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Judith Avers: Press

Review of "Mountain and Shore" from Rootsville's, SMP:

 

"Not only because she is likable or very sweet but simply because Mountain and Shore,when you hear it for the first time,
is different from most  contemporary female singer/songwriters. I am very charmed by the way Judith Avers is interweaving authentic folk elements in her songs and not withstanding all that gives her elegant sound a modern touch.

A pleasant surprise! Un -American I would say, but it would be better to call it the best the American Country has to offer.

Everybody knows the feeling. You walk into a gallery or an exhibition where various artists show their work. Then you see
always objects that strike you because of their originality,creativity,sharpness or the right color combination. A modest label shows then that these items are sold or reserved for somebody. I am not surprised, because good work always prevails, just as this special work of Judith Avers.

 A few years ago
I was very taken by a comparable jewel,  the CD Stillhouse Road made by Julie Lee. Judith's album does the same to me this year. 

Mountain and Shore was  recorded in five days and has the pureness I'm looking for in an artist.  In every respect this album is very well taken care of and is truly a product to be proud of.  Starting with the cover that sends out a peacefull calmness and ending with the music and the variety of themes. The music is very steady but radiant with the instruments being the base for the record: guitar, mandolin, banjo and violin.I also appreciate the presence of Rose Sinclair,as multi-instrumentalist.  The harmonious backing vocals are the perfect finishing touch. Judith's own voice has sometimes a modest continuous vibration,showing the present emotions with dignity. Music to listen closely to and lyrics to read.
Introspective and melancholic work of an artist who is not afraid to share her music with you. Extremely beautiful!!!"  Rootsville - by SMP

Translation by Henk Bovenschen

Mountain and Shore Review by Martin Overheul June 10, 2009 www.altcountryforum.nl

Music is an inexhaustible source of inspiration and irritation, of animation and annoyance, or of passion and deception. And that is fine. Imagine that we would all love the same things and listen to the same records. I imagine that to be what hell would look like. For without bad there is no good, right? And without ugliness no beauty. How subjective and disputable that difference might be.

I am very fortunate that next to a lot of good music I also hear a lot of rubbish.  That way, I realize when I hear something very special, when I hear a voice that can melt the coldest of hearts  or listen to music that can  touch a soul in such a way that you can’t get it out of your mind for weeks.

Take for example the voice of Judith Avers, a young, remarkable and talented singer-songwriter from West Virginia. The songs on “Mountain and Shore,” her second CD in 4 years (in 2005 her first appearance “Strong Hands” came out) are without exeption breathtaking- musically as well as textually. It has been some time since I heard a record where the listener gets such intimate looks into the inner life of a human being. “There isn’t one thing or one more bit of love that I could have put into it,” says Judith Avers about her new CD, “It is what I had in me at the time.” And what she had in her at that time was amazing. “Mountain and Shore” opens at high level with the very intimate “Lilac Dreams” which, thanks to the pedal steel of Rose Sinclair (Martha Scanlan, Crooked Jades), gets a wonderful grand sound. Beautiful song,  but at the same time you worry to yourself,  ‘I hope this turns out well,’ because Avers starts on such a high level.   Avers avoids this trap brilliantly for the songs that follow are also fantastic. You will be seduced by the banjo solo (again Rose Sinclair) or the magnificent “Rocket Ship”- loaded with delightful harmonium (Anand Nayak, also producer), “All of It”,  and  “Karen”, one of the textual highlights of this CD, tells about a young woman who is unable to cope with the “hard times” she is going through and ends it all  “and with a crash she said goodnight.”

Heartbreaking? Yes. Beautiful? Very beautiful. Judith Avers excels in making these kinds of observations- full of compassion and understanding of the human imperfection. Add to this that she wraps her songs in a way that they never get melodramatic but are always feel like real life. For example in “West Virginia”, another highlight: “I am Vegas, baby. Turn me on. I am New York and I can’t keep up. I have done all I can do; put up a good fight, but I wanna be West-Virginia tonight.” More earthly is not possible.

“Mountain and Shore” ends with the heartbreaking “Love You Right,” the kind of lovesong everyone hopes will be written for her or him one day. “To love you tonight, I would scream. I would fight, but I would lay all my fear aside if I could love you tonight, I’d love you right.” Let there be no doubt; Judith Avers’ fantastic voice has conquered my heart already. And I am convinced that there will be many more songs to come.  - Martin Overheul, Alt Country Forum

Translation courtesy of Louise and Henke Bovenschen

Judith Avers voted Denver's Best Female Singer/songwriter 2005!

"Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a gorgeous voice that alternately recalls Gillian Welch, Rosie Thomas and Paula Cole, singer/songwriter Judith Avers could literally sing the classified ads and still be positively riveting. Fortunately, that won't be necessary: Avers is equally adept and compelling as a storyteller, crafting heartrending tales steeped in both hopefulness and despair."

-Westword Magazine, Denver's Premier Music Mag
Dave Hererra - Westword Magazine
Many musicians use their music as an emotional outlet — a way to express what's on their minds and a way to gain some sort of peace through their expression. Judith Avers' Strong Hands illustrates songwriting as an outlet. Her album begins with the soft plucking of an acoustic guitar and the first track, "Better Off," leads the album with a tale of loneliness. Her well-established sound can be likened to artists such as Gillian Welch, Rosie Thomas and Gemma Hayes, to name a few. It is no wonder the native Kansan (West Virginia transplant) has developed a name for herself; she has played with the likes of Glen Phillips, The Fray and The Subdues while touring around the nation.

In "Two Little People," Avers sings of a couple that seems to finally get what they want and come to the realization that a big house is no better than what they had when they started out. Her other songs reflect this longing for something more, a sort of fulfillment, and whether Avers' songs are autobiographical or fictional, their impact is the same. The tonality is somber and her imagery presents the listener with an aching feeling that mirrors the subjects of her songs. Avers' voice is haunting and captivating, ranging from a low-toned huskiness to higher, more whisper-like notes.

It seems as though this album represents a certain lost someone, perhaps a friend or lover. Undoubtedly, Strong Hands symbolizes a channel of some sort for Avers, who sings, "I'll get on / I'll get by." The simplicity of her instrumentation is perfectly balanced by the honesty of her lyrics. Horns are sometimes used, and Strong Hands maintains its organic feel due to the album's simplicity. Sometimes simpler really is better, and Avers provides a shining example. (Satire Records)
Lauren Alexis Begnaud - Performer Mag
This past spring, Judith Avers quietly left Denver for the hills of West Virginia. Sadly, she moved before folks really got a chance to know her, but at least she left behind this achingly beautiful disc to remember her by. Strong Hand's sparse arrangements allow Avers's beguiling voice to take center stage. If only those hands were strong enough to keep her here.
--Dave Herrera, Westword Magazine December 2005
Westword Magazine- Dave Hererra - Moovers and Shakers-Editor's Pick
I want to know why you are how you are. An instance of insufferable memory came gripping my senses after I had harnessed the mountainous musical sensation of this truly remarkable sound and sonnet. Her soft presence made a lighthearted comfortableness inside myself. The songs were like grandma's patchwork and by the end, she had sewn together a blanket and wrapped me in it. Soft and melodic folk lullabies folded me into the warmth of spring and left me with creases in time as she sang in one of her songs, "I would wear you if I could." A reflection of my own life as I heard her stories and my own voice begging for me to recall! recall! all that brought me to this moment. Judith Avers- tell me your story.

The mildest bean in town, The Wild Bean, let everyone in on this peaceful sound. All generations were invited into this user-friendly coffee and smoothie bar on Friday, March 9th and all showed up to fill the place. From Liberal, Kansas, Judith Avers is a strong woman with one acoustic guitar, one voice, and the simplicity of truth. She stated that she didn't know what faith was until she discovered Ani Difranco and Independent films. What do Ani Difranco and indie films have in common? They dirupt the mainstream flow, because one person decides to venture off and pursue their own vision through faith. Faith is free and life is independent...how often we forget. Judith Avers is not only a singer/songwriter, but she is also involved with a program that is designed to empower teenage women of West Virginia. Go to www.highrocks.org to find out more about this tuition free leadership program.

The beauty of listening to Judith is the ear's sensation of hearing poetry in motion; listening to folk stories enhanced by music. These songs exist in the time the song explains, and although the times change, the song remains the same. The past cannot be changed, so neither can your story...
-Danielle Fleschner
Danielle Fleschner - Greenbrier Valley Entertainment Guide- Eye on the Arts
The Oklahoma Songwriters & Composers Association, in association with The Woody Guthrie Coalition, is proud to announce the Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Songwriting Competition. This international, folk-oriented songwriting contest is held in conjunction with the 10th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, held in Woody's hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, each July.

Judith Avers - 3rd place winner for her original song "What Do I Gotta Be Poor For?"
Tom Marshall - 2005 Woody Guthrie Song Contest Winner
Judith Avers has won a slot on the much-anticipated CAM record compilation.

