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"Chris Rosser is his own tour de force. An accomplished producer and instrumentalist,
a graceful writer and a proficient singer, Rosser's Hidden Everywhere is an outstanding
expression of all of his talents combined." Kari Estrin, Sing Out! Magazine
"We just play things because they're genuine - if songwriting counts anymore, then you should count on Chris Rosser." --Mark Keefe, WNCW, Spindale, NC
"Chris' songs are good medicine. Kind and heartfelt and beautifully written." --David Wilcox
"Rosser possesses...a guileless generosity of spirit, and an implicit kindness that places life - and all it's sweet, little victories - on a pedestal, and that uncovers light and hope in dark places." --Frank Rabey, Mountain Xpress, Asheville, NC
"Considering the present state of folk, which is top-heavy with dreary, angst-ridden, confessional songs of failed relationships, dying planets and enough cynicism to make even Frank Zappa gag, it is a joy to have such fine musicians adding a little positive energy back into the music scene." --Dirty Linen
"Archaeology sounds like the work of a seasoned pro...a wonderful debut from an artist with a heart of gold." --Neil Fagan,The Performing Songwriter
"This guy's brand new. Be the first on your block. A beautiful debut." --Christine Lavin
"His songwriting and engaging voice make him the equal of older hands like Pierce Pettis, Richard Shindell, Greg Brown and John Gorka... He's a new light in the world of folk, and should shine for a long time to come." --Arvid Smith,FolioWeekly, Jacksonville, FL
- Missouri Theatre, Columbia MO
- Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
- Eddie's Attic, Decatur, GA
- Columbia Museum of Art, SC
- Eastman School of Music, NY
- Skirball Theatre, Los Angeles CA
- Uncle Calvin's, Dallas, TX
- Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville,NC
- Getty Museum, Los Angeles CA
- Herbst Theater, San Francisco CA
- Bikini Barcelona, Spain
- WUWF Radio Live, Pensacola, FL
- Avalon Theater, Easton, MD
- WorldBeat Cultural Center, San Diego CA
- Godfrey Daniels, Bethleham, PA
- The Handlebar, Greenville, SC
- Fox Theater, Atlanta GA
- Bluebird Cafe, Nashville, TN
- Gravity Lounge, Charlottesville, VA
- Millenium Park, Chicago IL
- Centre Stage, Greenville SC
- Field Museum, Chicago IL
- Kerrville Folk Fest, TX
- Rocky Mountain Folks Fest, CO
- Cervantino Festival, Guanajuato, Mexico
- Lotus World Music Festival, Bloomington IN
- Falcon Ridge Folk Fest, NY (showcases)
- Anatolian Festival, Irvine CA
- Silk Road Festival, Houston TX
- Bele Chere, NC
- Wildflower Festival, TX
- Festival of New American Music, Sacramento CA
- Michigan Festival of Sacred Music, MI
- Solstice Festival, CA
- Genesis at the Crossroads Festival, Chicago IL
- Lake Eden Arts Festival, NC
- World Festival of Sacred Music, Los Angeles CA
- American Music Festival, FL
- Jewish Music Festival, Berkeley CA
- Cottonwood Festival, TX
- Rumi Festival, NC
- Omar Faruk Tekbilek
- Rhonda Larson
- Lizz Wright
- John Mayer
- John Gorka
- David Wilcox
- Pierce Pettis
- Robert Bly
- Missouri Chamber Symphony
- Lucy Kaplansky
- John Berberian
- Eric Anderson
- Jamey Haddad
- Shawn Mullins
- Vance Gilbert
- Ellis Paul
- Daniel Ladinksy
- Hasan Isakkut
- Bob Franke
- Fred Eaglesmith
- Bill Mize
- Chuck Brodsky
- Tom Prasada-Rao
- Nickel Creek
- Tom Rush
Sing Out! Vol. 51/1, Spring 2007, by Kari Estrin
Chris Rosser is his own tour de force. An accomplished producer and instrumentalist, a graceful writer and a proficient singer, Rosser's Hidden Everywhere is an outstanding expression of all of his talents combined.
