Women Making Music – Abby Bryant

Women Making Music – Abby Bryant

We’ve been “friends on Facebook” for the past few years, but we’d never met in person until a few months ago. We were invited to a mutual friend’s house with several other female musicians. Abby’s aura is warm and inviting. Everyone’s taller than me, but she’s a good bit taller. She bent down to keep me from having to stretch up for a lovely-to-meet-you-in-person hug, and a gesture like this is not lost on me.

Post release of Abby Bryant and the Echoes’ 13 track debut, Not Your Little Girl, she called me from the road for our interview. We began our conversation before a show they had that evening and she’s excited, blessed and grateful for the large audiences they’ve been attracting. 

My aim for this feature is to skip the incidentals. You can read her bio on her website. What I want to do is dig into each of the tracks on NYLG, giving my reaction to each one, and getting her responses to share with you. Abby agrees and clears us for take-off. 

The debut album is heavy emotionally, but throughout there’s hope, joy and liberation. “Challenges expressed in an inspiring way” is how she summarizes the crux of the record.

Track: Not Your Little Girl

P:  This feels like a celebratory liberation song; especially when the horns kick in.

A:  I wrote this song as I was first navigating the music industry. Especially because I’m young, I often hear conflicting voices spouting every type of opinion. I liberate myself from the opinions of others as best I can. This song is me finding my own voice in there. The horns especially express the positive take I’m going for just the same.

Track: Tried

P:  Confronting the conundrum of breaking up and how taking the high road is a good strategy when faced with questions from friends about the reasons why. 

A: Of the different facets of breaking up, the social piece of the break up is hard. When someone can’t control what you do or say anymore, they’ll respond to that by trying to control how other people see you. While that can be hurtful, time will reveal the truth as long as you stand there with integrity.  

Track: Better Now

P:  Now you’re feeling trust again. 

A: It’s about a mix of core people in my life. Allowing myself to trust means I allow myself to thrive. It’s also about my business partnership and longstanding friendship with Baily Faulkner (her co-founding friend, co-writing partner and lead guitarist). 

Track: When I’m Gone

P:  I’m inspired to call this an “exit” anthem. That trying to hold you back in any situation, only makes you want to break free. Here’s another example of you taking the high road with someone who’s been oblivious to accountability. While listening to this, I actually pictured you throwing open the storm door of your house, sauntering down the steps and onto a side walk, and as you stroll you begin boogying to the beat of your own song.

A:  What you’ve imagined is right on with what I was intending with this song. But I also hope people take what they’re hearing and imagine what they will, cause I’m okay with any interpretation. 

Track: Had To

P:  Being you, doing you is not a slap in the face to anyone. Sometimes you have to make decisions based on the natural next step in your life. 

A:  That’s very true. It’s about making tough choices and sitting in your own resolve about what you need to do in your own life, in your own career. But it’s also about the pain that comes in the aftermath of changing something that wasn’t working. 

Track: Hold Me

P:  It’s such a fine, melancholy groove. “That you’ll long for me, way after I’m gone” from the chorus struck me. That use of the word “way” really sticks with me. The vocal improvisation at the end too, was super compelling.

A:  We spent a long time on that ending with the backing vocals and it’s a special moment on the album. It’s about deeply connecting with someone even though circumstance and lifestyle can’t sustain it. It’s a song of longing and hoping I stay on that person’s mind.

Track: Roll with Me

P:  The first time I ever heard your band was from a YouTube video, and you’re performing this one live on the ‘Floyd Fest Bus Stop.’ I thought what an appropriate tune to choose to do on the bus! 

A:  (Laughing) I get happy just thinking about that bus stop recording session! We had just played to one of our biggest crowds when they invited us to play on the bus. We ended up winning the “artist on the rise” prize that year. It was a really big day for us; even more then I realized at the time. 

Track: Love Crush Blues

P:  I hear a double meaning on this one. It’s a revelation every bit as much as it’s an accusatory lament.

A:  It’s a song that describes a sort of pre-teen, preconceived notion that I was going to one day be magically swept away by love and romance. And I come to realize that that doesn’t necessarily happen for everyone. “If I want love, I can only love myself” is the bottom line.