Judith's original song, "Better Off", will be joining the disc with artists:
The Fray
Born In The Flood
Yonder Mountain String Band
Hazel Miller
Gann Mathews
Nina Story

This new singer/songwriter looks as if she is here to stay.
Colorado Cuts Artist Compilation - CAM Records- artist selection
The New Artist Showcase, one of the most popular events of the festival weekend, will be held from 12:00 noon to 4:30pm on Friday, July 27 on the Main Stage.

The following performers (listed in alphabetical order, not order of appearance) were selected from over 450 applicants:

Anthony da Costa
Beaucoup Blue
Bob Sima
Chris O'Brien
Dawn Kenney
Derek Aramburu
Edie Carey
Five2
Heather Waters
Jennings & Keller
Joe Crookston
Joe Jencks
Judith Avers
Ken Bonfield
Lindsay Mac
Nick Annis
Randall Williams
Ryan Fitzsimmons
Sandy Cash
Siobhan Quinn & Michael Bowers
Stephanie Marshall
The Whispering Tree
Vienna Teng
Zoe Mulford

The Pittsburgh Scene visited with Judith Avers, an extraordinary talent, transplanted here in Pittsburgh area for the release of her latest CD, God Bless The Brooders. The September 16th concert was performed at St. Andrews Lutheran Church, appropriate for the spiritual sounds of this soulful folk artist. The CD was recorded in the midst of emotional turmoil: Judith lost her sister, her father, and her mother prior to the album's release. Judith referred to this Americana Folk album as, “Accidentally Hopeful,” sitting the recording process as “very healing”. You can feel the gentle tug on your heart strings listening to songs such as BlueBird's Song, “a song that always reminds me of my mother. ” Ms. Avers came from a little town called Liberal, Kansas, where her mother raised her on Patsy Kline, Willie Nelson, and dozens of other Country greats. Judith sang at momma's bedside as far back as she could remember. Her musical career began when she decided to learn to play guitar to put her poetry to music, “I'm not a very good guitar player,” the modest artist confesses, but what she lacks in technical training she far makes up for in raw lyrical talent. The gentle melody flows like water in a brook, while her whisper-soft voice echoes with haunt familiarity. The CD has songs that inspire, songs that confess, songs that show the human condition, with our multitude of coping tactics. Avers' talent has not gone unrecognized, as she has won numerous national awards based on her skillful songwriting abilities When Judith's circumstances brought her to Pittsburgh, she was welcomed onto the local scene at an open mic hosted by AcoustiCafe, where she met artists that inspired another project entitled, The Early Mays, an Appalachian band where Judith is joined by Emily Pinkerton on fiddle and Ellen Gozion on banjo. The trio is currently recording an Appalachian Christmas Album to be released on December 1st in time for the holidays. The “God Bless the Brooders show included a couple of numbers by this trio, where their tasty blend of southern-fried harmonies melted like butter on hot toast. Pittsburgh's Brad Yoder, and Ben Shannon each lent their earthy original music to open the evenings events The CD was produced by long time friend and fellow musician Anand Nayak, the only other artist featured on this album. This, like most of Judith's recordings, was done LIVE, and often in one take, resulting in a simple, honest and uncluttered production.

A cool Fall evening. We traipsed to the Lewis Theatre to support Judith Avers in the release of her latest CD, “God Bless the Brooders”. I looked at the diverse group of fans, friends, and collaborators, there in the theatre where she had married her true love Frances, not so long ago, and was reminded again of how much she had touched the lives of so many in our area. I thought back of how I came to know her.

She was new to town, and I watched her, gently and fearlessly, playing at Taste of Our Town in 2006 or so, and recalled how I was struck by the lyrical loveliness of her voice. We did not speak then, but weeks later I was working in a flower shop and was asked to do something “wild and beautiful” for her birthday bouquet. So hydrangeas and Bells of Ireland it was, wild as the mountains, and green and lush and perfect…We met when I delivered them to the Stardust.

Born in Kansas, nourished with country classics from granny’s 8-track player, she somehow found her voice in various little towns out there in Kansas and Colorado, where she began to write her own original songs. Eventually, demos were made, gigs were gotten, cross-country moves were made, and here she is in our beautiful homeland, our own wildness and beauty, West Virginia.

 

She has a way of finding her inspiration in wherever the wind blows her and through the people she meets. She finds a way of connecting with other creative souls, and cultivates the seeds of imagination and ingenuity within herself and those she meets. Here, she was inspired and the songs flowed from her like clear water, rivulets, rills and rocks aplenty.