My favorite tracks on the CD are the two world music-influenced cuts. The use of rich harmony and exotic instruments such as dotar, djembe, cajon, riqq, harmonium and melodica, many of which Chris himself plays, create an Asian influenced "Before The Locusts" (Track 2) and the sitar-esque "Broken Wing" (Track 8). Rosser creates exotic and lush backdrops to his sensitive and compassionate writing.
Rosser doesn't preach or judge in his lyrics, instead asks questions or lends his obversations for our consideration. In "Benjamin"(Track 9), we're not sure if his friend is running to or from his salvation and in "Anna Has A Secret" (Track 7) Rosser explores how an unwanted pregnancy for a girl in small town Texas in the 20's never went away.
The record is full of little gems and surprises - songs we can relate to such as the loss in "How Much Can One Heart Take" (Take 10) or the title track which is an anthem of hope and where to find faith in "Hidden Everywhere."
With and abundance of talent, Rosser gives a lot to his listeners and I suppose, in keeping with his gentle perspective, doesn't keep track of how much he receives in return, though I hope this Asheville, NC-based producer/artist receives the widespread recognition he deserves."
by Chris Slattery, Gaithersburg, MD (Dec. 10, 2003)
Sitar man, you've got a lovely dotar
You want "Jingle Bells," hey, you know where to go. You want Indian dotar, Turkish saz and electric sitar served up with your soulful guitar-playing singer-songwriter, well, step right up to Glen Echo Town Hall because that's where Chris Rosser will be Saturday evening. And it's not going to be your average holiday concert.
"My parents became Baha'is when I was in second grade," explains Rosser, an American of Northern European extraction who still celebrates Christmas with his Kensington-based grandmother.
"There are Baha'is in every culture, but the faith started in the Middle East and there tend to be a lot of Middle Eastern Baha'is."
Since it's illegal to be Baha'i in Iran, many came to live in the U.S., even in Casar, N.C. -- population 350 -- where Rosser spent his childhood. "I grew up around a lot of Middle Eastern music. That's where it began for me," he says. His dad was transferred to North Plainfield, N.J., a half-hour outside New York City, when Rosser was a teen. "It was pretty much a culture shock," laughs the small-town boy, who eventually made his way back to North Carolina. "They were a lot more advanced socially." He coped the way a lot of musically minded teen boys do: he played in garage bands. "My mom is a piano teacher," says Rosser. "So I started piano lessons when I was 7 or so, and I played piano all through high school. I played bass in the jazz band, and French horn, and I had two or three garage bands going all the time."
In the garage, Rosser played Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, although his parents favored classical music and the works of '70s singer-songwriters like John Denver, James Taylor and Dan Fogelberg. "I listened to a lot of jazz, too -- Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett," he adds. Rosser studied studio recording and jazz piano on full scholarship at the University of Miami, where he earned a bachelor of music degree. By that time, all the basic elements were in place.
East meets South
After college, Rosser settled into the working life at a recording studio in Charlotte, N.C. "I started doing singer-songwriter gigs," he says, "just me and a guitar, and writing a lot of songs." Two years into the 9-to-5 life, he left the studio behind and moved to Asheville to try his hand as a full-time performer. "It's a great place to live, a real artsy town," says Rosser, who still resides there with his wife Lynn, a fellow performer. There were songwriting awards and a duet album with Lynn; he was a finalist at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, then at the Kerrville Folk Festival, and his debut CD, "Archaeology," came out in 1997.