The Last 3 Tracks

A: *Keep Moving is about our resilience and our determination as a band. *Time Wasn’t on Our Side is the most personal and vulnerable track. It’s a mournful acceptance of when things don’t align. 

*I’m Telling You has a jubilant groove. It contrasts the struggle with its joyful sound. It mirrors my personality. There’s a lot going on in my mind and there’s always a lot I could complain about but I’m also pretty good at laughing things off cause riding the highs and lows of this business is so crazy and it’s so easy to get caught up in that rollercoaster ride. It’s a tough skill to master, but the middle ground for me is laughing with my bandmates. 

Visit her website for tour dates and links to streaming platforms and to pre order the album: abbybryantandtheechoes.com 

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at

Women Making Music – Dani Cox

Women Making Music – Dani Cox

Who is Dani Cox? That’s the first question I pose to my newest female music acquaintance. Leading up to our scheduled interview, I didn’t prepare questions beyond that one. Once I asked it though, this bright, articulate, effervescent soul did not skip one beat during our robust 45 minute conversation.

“My work as of late has been to undo who I think I am. We tend to believe we are the things we do, the things we want to do, or we think we’re our parents carrying their baggage, to do them justice because we love them. I am a black, young, woman; intelligent, crafty and funny. However, those are ways I’d like for people to see me so they’ll like me and want to be around me. The reality is I am entirely without fault, love made physical. I believe that of everyone, and it is my job to meet and introduce love in its widest apparatus. I’m love eternal and I want you to discover me.”

Captivated, I ask her to continue: “Believing that love is the only real thing truly narrows my focus and so it helps me make decisions based on what is important and what is not. When I make music, I ask myself, what do I have to say through music? What do I want people to hear? If love is the foundation then all of the other stories that I want to tell, take a back seat.”

I probe for more clarification of that statement. I can’t help but reflect on the music I gravitated toward, 30 years ago when I was Dani’s age.  After all, the day of the interview was her 33rd birthday. She explains that her journey right now beckons songs of hope; ones that may tell of strife, heartbreak and even tragedy but that in the end they are songs of revolution and resolution.

“We want to tell people so badly who we are, and of the beautiful struggle we’ve experienced. But I’m seeking a way of uplifting and bringing what I’ve been through toward how I can use it to do better, be better and stronger. If I’ve had a challenging experience and I want to sing about it as a way to let people know who I am, I will find a way within my story, to tell them what’s going on but I will also tell them through the music, what I plan to do with what I’ve learned.”

Writing music is her main source of creating. “I write some songs for other singers to tell the story because sometimes the story is not mine to tell.“

I risk pigeonholing her by wondering what genres she gravitates toward when writing and/or choosing others’ songs to sing. “Artists get caught up in labeling because they feel labels are limiting. People want to know what genre so they can figure out who your audience is, but it’s not about that. It’s about the process of creating or interpreting in freedom, and we see at the end when it’s done, what category it might fall into.”

Open to all genres, Dani enjoys writing country music and she explores Rhythm and Blues. It pleases her to hear Classical and Jazz music. She throws me when she exclaims, “I want to try more Metal, because it matches my very high voice. Coming from a musical theater background I understand how those stories progress with emotions throughout and when I hear Metal music it reminds me of musical theater. To me, they’re the same thing!”

When I hear Dani sing it makes me feel good all over. Her ability to find the nooks and crannies of a multi-note trill, and actually feel it is refreshing. While other singers show off these abilities, Dani has heart placement ability when she phrases. She knows her essence is what we want to hear.

Future goals include putting together an all-female band. While that dream percolates, she is concentrating on the “physical and mental work around freedom” and how that shows up in her music. “I’ve been a singer ever since I can remember but I’m an introvert. When I was little, I didn’t want to share my gift of singing, I just wanted to keep it for myself because it was pleasurable. What makes art hesitant for some is that we are driven to create it, present it and put it out there and then we move onto creating the next thing. We forget to enjoy it. By putting it out there it’s exposed to comparisons, criticisms and monetizing.”