She has since worked extensively with High Rocks, a year-round award-winning leadership program for young women ages 13-25. (see www.highrocks.org/) The group is all about educating, empowering, and inspiring, qualities and goals to which Judith has given deeply of herself. She conducts amazing songwriting workshops, aka Song School 101, for area youth, and these often culminate in the performance, however shaky at first, of these songs. It’s not easy to get up there and show the world what you are capable of, and Judith is teacher, mentor, inspiration, and their guide to microphones and stages and confidence. She is like mama hen with her chicks when gently guides them to their performing roosts. Comfort. Bravery. Emotion.

Judith’s evening began with her ever-gracious introductions and tales of those joining her. The first to take the stage was Summer Rae Propps, one of Judith’s local songwriting girls. With supportive family in tow, she sang three original songs, including one about courage, and one about the first heartbreak. Poignant, sweet, young… Then came a cohort from the Pittsburgh area, where Judith now resides, the delightful songsmith Ben Shannon. (http://benshannonmusic.com/) Having recently released a great CD called “Move On”, the first track is a gem of a song. Called “Break on Through”, it’s a little masterpiece with these rhythmic lyrics, “When you get inside, you’ll be sitting ringside, watching the roller coaster ride of your crazy life.. stuck in the sand. its about to be full tide, and you’ll be wishing you had left her all alone… She hits you on your blind side, gets you so you’re tongue tied, Makes you watch her while she serves your heart to you, deep fried.” Put clever clever chords behind it, and an easy delivery reminiscent of Lyle Lovett (without the growl) or Amos Lee or Jack Johnson. He played a great set, and Judith joined him in perfect harmony for a song called “Wanted”. We loved Ben Shannon.

 

Then on to Judith’s set, we watch her go deep within herself, all the while giving of herself to her audience. She apologized for her weak voice, which was as lovely as it always is, and talked about the songs she had chosen and how they came to be. I knew of her losses in the past few months. Her father passed away as the album began. Then she lost her sister, a grief I can only imagine. Then as the project was nearing completion, Judith lost her mother. And yet she persevered and gave herself as she always does. The songs were dark, and lovely, and sparse. I felt that the mood of the CD was more evident of a certain Appalachian influence, with clear pure melodies and a sweet almost absence of accompaniment.

On came The Early Mays, trio of lovely voices that make up Judith’s latest band. With Ellen Gozion and Emily Pinkerton from Pittsburgh , one playing banjo, on playing fiddle with Judith’s guitar playing as lyrical backbone, they sang harmonies that made my own heart sing. Close, perfect, high and sweet, intricate parts worked out that seemed as natural as breathing, we were swept away. They will be making a Christmas CD and doing Christmas gigs, and it will be exquisite. The other two soothed the tears that had been brought forth by Judith’s musings about all she had gone through, when her tears had finally broken through, and we were all on her side, loving her that much more for the very REAL-NESS of the moment.

So present, she is, no matter what. She chose to sing the title track of the new album, “God Bless the Brooders”, a nice tune about blessing us all, every one. The Mays had set to music the Robert Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. Perfect. Then a beautiful song called “Doves”. And then more…. All perfect harmony, like a waterfall, like a crisp autumn day, gentle spirits, fiercely gentle, bringing us loveliness in a place of loss and sadness. Then Judith, now empowered though exhausted, sent out thanks and shout-outs to all who had been part of the evening and all those evenings leading up to it. Gracious to her cohorts, she wrapped up the evening and began to pack up her guitar. I watched her, a performer beloved by her audience, and wondered about her loss and sense of self at this point in her life. I know that kind of loss. I’ve lost many and grieve for them still. I wondered, where do you go when there’s no one left to call? When nobody is there to answer the phone and it rings in an empty room? You reach deep into your soul with rusty talons swathed in a velvet glove, and you pull songs from the deepest part of you. And you carry on. “The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep…” - Susanna Robinson Kenga, LBSPY #17 