The diversity of cultures that had colored Rosser's growing up years shaped his work as a singer-songwriter. He had started studying Indian music during his last year in college, and in 1999, received a grant to continue Hindustani classical music studies with Ali Akbar Khan, whom Rosser calls "this amazing musician." This fascination with Indian music led to perhaps his best known song, "Christmas in the Ashram," which local artist Tom Prasado-Rao covered. Indeed, Rosser's latest album, "The Holy Fool," features songs about "homecoming queens, ashrams, relationships, spirituality, Federico Fellini and small-town churches." Can concert-goers expect all that when he plays in Glen Echo on Saturday? "It's going to be me solo," he says, "I'll be playing piano and guitar, and singing -- and I'll be bringing my Indian dotar. It's a relative of the sitar, a little smaller and fretless, but it has a similar sound. There will be a mix of songs."
Probably no "Jingle Bells" -- but hey, you never know.
The Cary News
by Jennifer Layton, Cary, NC (August 21, 2003)
Rosser Stirs Up Studio Magic
Those making major leaps of faith often look for a sign that they’ve made the right decision. Some stroke of good luck, some cosmic signal.
Chris Rosser left the safety of his day job as a studio engineer in 1995 and moved to Asheville to pursue his own music career. He had barely settled in when he met one of his musical heroes, folk artist David Wilcox, at a friend’s house. When Wilcox learned that Rosser had studio experience, he hired him to work on his “Turning Point” CD.
Not a bad cosmic sign. But true to his laid back, spiritually connected nature, Rosser somehow knew before he began working in Wilcox’s log cabin studio that everything would work out.
“I moved to Asheville because of songwriters like him. There’s a strong artist community here, and I sensed from the beginning that there would be a place for me in it,” he said.
Eight years later, Rosser’s place is one of folk/world/pop music guru. Fellow Asheville artist David LaMotte calls Rosser’s production chops “formidable” and adds, “It’s wonderful to be working on a song in the studio and decide that what it needs is piano, or a funky bass line, or sitar, or talking drum, or B-3, and Chris walks into the next room and just plays it. He’s incredibly versatile.”
Rosser will be bringing those formidable and versatile chops to Cary’s Six String Cafe on Friday, Aug.22, playing tracks from his own solo CDs, “Archaeology” (1997) and “The Holy Fool” (2000). He’ll also be testing out new tracks before taking them into the studio for his next solo project.
Rosser credits word of mouth for putting him in such high demand as a producer. “My studio number isn’t even in the book!” he said. “I just kept getting referrals from friends and friends of friends. It’s great because my performing inspires my production work, and then I get inspired by the great people I work with in the studio, which then turns back around and feeds my performances.”
He tries to keep a creative balance. “The hardest part of my production work is keeping myself from filling up my calendar so I’ve got time to work on my own stuff! Since ‘Holy Fool,’ I’ve done production on 20 CDs for other artists. That’s why there’s been no CD from me in three years!”
Rosser brings something else to the studio besides technical expertise. Fascinated with Indian music since childhood, he plays a wide variety of instruments that add a mysterious, Old World sound to many of his songs. He received a degree in jazz piano from the University of Miami in 1992, and in 1998, he won a grant to study Indian music in San Francisco.
While “Holy Fool” tracks like “Charlotte the Queen” are acoustic folk songs in the style of many of his Asheville neighbors, Rosser also explores the musically spiritual realm with instruments like the sitar and finger cymbals. He also plays the sarod, a 25-string fretless instrument he must play sitting cross-legged, and a smaller version called the dotar, which has 17 strings and can be played while standing.
Such instruments add elements of mystery and magic to his live performances. Charlotte singer/songwriter Christy Snow asked Rosser to produce her latest CD because she wanted those same elements in her music.
“I wanted that same type of magic and life breathed into my new CD, and it turns out the magic was Chris himself,” she said. “He has the priceless ability to share the artist’s vision for the project in a totally supportive way that allows the creativity to flow. From his suggestions of additional instruments, to his playing many of them, and all the way to his patient and loving demeanor, I felt completely relaxed and inspired all at the same time.
“This was my fifth CD and by far my best studio experience and my best CD.”
Rosser will soon be going back into the studio with LaMotte, as well as high-energy performer Billy Jonas.