“I’m in a place where I just want to get to know people and that has nothing to do with money. The benefit in meeting and getting to know certain people within the laws of attraction, allows for receiving money. “

The goal is to move through her voice with more ease and to continue to seek performance opportunities in order to create cyclically pleasing experiences. “When people say I’m a good singer it’s a confirmation of the hard work I’m putting into finding my true voice. Singers deserve the credit for what we do.”

 “I’ve identified as being one thing for the last 30 years, but now I’m undoing what I think that thing is. When I sing, I’m feeling myself, my whole body. It doesn’t really matter what the other person hears as long as I am totally immersed in the expression of the emotion. Someone told me that when whales sing, sometimes it’s a mating call and sometimes they gather in a group to just sing with no apparent purpose. Researchers believe the only reason why they’d do this is for the pure enjoyment the vibration allows them for just being.”

On Thursday, March 10th, Dani will be presenting and sharing a mix of Soul, R&B & Jazz songs with anyone who would like to attend, at Isis Music Hall, 7:00pm. For tickets: isisasheville.com

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at

Women Making Music – A nod to the past year and a look ahead to 2022

Women Making Music – A nod to the past year and a look ahead to 2022

2021 has been another extraordinary year for Women Making Music in WNC. From my interview with soulful Rhythm and Blues singer/songwriter, Nicole lúnd back in January to catching up with the queen of her heathens, Ashley Heath in our November issue, it hasn’t escaped anybody in the past 22 months, just how incredibly fragile life can be. But more importantly, just how incredibly innovative, tenacious and inspiring the female and identifying female musicians in WNC are!

Funk, hip-hop and soul guitarist April Bennett experienced an opportunity of a lifetime this past summer when she was cast in a dual role to be a boat crew member and a rhythm guitarist in a 4 pc band on a new reality TV show called Yacht Stops. The Amazon Prime network show premiered in May of 2021 and is described as a combination between “Below Deck” and “The Voice.”  The premise of the series brings musicians together who’ve never played or lived or worked together before and gives viewers a chance to watch them navigate the high seas and the music business as they sail from port to port, rehearsing together and then playing shows for vacationers and locals up and down the eastern seaboard. You can see excerpts from several episodes on their facebook page here: facebook.com/YachtStops. April’s music page on facebook is here: facebook.com/ AprilBandTheCool 

Not only is Caitlin Krisko one of the most phenomenal vocalists among us, she’s also a third-generation tarot card reader who has, since April of 2020, amassed over 2000 clients and acquired over 42,000 followers on social media. Caitlin’s style of practice is “rooted in intuitive communication with spirit guides” through tarot. A Detroit native and WNC transplant by way of Manhattan, Krisko’s 6 piece original Rock and Blues band, The Broadcast is back to touring and releasing new music. To connect with Caitlin for a reading, visit candleinthecave.com and to keep up with her music go to thebroadcastmusic.com 

Caromia Humphrey unveiled 3 releases in 2020-21, 2 of them musical and one of them was just a few weeks ago when she gave birth to her beautiful baby daughter with Rock guitarist and songwriter, Ram Mandelkorn. D’Orsi Bosca Tula Lee is destined for a beautiful, harmonious life with these two tuneful minstrels as parents. Check out my interview with Caromia from June where we discuss her self-produced all original EP releases, “Green” and “Sunday Land.” These records are ethereal, rhythmic and healing. www.thesofiamagazine.com/spotlight-on-caromia-humphrey-and-her-beautiful-and-intimate-ep-releases-green-and-sunday-land/ 

Self-described “Singer of stories, massager of hearts, teller of the truth in all its jagged and sparkly forms and a rabble-rousin’, mountain songstress” Jane Kramer and her husband, Ashevegas editor and founder Jason Sandford gave birth to their first child, Marigold True Kramer-Sandford (aka, Goldie) this past August. We’ll circle back around to find out how motherhood and music are going for Jane in 2022! But in the meantime, I invite you to visit her website for upcoming performance dates: janekramermusic.com/ 

Winner of Best vocalist in Asheville, Classic Soul, Motown, R&B singer Rhoda Weaver has been entertaining locals and tourists for over a decade. I think of her as the Queen of the Pivot. From move to move and change to change, her grace, humor and candid demeanor helps us all stay motivated when navigating our own lives. Her facebook posts read like a modern day Ann Landers column. From administrative assistant to Uber and Uber eats driver to her own taxi business, Weaver’s tenacity and heart inspires everyone she meets. A wife, mother and grandmother she walks the talk, encouraging us to mirror her random acts of kindness. She’s one of our all around finest women making music. 

