Mellon University and MFA in Painting from Pratt Institute. She conducts lectures and demonstrations in schools and universities on the aesthetics of cross-cultural collaboration and creativity, exploring the music of the banjo from the perspective of a trained visual artist.