“I love what I do,” he said. “I try to work with people I’m excited about working with, and I can’t help but be inspired by them. I also hope it rubs off a little!”
by Kevin Jones - St.George, UT (August 17,2000)
I'm tellin' ya I love this guy Chris Rosser. He plays the daylights out of the guitar, writes wonderfully touching songs, has a warm and winning stage presence, and above all he comes to southern Utah quite often. He'll again be gracing St. George stages on Aug.24 in a free show at the Ancestor square courtyard, and the following night at the Red Mountain Spa - both shows begin at 7:30 pm.
Chris' songs are varied and clever, but his "Laundromat Song," from his first CD Archaeology is high among my favorite songs ever written. We've all at one time or another felt that bittersweet sting of unrequited desire and longing and I've never heard a song that so perfectly distills this emotion. It's haunting and brilliant and to hear him sing it live is worth travelling for. His new album The Holy Fool picks up where Archaeology left off, and if you've seen any of his shows in St.George or Cedar City, you'll already be familiar with many of the songs and the stories behind them.
He sings of universal concerns, about the uncertainties of the human condition - but unlike many songwriters who use these themes to bemoan our plight, Chris infuses his songs with hope and spiritual optimism. A North Carolina native, in "A Feat of Amazing Grace," he tells of the way of the southern Baptist church-goers..."Afternoon supper in the fellowship hall, Greasy Fried Chicken, egg salad - eat it all, Banana pudding and dry sponge cake, try to keep it all on a paper plate - It's a feat of balance, Give and take, A feat of Amazing Grace." This he sings with a rich and warm tone that recalls James Taylor.
The Holy Fool also contains a lovely song entitled "David & Marie" that is the "Laundromat Song" of his new release. A song that I suspect he wrote about his relationship with his wife Lynn. She's accompanied him on a couple of his visits, singing background vocals and I can't remember ever seeing two people that were more obviously in love. "The Universe's forces join, to push them to this impact point, There is no random chance, No heartless happenstance, In the meeting of David and Marie."
...Chris dabbles heavily with World Music in his songs - particularly the sitar-influenced Eastern sound that colors such songs as "Christmas In The Ashram," and "Two People." He records in his home studio and plays all the instruments on his songs. Do yourself a favor and set aside an evening to come and enjoy this extremely engaging performer. Seriously don't miss it...
The Performing Songwriter
by Frank Rabey (Nov/Dec 1997)
"Don't let the last call find me / Still and afraid / Left holding out for someday / For some perfect train / Some faraway train " -"Faraway Train" from Archaeology.
"Sometimes rather than sitting around waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along," Chris Rosser explains, "it's better to stay in motion, taking an active role in trying to get where you're going : the opportunities will present themselves."
Face the East, the Asheville, North Carolina-based singer/songwriter's self-released 1995 debut with his wife, Lynn, showed off his top-notch vocals, piano and guitar playing over a small batch of autumn-crisp songs. An album spiced with Middle Eastern flavors and an uncanny level of optimism, it was a portrait of the artist still cementing his own voice.
But earlier this year, Rosser released the solo Archaeology on ISG Records (in Black Mountain, near Asheville, NC). The lyrics are more focused and intimate, but charged with the same rare hopefulness; the songs are tighter, melodies spryer; the self-production is expectedly crisp; vocals and playing are both accomplished and subdued. In short, Archaeology is a beaut.
Rosser is a long, tall, quiet man. He speaks only sparingly, but says far more than what you're hearing. His face and lanky body tell stories of agreement, puzzlement, excitement.
Face The East is the ultimate DIY : self-recorded, -produced and -played, with art and photos by family members.
Like most DIYs, there was no budget whatsoever. And I didn't really know enough about what I was wanting to do to describe it to other people. It was easier, for instance, to grab a drum and start hitting it until it sounded good, rather than trying to say, "Hit it on the and-of-2 and the and-of-4."
By contrast, Archaeology, includes a virtual who's who of Asheville-area musicians, including David Wilcox. Why the change in approach?
