Ellen Breen (guitar, vocals)
Together with James’s distinctive tenor, Ellen’s rich alto defines the core of Acousticana’s sound. She’s been singing her entire life, with choral groups and bands doing material as diverse as soul and gospel to bluegrass and straight-up country. Classically trained in “bel canto,” audience and band members alike will attest to Ellen’s equal mastery of “can belto” (her rendition of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” is rumored to be under study by the Pentagon). She’s performed on the same bill with such greats as Olabelle, Uncle Earl, Jack Hardy, and Cheryl Wheeler. One of the band’s three songwriters, Ellen regularly contributes to our ever-expanding repertoire of originals.
James Butrym (guitar, mandolin, vocals)
A multi-instrumentalist with deep roots in a variety of musical traditions including Scottish songs, punk, and western swing, James brings decades of performing to the group. His rock-solid playing on guitar and mandolin move songs like planets move tides, and his solos seldom fail to deliver subtle invention and surprises. James’s folksy tenor helps define the Acousticana sound as much as the original songs that appear to pour from his prolific pen. James also plays with the bluegrass and country band Elise-Marie and The Flames, and is a recent alumnus of The Waylanders, Dan Helman & Marking Time, Taste Like Gravy, and Whiskey Friday.
Rob Dross (bass)
Rob started his musical journey playing drums, but switched to doghouse bass once he realized it was the next-to-least inconvenient instrument to lug around. With detours through jazz and heavy metal, Rob found his way to bluegrass jams where his bass was always in demand. A veteran of many bands, including Jonah's Run, Rob's rock-steady bluegrass timing forms the foundation of Acousticana's rhythm section.
Stroker (accordion, vocals)
It's a pedal steel guitar? A violin? An organ? A horn section? No! It's an accordion pushing musical boundaries. Playing with many acts on the Boston scene today (including Session Americana, Hey Mama, Brendan Hogan, The Highland Drifters, and The Creek River String Band), Stroker introduces decades of influences as diverse as Zydeco, Zappa, Tex-Mex, classic jazz and R & B to the musical gumbo that is Acousticana. Stroker shares songwriting duties with Ellen and James. His recently released CD of originals includes everything from jazz to hip-hop, blues to bluegrass, and back again. Stroker is the only member of the band to have been bit on the face by a raccoon (the attack was not in response to his accordion playing, all rumors to the contrary).
Jenni Lyn Gardner (mandolin, guitar, banjo, vocals)
Jenni began playing with her family at church, school, and local bluegrass concerts in her native South Carolina. Much in demand as a session player, songwriter, and side-woman, Jenni has performed everywhere from the Cornish Bluegrass Festival (Newquay, England) to the Grand Ole Opry. She’s a founding member of the all-gal bluegrass band Della Mae, has toured extensively with 2007 IBMA Male Vocalist of the year, Bradley Walker, and was part of the 2009 IBMA Recorded Event of the Year, "Proud to be a Daughter of Bluegrass.” In short, she rocks, and we’re proud to feature her with Acousticana when we can.
John Donahoe (banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, sax)
Born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, John mastered guitar and banjo early and moved over to mandolin, violin, and sax at Berklee College of Music and elsewhere. His command of a broad range of musical genres means we can pretty much throw anything at him and he’ll toss it back tied with a bow. John’s been playing music most of his life, with bands as varied as the innovative South Dakota bluegrass/newgrass group The Rocky Mountain Oysters, with whom he recorded three albums and performed twice on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion. Bands closer to Boston include The Boogaloo Swamis and the Bruce Marshall Group with whom he represented Boston in the 2008 International Blues Challenge, in Memphis. Over the years John has shared the stage with such greats as Bill Monroe, Mickey Gilley, Shawn Colvin, Leon Russell, Buckwheat Zydeco, James Montgomery, BB King and many others. We’re pleased to have him work his musical magic with Acousticana whenever his busy schedule allows.