Listening to Judith Avers music, it becomes clear that pop hooks and loud thumping beats are not what drives this talented singer-songwriter. This is music that draws you in with its quiet intimate sound and unusual lyrics. She's is in Pocahontas County this week sharing her gift for putting words to music with budding artists in a High Rocks Academy song writing school. "It's called Song School 101, and it's mostly for beginning song writers ages 13 to 18," she says. "We started it through High Rocks a couple of years ago and the West Virginia division of Culture and History. Depending on the grant that High Rocks gets, they'll hire me to come in and teach different song writing classes." Sometimes it's traditional Appalachian style music, sometimes ballads, sometime Appalachian with a modern twist. "This week is general song writing which is always fun because then the students can write any song they want and they really seem to like that a lot," says Avers. "I've done this for a couple of years; we try to do one in the spring and the fall and then in the summer. So hopefully it'll grow to be about 4 times a year in this area." Avers is impressed with the number of county kids who are already well acquainted with various traditional instruments and she gives credit to the many adults who've fostered that love of playing. The results of the song school will be display this Saturday during the Autumn Harvest festival in Marlinton. "Yes, Saturday morning at 11 o'clock, it is at the Opera House and the students will all be playing at least one of the songs they write," she says. "Hopefully they'll all have two songs that they've written, and then group songs. And they'll get to be playing with professional musicians that'll come in Friday." Avers volunteered as tutor for the High Rocks about five years ago, and fell in love with both their mission and the students. Since that time, she's been a frequent volunteer as cook, teacher, or just about anything else she's been asked to do. Avers new album is "God Bless the Brooders". She says it came out of period in her life when she experienced some very personal losses. "I recorded this at the very end of the year 2010," she says. "And when I was recording it I was working with my dear friend the producer on the record, Anand Nayak. While we were picking the songs my father was very ill and he was dying when I was recording it so Anand and I were just kind of having these dark periods between the two of us. We were recording late at night and we just picked songs that seemed to fit what we were going through at the time." Although recorded in 2010, the album release was further delayed by the sudden loss of Avers sister last year and the loss of her mother in early 2012. "I have to release it this year because I don't want another year to go by so I'm releasing it," says Avers. "It ended up being this very hopeful cd for me. It means a totally different thing than when I started and I love that about it." God Bless the Brooders not only reflects Avers personal journey through loss, but also the stories of other lost souls she's encountered in her travels. "I have this song called "Dove" on the cd, and it's about a couple people I've met - they're true stories about people," she says. "I met this guy and we hung out this night in Liberal Kansas outside in the country; he had confessed to me that he had killed this person. You know, I didn't know what to do, I was sixteen and kinda wild. We just talked and the song about him and also this stripper I met in the desert; shady characters that I've been friends with that have done terrible things, several friends who are in prison for murder and things like that, but they're really still good people."

Avers' voice is especially warm and genuine, and her songwriting often more complex than the standard singer-songwriter fare. Make no mistake: This is laid-back folk- and country-inflected stuff. But it's a notch above most of Avers' local contemporaries. Her lyricism delves into personal thoughts and concerns in a not-uncomfortable way, and the orchestration and production choices on the record are wise. Good stuff from the relative newcomer to town, who's lived all over, from New England to Denver.

Bringing history to life: Judith Avers Judith Avers is best known around these parts as a singer-songwriter, but for the show she performs Sat., Nov. 9, at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, she's putting on another hat as well: that of Civil War historian. "Our show focuses on people and events that don't get a lot of attention in Civil War history," she explains. "Namely, women in both conventional and unconventional roles." At the Nov. 9 show, Avers and historian/storyteller John Burt will present a unique historical exposé, giving voice to Civil-War-era women through story and song. (Avers will be accompanied by cellist Gordon Kirkwood and guitarist Daniel Marcus.)

Burt and Avers will present a broad spectrum of women's experiences during the tumultuous years of the early 1860s — women as spies, socialites and even soldiers. The subject matter is gleaned from letters and journals of those who lived those experiences — and while the characters may be underrepresented in history class, according to Avers, there was actually much to draw from. "For every one woman or female group we wrote about, there were pages of other women who also inspired us," she says. "So [many] of the historical works out there focus solely on the men and their positions and roles in the Civil War. [But] there were mountains of women contributing in some way or another."

 

One such story focuses on Charlotte Forten Grimke, born in Philadelphia in 1837, the daughter of free-born African Americans. She would go on to teach escaped slaves in Port Royal, S.C., under the protection of the Union army. Her diary shows her fondness for one particular Union colonel, only later to reveal her heartbreak at the news of his death: "July 20-Monday-St Helena Island, South Carolina — Tonight comes news, oh so sad, so heart sickening. It is too terrible, too terrible to write. We can only hope it may not all be true. That our noble, beautiful young Colonel Shaw is killed and the regiment cut to pieces. Thank Heavens! They fought bravely ... I can write no more tonight." The captivating nature of such an overlooked narrative is what ultimately connected the two performers and writers, says Avers. "John Burt and I met at a concert where I was previewing my latest album, God Bless the Brooders. John was deeply immersed in his Civil War blog and he had been kicking around the idea of a show featuring lesser-known stories of the Civil War. A few days later, we had coffee together and the show began to take form."