A true survivor is none other than Hendersonville’s sweetheart, Ellen Trnka. Before being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in the autumn of 2019, Trnka feasted our ears with Blues, Jazz, Folk and Americana classics and originals on a more regular basis. Throughout the pandemic she’s faced her treatments with the kind of courage we all hope we could muster given such shocking news. Her fans will be delighted to learn that Ellen is currently preparing material for one-set gigs. Her post diagnosis debut showcase was this past October at Southern Appalachian Brewing. I was there and to hear her sing again with such power, panache and elegance was utterly inspiring.  If that sell-out crowd is any indication, her full-fledged comeback will be epic!

The trio I co-founded called Love Bubble released a debut record in July and we call it “Love Revolution.” The harmony driven group has a bubble gum psychedelic 60’s throwback sound and consists of Paula Hanke on vocals, flute, banjolele, and uke. Hank Bones, who plays nearly all the instruments on our debut, wrote 9 of the 13 songs on it, plays guitar and sings at our live shows. Yours truly on vocals, cajon, hand percussion and harmonica. Paula and Hank wrote a romantic poem set to the most beautiful melody called “Warm and Cozy” and Hank and I wrote a song we dedicate to everyone, titled “Beautiful Soul.” All the songs are uplifting with hook lines, verses and choruses guaranteed to turn any frown upside down. Links to all the platforms we’re on can be found here: lovebubblewnc.hearnow.com/love-revolution

One of our newest transplants, is one helluva songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Abby Bryant. Fresh from her sold out record release show at Asheville Music Hall in October, this powerhouse mama with a message graces stages all over the country with her fantastic outfit, The Echos. “Not Your Little Girl” is her first full length album that dropped last month. Link here spoti.fi/2ZzEyu0 to listen on Spotify and add to your favorite playlists. Visit the band’s online store to pre-order the double vinyl album coming in early 2022: abbybryantandtheechoes.com/store 

Abby is just one of the many phenomenal artists I aim to interview in 2022. Alex Krug is another gifted songwriter and it will be my pleasure to feature them as well as singer Marsha Morgan, the aforementioned rock guitar goddess, April Bennett, multi-instrumentalist Melissa Hyman, saxophonist Ashley Hammer Prichard and others TBA.

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at

Women Making Music – Coming Back Better

Women Making Music – Coming Back Better

 The opening paragraph I wrote in November 2017 of  Women Making Music spotlighting saxophonist and singer, Debrissa McKinney is worth repeating: “The first time I met Debrissa McKinney I was in a bad mood. I don’t remember why but what I do remember is that she brought sunny into my gloom, and turned my frown upside down. She asked me questions about myself. She was truly interested in my answers. I know oodles of people who are good at give and take. But something about Debrissa makes me and everyone she meets feel that extra special mojo; one feels lifted in her company.”

Catching up with Ms. McKinney recently over Zoom, we start off laughing of course because anyone who knows her knows that frivolity abounds when she’s around. Our exchange quickly goes to where most of my conversations these days with musician friends go, by talking about the big transition. “I’m not as busy as I was pre-pandemic yet, but there’s a definite feeling like, ‘Oh I need to rehearse this stuff again,” she admits.

During lockdown she confesses that like so many of us, she caught herself moping around. Living downtown like she does, the desolation was palpable. “I’d go for walks in the neighborhood and could feel people peering out their windows wondering who is this extra sad looking lady comin’ up my street. All I needed was a Mr. Microphone for my inner sad-singer to vent and wail my fear and loneliness while I shuffled up and down the streets.”

Thank goodness things are pivoting from live streams to live shows. We delve into philosophy pertaining to the phenomenon of Covid 19 and what we’ve learned. We agree that saying “no” or “not right now” is more common and accepted amongst our peers and bandmates and we are grateful.