I helped out Nance Pettit, doing her album Skin & Water. She had everybody she knew singing on different things, people coming in and adding parts. I liked the whole concept of the community helping a person birth this project. So I called up a lot of the Asheville musicians I've become friends with, who could do stuff that I couldn't do in a million years.
In the two years between records, your lyric writing has grown by leaps and bounds.
Within a month or two of Face the East coming out, I quit my day job in Charlotte, NC and moved up to Asheville. I had a lot more time, and I just wrote and wrote and wrote, probably 30 or 40 songs over a year and a half. Most of them were complete throwaways, and I can't even remember them. But just writing that many songs [has to] make you better at the process. Before, the music was the most important part. But, after going to festivals like Kerrville and sitting around the campfires, you realize that no matter how great the music is, the lyrics are really the animating force behind the whole song.
Your songs are generally hopeful, even comforting: no messy breakups; no drive by shootings; no acid rain. Why such rosy pastures:
I've had a pretty happy, normal life. And I have a problem with the fact that a lot of people consider happier, brighter songs to not have as much artistic merit as, say, [those that fall into] that tortured-artist image. I write some darker, depressed, poor-me kinds of songs, too, but when I'm playing live, it just doesn't feel right bringing the whole room down with me. I feel like one of the purposes of what I'm doing is to spread a little beauty, optimism and hope around. Much of my hopefulness definitely comes from growing up Baha'i: the whole message of the religion is very positive and world-embracing. Art is considered worship. Music is called - and I'm paraphrasing very badly - a ladder by which the soul ascends. Growing up, there were also a lot of Persian Baha'is and people from the Middle East near me - a lot of their music and singing: [I was] getting the sound of their scales in my ear.
You attended the University of Miami's School of Music, switching first from classical to jazz piano, and in your senior year to the singer/songwriter genre.
My brother, who was living in Asheville at the time, had sent me some tapes: Nanci Griffith, David Wilcox and Shawn Colvin. It changed my life. Before that, I really didn't know that the genre existed. And when I heard [those artists], I realized that there was a whole category of music where you didn't have to be on MTV, VH1 or pop radio to have a career.
by Arvid Smith - Jacksonville, FL (January 13, 1998)
Chris Rosser works jazz and world music into his own brand of folk
Measuring success by chart action is a reality even in the modern folk music world. A scan of the AAA (Adult Alternative Acoustic) radio trade quarterly "Crossroads" reveals the attention being paid to songwriter Chris Rosser's second CD release, "Archaeology." Sitting pretty at No. 26, a notch above the new Richard Thompson and within a few numbers of John Hiatt and James Taylor, "Archaeology" is gaining the attention and momentum deserving of Rosser's considerable musical skills. Further (if the tip sheet tells no lies), the loads of radio play the record is getting should send Rosser on his way. He takes the stage this Thursday, Jan. 15 in The Listening Room at European Street in San Marco.
Chris Rosser's music resides firmly in the new folk vein but his craft is certainly no backwoods product. Rosser is a graduate of The University of Miami Jazz Program, where his dual major was jazz piano performance and studio engineering. Rosser explains his split from the jazz world : "I was burned out. Unless you're at a certain level in your career in jazz, you're usually just background music in a restaurant. In my senior year at Miami, my brother sent me a tape of David Wilcox and that was it."
After taking his degrees and a two-year studio gig in his native Charlotte, NC, Rosser moved to Asheville and became a fixture in that town's fertile singer/songwriter scene. "There's this great musical buzz in the air," says Rosser.
Along with the folk influence, "Archaeology" contains a heavy dose of world music. Not content with the standard "do-re-mi" of pop music language, Rosser went straight to the source for songs like "Dancing Dervish" with its ripping east-of-Suez cello finale, composed by Rosser and performed by Stephanie Winters (The Nudes). "I have instructional books on the oud and the saz [Syrian and Turkish lutes] that are written in Turkish, but all the notation is in western script, so I got a lot from them."
