The Hurricane Ridgerunners (FRC604)
Mark Graham has been playing old-time music on the Marine Band harmonica for over 30 years. In that time he has played hundreds of concerts and dances and performed with many of the luminaries of Southern old-time and bluegrass music including Tim O’Brien, Laurie Lewis, Dirk Powell, The Horseflies, The Chicken Chokers, Tom Sauber, Pete Sutherland, Bad Livers and Hurricane Ridgerunners. One of the few harmonica players schooled in the melodic and rhythmic intricacies of Southern stringband music he plays in a powerful yet lyrical, blues-tinged style that recalls the feel of the finest fiddle and banjo playing. Graham is one of the few harp players who can “burn it up” like Norman Edmonds and Earl Johnson or evoke the lonesome desolation of Dock Boggs’ banjo playing and singing. With an encyclopedic knowledge of Southern country and blues styles, Mark has mastered the hallmark traditional harmonica solos: fox chases, train impressions,and call and response song accompaniment reminiscent of Sonny Terry and Peg Leg Sam.
The song writing of Mark Graham is a singular universe of surreal mountain hilarity and lonesome terror that covers the big subjects:The Beginning of the Universe, Natural Science, Mathematics, Food, Stupidity, Great Literature, Festival Love and Death, while drawing favorable comparison with: Homer and Jethro, The Tobacco Tags, Blind Alfred Reed and Dock Boggs, the revered songwriters of country music’s past. His songs have been performed and recorded by The Austin Lounge Lizards, Bryan Bowers, Bad Livers and The Limelighters.
In the 60’s and 70’s, the D.C. area was a hotbed of Bluegrass and old time fiddle music, and Paul often found his rock band sharing the roster with some of the country’s best traditional folk artists — musical encounters that made a lasting musical impression. After a two-year hiatus in Europe, Paul returned to the D.C. area where a serendipitous meeting with Alan Jabbour and his fiddle ignited an enduring fascination with traditional fiddle music of all sorts. He traded in his Gibson 335 electric for a Martin dreadnaught and never looked back. For the next few years Paul attended Bluegrass and folk festivals up and down the East Coast, listening and learning as much as he could about the traditions of Appalachian and European folk music.
After getting his degree from the University of Virginia in 1974, Paul moved to Oregon where he began playing and calling regularly for traditional square and contra dances. In bands like Highwater Stringband, Paul was also playing for sitting crowds at coffee houses, bars and folk festivals throughout the Northwest. He moved to Seattle in 1978, joined the The Hurricane Ridgerunners (Jerry Gallaher, Mark Graham, Armin Barnett, Paul Kotapish), and for the next few years toured nationwide and recorded an album with this hard-driving old-time string band. He also forged a musical alliance with Irish fiddle legend Kevin Burke, with whom he has recorded four albums. Paul is a member of Kevin Burke’s Open House (Kevin Burke, Mark Graham, Sandy Silva, Paul Kotapish). The band tours regularly in the U.S.A. and abroad and in addition to the three albums for Green Linnet has produced a well-received video program.
In 1982, Paul moved to Oakland, California, where he began playing with Daniel Steinberg, Kevin Carr, and Ray Bierl (“The Hillbillies From Mars”), a musical friendship that has endured to the present. During the 80’s Paul pursued an interest in architecture, studying and later teaching at UC Berkeley and practicing in several offices in San Francisco. The lure of performing on the fingerboard proved more intriguing than performing at the drafting board, so in the early 1990’s Paul returned to performing music full time. In addition to the Hillbillies and Open House, Paul has toured and recorded with NEA designated “Master Fiddler” Rodney Miller. At home in Berkeley, California, Paul plays in several bands including The Moving Cloud Orchestra, Kingfisher, The Quirks, and The Crackerjacks. Paul is also co-founder of the Celtic/Grateful Dead band, Wake the Dead.