McKinney is still part of the 2017 Grammy winning (for best Kid’s Album) troupe, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo and plays sax and sings with Empire Strikes Brass as well as lead and backing vocalist for the most popular Steely Dan tribute band, Dirty Logic. But when we last left her, she was dabbling in a project with Hip/Hop MC and producers Austn Haynes and Johnny Reynolds.

Haynes and Reynolds have maintained a partnership that dates back to their teens. Referring to themselves as “forever friends,” you can hear that it fuels their combined artistry. With love and ambition, their successful, bicoastal Hip Hop outfit called Free Radio was born.

The pandemic and the fact that they are both back living in Asheville, Free Radio duo has morphed into something even more expansive. The addition of vocal melodies and harmonies executed with warm and luscious precision by Debrissa and deep-soul vocalist Datrian Johnson brings “balance and magic” to this purposeful project.

“One of the coolest parts of this collaboration” McKinney says, “stems from Austn’s masterful beat making prowess. He’s always creating new and unique beats; there’s no beat re-do’s; he is always mixing it up.”

For anyone not steeped in Hip Hop, and for longtime Free Radio duo fans, this new angle to the venture will draw you in. They’ve created a new accessible genre they dub “Cosmic Appalachian Hip Hop.” The moods and melodies are grounded in R&B and roots music, connecting them to the potency of nature, sound and rhythm. The result is a mashup with a distinct message.

Riding tandem to this fresh Free Radio cooperative, Debrissa is in company with yet another musical undertaking involving scientist, folk healer, wisdom keeper, Jeff Firewalker Schmidt, Phd and his passionate and profoundly introspective project with Jazz musician and keyboardist John Medeski (of Medeski Martin & Wood) called Saint Disruption.

Firewalker and Medeski came together serendipitously, meeting in the Amazon while both were on a mission of personal healing and growth. Their endeavor is based around their “deep devotion to native wisdom traditions.”

The pandemic allowed for the creation of Saint Disruption’s 7-track record called “Rose in the Oblivion” and features Debrissa, Datrian, Leeda Lyric Jones and Austn Haynes among others.

Following are excerpts from an interview with Jeff and John on Live for Live Music conducted by Andrew O’Brien on April 7th of this year:

“This is a native wisdom,” Firewalker contends. “And native teachings say that it’s in the darkness where we come to know who we truly are. One of my teachers puts it beautifully: can you name one thing on this planet that doesn’t start its life in the darkness?”

The darkness of 2020, he explains, was the impetus for Saint Disruption’s creation.  “I went to my altar and I said, ‘Okay, Spirit. I’ve got this luxury of time. What do you want me to do? And the answer I got back, it was not subtle. It was a smack upside the head. It was like, ‘Take everything that you’ve seen and learned and felt and perceived and put it into poetry and music.

“We acknowledged and recognized that at this time in human history, there’s an opportunity to do something musically that reflects artistically those things that we feel humanity could be well-served to grapple with,” Jeff notes. “John and
I are very dedicated to this idea of ‘Can the music be evocative and deliver messages for people to consider at this time in history?’ “

The answer is yes! The album release concert takes place at The Grey Eagle August 29th at 8pm. Free Radio quartet opens.

There’s no finer example of a local female artist continuing to make good, striving to always come back better than Debrissa McKinney, who will be adding her supreme and mystical vocals to both sets that night. 






Peggy Ratusz is a vocalist, songwriter and vocal coach


Peggy’s August Dates:

Friday, August 6th 
Love Bubble feat Paula Hanke, Hank Bones & Peggy Ratusz Southern Appalachian Brewing, Hendersonville, 7pm

Saturday, August 7th 
Jonathan Pearlman and Peggy Ratusz The 2nd Act Coffee, Beer & Wine Café, Hendersonville, 6pm

Sunday, August 22nd 
Jonathan Pearlman and Peggy Ratusz One World West, Asheville, 4pm

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at

Women Making Music – July Music Venues

Women Making Music – July Music Venues

As the music venues in the city and surrounding communities open up a little more each week, so have the opportunities for our beloved female music artists.