Rosser could rank as a bright new light in any popular music style today. His songwriting and engaging voice make him the equal of older hands like Pierce Pettis, Richard Shindell, Greg Brown and John Gorka (for whom Rosser opens next month in Maryland's stately Avalon Theater). In the end, however, Rosser has one up on all of them. He's a new light in the world of folk, and should shine for long time to come.
by Tony Kiss, Asheville NC (June 2, 2000)
Capturing A Foreign Feel
Singer Chris Rosser brings unique flavor to his music with Indian, Middle Eastern influences
Singer Chris Rosser spends a lot of time around the house. But he gets plenty done. Along with recording and producing CDs for many regional singers, Rosser has finished work on his third CD, "The Holy Fool," which was done at his Asheville home, same as his second disc, "Archaeology." Rosser releases the CD with a Friday night show at the Grey Eagle Music Hall.
"I'm kind of a procrastinator," said Rosser, noting that it took nine months to finish the recording. But there are a lot of advantages to working at home, he said. "It's nice to be able to work from midnight until four in the morning," he said. While the CD was done at home, he's careful to get lots of input from friends and fellow musicians on how the project is going.
Rosser features some of the area's best on the disc including his wife, Lynn, plus Anne Lalley, Joe Ebel, Beth Wood, Tony Creasman, David LaMotte and others. Rosser wrote all dozen songs himself.
He's been playing some of them live for a while now, including the catchy lead-off track, "Charlotte the Queen." And there's the decidedly Indian feel to other songs like "Christmas in the Ashram."
I've liked Indian music since high school," he said. "But I just barely got into it then. It's like studying another language." Last summer, Rosser spent time in California studying Indian music.
On "The Holy Fool," he plays such Indian instruments as the sarod ( a fretless, 25-string instrument that's like a sitar), the dotar (a smaller version of the sarod) plus "lots of percussion, electric piano, bass, electric guitar, anything I could find lying around the house."
The Indian element is something different on the local music scene. "Someone was once giving advice on songwriting and said the best thing was to focus on something you are doing that no one else is doing," he said. "Indian, Turkish and Middle Eastern music is that for me." But he's not making that his only sound. "I think the verdict is still out (on public response). I still only play (Indian music) in a song or two (in concert)."
Friday's concert will feature Rosser backed by a band that includes Ebel, Don Porterfield, David Cohen and Safed Fareed. Later this summer, he'll be hitting the road, touring as far away as California.
by Jack W.Hill, Little Rock, AR (August 11, 2000)
Multitalented folk musician brings Eastern sound to cafe
Asheville, NC, has the same resonance for fans of folk music as Nashville, TN, does for listeners whose interests run to country songs.
And there's no person in Little Rock as likely to bring in touring folk musicians as part-time promoter Joe Henry, whose labor of love has attracted them to town a couple of times a month for five years now.
Asheville being east of here, Henry no doubt knew he would be getting "Eastern" music. But he's getting the genuine ethnic article tonight, in the person of Chris Rosser, whose specialties run to such instruments as the sarod, a 25-string fretless instrument. Rosser also plays the sitar, dotar, tambura, finger cymbals, kanjira, baglama, cumbus, cittern, dumbek, riqq, davul, zils - and guitar.
"Of those Eastern instruments, I'll probably just bring the dotar," Rosser says. "I can wear it strapped on, but the sarod, you have to sit on the floor cross-legged to play that. The dotar has only 17 strings, but a lot of them are 'sympathetic' to others, so there are really just six main strings."
Rosser learned how to play some of the instruments at the feet of an acknowledged master : Ali Akbar Khan, India's most famed sarod player and the brother-in-law of sitar player Ravi Shankar.
"Khan has a school in San Francisco and runs one of the few traditional Indian schools in the country," Rosser says. "In 1998, I got a grant to go out there. I had gotten fascinated with Indian music as far back as high school, when I heard Shakti, a group that was kind of Indian jazz, and with John McLaughlin on guitar in the band. That kind of got me paying attention and then looking into what George Harrison had done with the Beatles with some of his songs."...