For Avers and Burt, the past seems much more than just a study of outcomes in a set of circumstances. Instead, it is pliable, tangible and close. While the value of history is difficult to measure in a culture constantly seeking quantifiable results, Avers and Burt seek to bring the humanity of the past back into focus. "Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, 'A page of history is worth a volume of logic,'" says Avers. "John Burt loves that quote, and so do I. There is much to be learned from the past. We believe that if women and men consider these stories, they are bound to be inspired. And, ideally, these Civil War women and their words and lives can change the way we look at our his/herstory."

A few different types of artists show up at a typical open stage: you've got the regulars and the nervous first-timers, and then you've got the ringers.

Like Judith Avers.

When she first showed up at the AcoustiCafe at Club Cafe, just trying to introduce herself to the scene, she was a fully developed artist who had been voted Denver's Best Female Singer/Songwriter in 2005 by Westword Magazine and had also won the National Woody Guthrie Songwriting Contest. "I was raised in Southern Kansas in a small town called Liberal -- which is not liberal," she says, by way of introduction. Her first musical memory was hearing Patsy Cline sing "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and she was properly steeped in old country from Hank Williams to Tammy Wynette.

She went from writing poetry to writing songs, intending to record demos for someone else to sing. An engineer encouraged her to put a band together, so while she was living in Colorado in the mid-'90s, she formed I Know Jack, which established a following and released three albums over a six-year run. "We were kind of a Colorado jam band, sort of like a female-led Blues Traveler," she says. "I started writing more kind of mellow songs and I wanted to do that, but with our fan base, it was more you'd go and drink beer and party and dance. There wasn't any folk music in that band." Being the one woman in a rock quintet required her to play roles beyond just lead singer. "It was pretty hard to be a mom to wild boys," she says laughing. "We'd go for a set break, and a band member would be having sex with some girl in the bathroom and doing, like, opium. THAT doesn't happen in the folk scene. Maybe it does, and I'm like a nerd or something."

It 2003, she pursued her folk ambitions on a pair of solo albums, "Jude Live" and "Greasefire," and followed that in 2005 with "Strong Hands." A year later, she relocated to West Virginia, where she started to tap back into her rootsy, more Southern influences. "Living in West Virginia really affected my music because all the local musicians around were such good Appalachian singers and bluegrass players." When it came time to record, though, she found her musical "soulmate" in Anand Nayak, a producer and guitarist in Massachusetts, where she went to record 2009's "Mountain and Shore," drawing comparisons to respected folk artists such as Gillian Welch and Rosie Thomas. In the spring of 2010, she and her wife, a medical resident, packed their bags for Pittsburgh and settled in the East End. "We fell in love with the city years before we moved here," she says, "and when it came time [for her] to pick a residency program, we knew we wanted to be in the city. It's my favorite city out of all the places I ever toured. "It's surprisingly easy to be a musician in Pittsburgh," she adds.

"Right away I met Brad Yoder and Emily Pinkerton and they were both very generous, and right away I would to go Club Cafe for the acoustic open mike, and everybody was so nice. The musicians here really respect each other, and they're so loving." That was a good thing, as Ms. Avers has needed the love and support during her stint in Pittsburgh so far.

After raising money through a Kickstarter campaign to record her next album in Massachusetts, she suffered a string of devastating losses. During the recording and mixing of the album last year, her father died. Then, she says, "I was figuring out the artwork, and my sister died suddenly while I was teaching songwriting to teenagers in West Virginia. It's a lot to process, so working on album art was not what I needed to be doing. I needed to figure out what my life was going to be like without these people." Some time passed, she says, "and I had just ordered the CDs, and they were getting shipped to me, and I was like, 'I can't believe this is actually happening,' and my mom very suddenly, unexpectedly died, and we called the plant and said, 'We might have to hold these CDs.' When I finally got the CDs, they represented a terrible time in my life. "But," she adds, "I also like that about it, because at least for once I'm not [b.s.-ing] anyone about my music. Take it or leave it, people."