Herein is a comprehensive list of gigs and shows from some of my past and future interviewees. I am thrilled to discover that more and more of the women who were regularly performing pre-pandemic, are filling in their once bare calendars with bookings.

Encouraging you to get out and support live local music, especially the individuals and groups who are fronted by and/or include female musicians, is part of my mission. While funding-organizations exist for performers and entertainers, these monies are shared. When a music fan attends a concert, gig or show, the tips and a chunk of ticket sales goes directly into the pockets of the performers.

So here you go, all you music-goers! There are so many options and I am stoked to list so many choices!

Thursday, July 1st: Love Bubble featuring Paula Hanke, Peggy Ratusz & Hank Bones – Debut record release “Love Revolution” The Grey Eagle Music Hall, 8pm. You’re in for a dreamy, nostalgic, heartwarming and whimsical time! reverbnation.com/lovebubblewnc

Friday, July 2nd: Pimps of Pompe featuring Cynthia Mc Dermot on mandolin and vocals One World Brewing West, 6pm. Specializing in jazzed-up renditions of 90s/2000s hip-hop and R&B, with vintage jazz to create a vibe that is equal parts swag and sophistication. mandocynmusic.com/pop

Saturday July 3rd: Alex Krug combo Patio Show at the Grey Eagle, 6pm

Singer and songwriter Alex Krug is a colossal force of power, strength and charm, and their voice emerges as a diamond in the rough. With a sense of discovery, the Asheville-based players strike a stunningly evocative chord about life, being an outsider and the kind of heartache that transforms your soul. alexkrugmusic.com

Saturday July 3rd: Linda Mitchell Ooh LaLa Curiosity Market Pritchard Park, 2:30pm. Smoky, rich Blues and Jazz from our quintessential Music Mauven! lindamitchellblues.com

Sunday July 4th:  The LadsAVL features female rhythm section Kim Butler on electric bass and Stephanie Irvine on drums, Maggie Valley Country Club, 11am

Playing songs we know by heart and compelling originals they hope you will come to know by heart! Rock, folk, roots & blues. TheLadsAVL.com

Wednesday July 7th: Jesse Barry & Friends Patio show the Grey Eagle, 6pm

Wielding a unique blues sound Jesse is often described as an “old soul” and audiences are stunned by the voice that comes out of her petite frame. This Blues, Funk, and Soul group has a huge following, so get your tickets now!

Friday, July 9th: Kayla Lynn & The Change Grey Eagle debut Patio Show, 6pm A bass player, singer/songwriter, empowerment speaker, has immersed herself in the funk music community in and is a resident artist with LEAF Global Arts, an ambassador for Free2Luv and a founding member
of The One Voice Project. areyoureadyforthechange.com/

Friday, July 9th: Singer/songwriter Izzi Hughes plays The 2nd Act Coffee, Wine & Beer starting at 6pm in Hendersonville. Award winning wunderkind continues her trajectory into the world of music with catchy and thought provoking covers and originals. izzihughes.com

Saturday, July 10th: Lyric Band opening at Silverado’s, Black Mountain 5pm. A WNC favorite who holds Mountain Xpress “best of” awards: funk band, vocalist, lyricist, r&b/soul, and artist who gives back to the community. reverbnation.com/lyricfans

Saturday July 10th: Peggy Ratusz & Daddy LongLegs Band, Mills River Brewing, 7pm outdoor stage. “Everything” has been the answer to the question, “What kind of music do you play?” Asheville is giving the one they called the “ruby throated blues mama” a platform to dip into her many musical styles and influences. reverbnation.com/peggyratusz

Sunday, July 11th:  Alexa Rose Band Isis Music Hall Main Stage, 7pm. Virginia-born singer-songwriter creates her own style of modern folk with bits of Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, and Gilliam Welch. Well-crafted songs explore timeless topics. American roots with modern country and a little rock and roll. alexarosemusic.com

Sunday, July 11th:  Many A Ship featuring Vickie Burick vocals, Grey Eagle Patio Show, 6pm. An indie-folk-rock band deeply rooted in the mountains of Western North Carolina drenched in inspiration from nature, humanity, frailty and nostalgia. facebook.com/manyaship

Monday, July 12th: Aoife Clancy, White Horse Black Mountain, 7pm. The Ladies lead singer from Ireland’s legendary Clancy family. Whether the songs she sings originate in the United Kingdom, Australia or Appalachia, Aoife’s seemingly effortless blend of warm, natural vocals, genre-defying instrumentation, and repertoire of classic and modem material deserves to make this Clancy Daughter a worthy inheritor of an iconic family name and an even broader following.

