The Rapidian

Folk singer to be honored at WYCE Jammies awards show

Joel Mabus, a Michigan folk singer for over 40 years, will be presented with a WYCE Legacy Award at the 15th WYCE Jammie Awards, and will perform songs from his repertoire.
Joel Mabus performing

Joel Mabus performing /Courtesy of Joel Mabus

WYCE Jammies XV presented by Bell's Brewery

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Intersection

133 Grandville Ave SW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Admission is free

For list of performers click here

Joel Mabus

Joel Mabus /Courtesy of Joel Mabus

Folk singer Joel Mabus will be presented with the 2014 WYCE Legacy Award this Friday night as part of the 15th WYCE Jammie Awards. The Portage-based singer’s 2013 banjo-only album, "Pepper’s Ghost (and other Banjo Visitations)," is nominated for two Jammie Awards, and Mabus will perform at the Jammies in support of the album.

“I’m a little dubious of honorifics in general,” says Mabus. “But there’s nothing wrong with promoting the local music scene by shining a light. I just turned 60, so in some ways this is a ‘survivalist award.’”

Mabus began his career while a student at Michigan State. He has been performing in Michigan for 43 years and touring nationally for 25 years. He started his own record label, Fossil Records, in 1986, through which he has released 21 recordings, and he has taught at music camps for over 20 years. Mabus has also appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs including Prairie Home Companion and Our Front Porch and has played at over 20 folk festivals including Wheatland Music Festival and The Great Lakes Folk Festival.

According to WYCE’s website, Legacy Awards “recognize individuals who have made a positive impact on West Michigan’s music community.” WYCE Program Director Matt Jarrells describes Mabus as a “musical ambassador.”

“[Mabus] was nominated by our programmer body [for the Legacy Award], and his work speaks for itself,” says Jarrells. “He’s universally recognized as a master of several banjo and guitar styles, he’s a wonderful storyteller both in song and anecdote and I can’t think of anyone who better embodies the independent spirit. The timing [for the nomination] was right because of his great new Jammie-nominated album.”

Mabus will perform alongside more than 20 other Jammie nominated, genre-diverse area artists at the awards show, including folk band The Wallace Collective, punk band The Bangups and blues group Root Doctor. Mabus says he can see the older musical traditions alive in what new bands are creating.

“I liken [the evolution of music] to a river,” Mabus says. “If you have a river that runs through your town you can say, ‘That river’s been there since the pioneers came.’ But the water in the river just came down this morning and the banks and the bridges are a little different. It’s really a new river every time you look at it. Music is much the same way.”

Mabus says that while he appreciates being honored by WYCE, there’s more to a musical legacy than awards.

“It’s nice to see a young singer or band do one of my songs and say, ‘I’m doing this song because I saw you get up and do it,’” Mabus says. “And I can say to people like Pete Seeger and Utah Phillips, ‘I get up on stage because I saw you do it.’ That I’m able to do that after 40 years becomes a legacy. You don’t have to be pretty or handsome to express yourself. You don’t have to be a virtuoso to sing the song. It takes a certain humanity and grit to get on stage and play for people. That’s the legacy.”

This year WYCE also gave posthumous 2014 Legacy Awards to former Earthwork Music collaborator and songwriter Patrick Carroll and former Orbit Room owner Don Dorshimer.

The Jammies are presented by Bell’s Brewery and are hosted by The Intersection. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free, and all ages are invited.

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