The album, "God Bless the Brooders," will finally see the light of day with a release show Sunday. Although the songs were written prior to her losses, the album, with its tender singing and beautiful acoustic playing, touches upon family and a life-and-death theme. "That's a strange thing. There is a song called 'Bluebird's Song' that ended up what my family played at my mom's funeral. It wasn't written about her, but it was exactly what I would want to say, so any time I hear that song or play it, I'm reminded of my mom now. The song 'Ease Your Mind,' my family in Oklahoma asked me if I would play that at my dad's funeral. It was very hard, but that's what I played. And there are songs like 'Forgive Me, Daughter,' so the whole CD ended up tying with everything with my mom, my dad, my sister. It's very strange. It sums up the whole time in one CD, and that's not what I meant when I recorded it." The slow gorgeous "Bluebird's Song" opens with her singing, "When I'm dead and gone/worry not/I'll still be around/You can find me in the garden/singing a bluebird's song." "Ease Your Mind," dedicated to her father, has Ms. Avers and Mr. Nayak singing, "If I could I would take all the hurt/and ease your mind." Now, Ms. Avers has the bittersweet task of taking out these meaningful, emotionally charged songs and playing them for people. With time having passed, she says the sadness associated with them "depends on the day." "Most of them, it just feels good. There are upbeat songs that remind me of important people and places, and I haven't played them in so long because I kept not being able to release the CD, so it's an exciting time for me because, wow, I have these new songs! They're not new, but I haven't had a chance to play them." She plans to take them on tour, but she doesn't have much time for that. Among other things, she's in the midst of a recording with her side project, The Early Mays, featuring Ms. Pinkerton and Ellen Gozion. She describes it as an "Appalachian-inspired, weird, sort of intellectual Christmas album."

Mary "Mother" Brickerdyke was not intimidated by U.S. Army brass who questioned her presence in field hospitals during the Civil War. "She saw a need and she acted on it," retired lawyer John Burt said of the pioneer nurse. "When she was challenged by a doctor, she told him she was under a commission from God." When Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman heard about the exchange, he reportedly told his officers, "Gentlemen, she outranks me."

Brickerdyke's story will be one of many that Mr. Burt and singer-songwriter Judith Avers will tell Saturday. Their presentation will focus on lesser-known women who played a variety of roles during the War Between the States. Their collaboration of stories and songs will premiere at 7 p.m. Saturday at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Shadyside.

The family-friendly program is called "A Grand Convulsion in Society." The name comes from a description by an Iowa woman of life in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, Ms. Avers said. Mr. Burt lives in Swissvale and Ms. Avers is from Edgewood. They will be joined on stage by guitarist Daniel Marcus of Regent Square and cellist Gideon Kirkwood of Highland Park. Initial inspiration for their performance came from the 1967 book "Bonnet Brigades" by Mary Elizabeth Massey about women during the Civil War, Mr. Burt said.

The people they will sing and talk about range from New Orleans belle Sarah Morgan Dawson, a judge's daughter who kept a detailed diary during the war years, to Mary Walker, a cigar-smoking physician who earned the Medal of Honor for her battlefield medical service. Charlotte Forten Grimke, school teacher and writer, is one of the women who has Pennsylvania connections. She was the granddaughter of James Forten, a wealthy African-American businessman from Philadelphia. Grimke's grandfather was a friend of John Vashon, a Pittsburgh barber and landowner of mixed race whose shop was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Forten and Vashon helped to finance William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist newspaper, "The Liberator." During the Civil War, Grimke taught freed slaves in the Sea Islands off South Carolina's coast and nursed black soldiers from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry after the Battle of Fort Wagner. Her friends included Col. Robert Shaw, the commander of the 54th, and abolitionists Frederick Douglas and Lucretia Mott. Grimke's journal entries include after-battle descriptions of wounded soldiers and their damaged clothes. Ms. Avers said those passages provided inspiration for her song, "The Bayonets They Wear." It describes both "... the bloody jackets tear That my needle and my thread repair" and the effect on the survivors: "... the frightened widow's stare That no needle nor thread could repair." "I think we will both be crying by the end of that presentation," Mr. Burt said. Ms. Avers has written original songs for most sections of the program, but she also plans to use some traditional folk songs. Mr. Burt's tales about each of the featured women will be based mostly on their letters and journals. He said he was eager to collaborate with Ms. Avers since he lacks musical talent. "I'll provide narration -- but singing, no," he said. 

A few different types of artists show up at a typical open stage: you've got the regulars and the nervous first-timers, and then you've got the ringers.

Like Judith Avers.

When she first showed up at the AcoustiCafe at Club Cafe, just trying to introduce herself to the scene, she was a fully developed artist who had been voted Denver's Best Female Singer/Songwriter in 2005 by Westword Magazine and had also won the National Woody Guthrie Songwriting Contest.

Judith Avers

With: Brad Yoder, Ben Shannon, Emily Pinkerton, Ellen Gozion, Jason Rafalak and Daniel Marcus.

When: 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, 304 Morewood Ave., Oakland.

Tickets: $10; light refreshments will be served.