Thursday, July 15th: Love is A Rose Isis Music Hall’s Patio concert, 7pm. An exciting and critically acclaimed tribute to Linda Ronstadt, Paula Hanke and Peggy Ratusz belt out her hits in perfect harmony, while adding personal stories to celebrate Linda’s 75th birthday! loveisaroselive.com

Sunday, July 18th: The Appalucians featuring Aditi Sethi on bass/vocals and Angie Heimann on guitar, banjo, vocals, Isis Music Hall Main Stage, 7pm. They play music from the mountains featuring spirited songwriting, sublime harmonies, and a layered interplay between dobro, guitars, harmonica and banjo. theappalucians.com

Thursday July 29th: Songwriters in the Round ft Hannah Kaminer, Kathryn O’Shea and Laura Boswell Patio Show at The Grey Eagle, 6pm

Hannah Kaminer is a folk/Americana artist based in Asheville, NC. Kathryn O’Shea  is widely recognized as that Asheville-dwelling vocalist chick with the banjo and all the feelings. Laura Boswell Described as “a vibrant, wholly original, deeply personal young artist” by Grammy Award-winning songwriter Mike Reid.

Friday, July 30th: Ashley Heath and Her Heathens Grey Eagle Patio Show, 6pm

Winning the hearts of Americana lovers’ with a “velvet soul,” driving her career forward and playing music full-time since spring of 2015 facebook.com/ashleyheathandherheathens

Friday, July 30th: Blind Phoenix, White Horse Black Mountain, 8pm.

Indie Rock, American Roots band lead by Rebekkah Hilgraves & Chris Daniels.


There is so much more going on with “Women Making Music” in WNC, so check local listings at Asheville Live Music!  facebook.com/AVLLiveMusic

Peggy Ratusz isa vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at

Women Making Music Play it Forward

Women Making Music Play it Forward

For some female musicians in our area the past year has been a challenge and for others, a godsend. For many this past year has been a mix of the two. Every phone call I’ve shared and every interview I’ve conducted for the past 8 or 9 months, the pandemic dominates the conversation. How could it not?

Covid-19 fatigue is a real thing. It’s a syndrome I feel and witness in others on a daily basis; even on days I don’t see anyone other than my husband and dog. I feel great relief after venting in my journal, whining each week on family zooms and posting my dismay on social media. Lock down loneliness, unemployment benefit woes, motivational teeter totters is real. Fortunately, my female musician friends lift me in real ways in real-time.

For instance, there’s Kate Kinney Barber, flutist and vocalist for Moody Blues tribute band, The Lost Chord. She and I share Covid political rants. But we pivot our conversation to calmer waters by sharing our positive anticipation of taking the stage once again!

If it weren’t for Aileen Pearlman, aka “Big Al,” I wouldn’t have much of a sense of humor. The weekly open mic nights we used to host together left a huge hole in our creative process. And yet, without her editing, designing and sharing pithy tik-tok type videos and our late night tipsy texts, that hole would be a chasm.

My next door neighbor, singer/songwriter, Mare Carmody and I can go days without seeing each other but it’s our driveway vodka tonic sing-alongs, coffees on the patio and checking in on one another before grocery store runs, that make my days feel less lonely.

Remember Christine OnTheScene? Every local musician’s promotor/supporter and live music godmother? She’s one of my besties and she happens to be among other things, an avid hiker. Without our buddy system Mother Nature sojourns, I would be a vitamin D deficient basket case.

I can’t say enough about the super-girl life saver friend I have in Paula Hanke. Partnering in music and comical crime despite the cancellation of all of our tour dates together, hasn’t dampened Paula’s goddess influenced path. And I reap the lovely benefits each and every day.

To all these women, the women I’ve interviewed, and those women I’ve only met on the internet, I extend a loud and true, thank you!

I got to wondering how are other soon-to-be-working-steadily-again professional musicians doing these days. After a year of shut down, how have mask wearing, hand sanitizing, live streaming, twisting, bending, and pivoting left them?

I reached out to a few of them to ask and received back, a cornucopia of answers.

Ashley Heath

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve adapted by coming up with creative ways to keep my music thriving and my fan base engaged. I started a business called “Singing Grams.” These are singing telegrams where a person picks a song they’d like to dedicate to someone; it could be for a birthday, anniversary or just to set hey. Then I learn the song and call or video call the person and sing it to them! It’s a complete surprise to the person I’m calling and the responses have been awesome! It’s helped me reconnect with people I haven’t talked to in years!

I’ve been writing a ton of songs, gardening, painting, getting outside, and having FaceTime with my friends!

My band, Ashley Heath and Her Heathens will be recording in the fall and I’m looking forward to releasing my third album in 2022. Our full band shows are starting to come back as weather is getting nicer!

Here are my next performance dates April and beyond:

May 29th – Elevated Distillery Carolina Writers Series Highlands, NC, solo performance.

June 10th – Pine Summer Concert Series in Wilkesboro, NC for the town of Wilkesboro featuring Ashley Heath and Her Heathens.

July 23rd and 24th – IT’S FLOYD FEST near Floyd, Virginia! I am this year’s Artist on the Rise recipient and these very special performances will be with my full band – Ashley Heath and Her Heathens!

Linda Mitchell 

The pandemic has been hard for me around music. I lost steady gigs and an important income stream. My motivation has dropped so low in part, because my gigs dried up. I have not been working with my music partner and in general I miss making music with all the people I used to, pre-pandemic.

A silver lining to the loss has been and is the jazz jam OUTDOORS, weather permitting, at One World West Brewing on Sundays. Some weeks I sit-in which brings me a needed sense of normalcy.

I have been coping by cooking a lot too; new cuisines, new recipes. Though I have “Covid Mind Days” where I lay on the couch and can’t remember what day it is, I combat it by walking a mile every day.

I mask up whenever I grocery shop and lately have dined at nearly empty restaurants.

The consequence of not getting sick is my stringent rule of wearing a mask! Yeah masks! Recently I was able to get both Covid shots. I live in hope for the health of my friends and family and very soon, returning to playing LIVE MUSIC again!

Whitney Moore

I’ve been hunkered down with my family since March of last year. We have high risk family members so we’ve stayed super isolated. The last gig I played was an outdoor event at the salvage station in October – and that was the first time I’d played since March! We’re in talks with the Salvage Station about another outdoor date this summer.

It was surreal to win “Best in Jazz” in a local 2020 poll, because I barely feel like I have a band anymore! We’ve managed to release a few remote recordings and music videos, but that’s about it.

For me, personally it’s been a well-timed hiatus because I gave birth to my second child in June. I’ve been soaking in the extended “babymoon” and extra time with my four year old. I’m grateful to have some voice over work to do from my home studio and our garden has never looked better!


For me, what 2020 lacked in social interaction, live music and entertainment, it made up for in the opportunity for time alone at home to write and record. Almost a year after releasing my last solo effort, I’ll be sending a new one off into the internet ethers, for your listening pleasure. Keep a lookout in the coming months for Sunday Land, a beachy dreamscape collection born out of the early Covid time-warp.

Follow all these lovelies and support live local music as much as you can as the country and our state open up over the coming months! There is a lot of time and money needed to make up for the losses these musicians have had to endure. We play it forward to honor our family of fans!

Peggy Ratusz dates in April:

Saturday April 3rd – Mills River Brewing with Duane Simpson, 2pm-5pm

Friday April 9th – Isis Music Hall in-person ticketed and livestream concert with Love Bubble, 7pm

Friday April 23rd – Isis Music Hall in-person ticketed and livestream concert with Peggy Ratusz & Daddy LongLegs band, 7pm

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at