"I was raised in Southern Kansas in a small town called Liberal -- which is not liberal," she says, by way of introduction.

Her first musical memory was hearing Patsy Cline sing "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and she was properly steeped in old country from Hank Williams to Tammy Wynette. She went from writing poetry to writing songs, intending to record demos for someone else to sing. An engineer encouraged her to put a band together, so while she was living in Colorado in the mid-'90s, she formed I Know Jack, which established a following and released three albums over a six-year run.

"We were kind of a Colorado jam band, sort of like a female-led Blues Traveler," she says. "I started writing more kind of mellow songs and I wanted to do that, but with our fan base, it was more you'd go and drink beer and party and dance. There wasn't any folk music in that band."

Being the one woman in a rock quintet required her to play roles beyond just lead singer.

"It was pretty hard to be a mom to wild boys," she says laughing. "We'd go for a set break, and a band member would be having sex with some girl in the bathroom and doing, like, opium. THAT doesn't happen in the folk scene. Maybe it does, and I'm like a nerd or something."

It 2003, she pursued her folk ambitions on a pair of solo albums, "Jude Live" and "Greasefire," and followed that in 2005 with "Strong Hands." A year later, she relocated to West Virginia, where she started to tap back into her rootsy, more Southern influences.

"Living in West Virginia really affected my music because all the local musicians around were such good Appalachian singers and bluegrass players."

When it came time to record, though, she found her musical "soulmate" in Anand Nayak, a producer and guitarist in Massachusetts, where she went to record 2009's "Mountain and Shore," drawing comparisons to respected folk artists such as Gillian Welch and Rosie Thomas.

In the spring of 2010, she and her wife, a medical resident, packed their bags for Pittsburgh and settled in the East End.

"We fell in love with the city years before we moved here," she says, "and when it came time [for her] to pick a residency program, we knew we wanted to be in the city. It's my favorite city out of all the places I ever toured.

"It's surprisingly easy to be a musician in Pittsburgh," she adds. "Right away I met Brad Yoder and Emily Pinkerton and they were both very generous, and right away I would to go Club Cafe for the acoustic open mike, and everybody was so nice. The musicians here really respect each other, and they're so loving."

That was a good thing, as Ms. Avers has needed the love and support during her stint in Pittsburgh so far. After raising money through a Kickstarter campaign to record her next album in Massachusetts, she suffered a string of devastating losses.

During the recording and mixing of the album last year, her father died.

Then, she says, "I was figuring out the artwork, and my sister died suddenly while I was teaching songwriting to teenagers in West Virginia. It's a lot to process, so working on album art was not what I needed to be doing. I needed to figure out what my life was going to be like without these people."

Some time passed, she says, "and I had just ordered the CDs, and they were getting shipped to me, and I was like, 'I can't believe this is actually happening,' and my mom very suddenly, unexpectedly died, and we called the plant and said, 'We might have to hold these CDs.' When I finally got the CDs, they represented a terrible time in my life.

"But," she adds, "I also like that about it, because at least for once I'm not [b.s.-ing] anyone about my music. Take it or leave it, people."

The album, "God Bless the Brooders," will finally see the light of day with a release show Sunday. Although the songs were written prior to her losses, the album, with its tender singing and beautiful acoustic playing, touches upon family and a life-and-death theme.

"That's a strange thing. There is a song called 'Bluebird's Song' that ended up what my family played at my mom's funeral. It wasn't written about her, but it was exactly what I would want to say, so any time I hear that song or play it, I'm reminded of my mom now. The song 'Ease Your Mind,' my family in Oklahoma asked me if I would play that at my dad's funeral. It was very hard, but that's what I played. And there are songs like 'Forgive Me, Daughter,' so the whole CD ended up tying with everything with my mom, my dad, my sister. It's very strange. It sums up the whole time in one CD, and that's not what I meant when I recorded it."

The slow gorgeous "Bluebird's Song" opens with her singing, "When I'm dead and gone/worry not/I'll still be around/You can find me in the garden/singing a bluebird's song." "Ease Your Mind," dedicated to her father, has Ms. Avers and Mr. Nayak singing, "If I could I would take all the hurt/and ease your mind."

Now, Ms. Avers has the bittersweet task of taking out these meaningful, emotionally charged songs and playing them for people. With time having passed, she says the sadness associated with them "depends on the day."

"Most of them, it just feels good. There are upbeat songs that remind me of important people and places, and I haven't played them in so long because I kept not being able to release the CD, so it's an exciting time for me because, wow, I have these new songs! They're not new, but I haven't had a chance to play them."