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Concerts July 23 & 25: Al Green & Mary Chapin Carpenter

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Al Green w/ the Hazel Miller Band
Monday, July 23, 7 p.m. at York Street
Sold Out!

Mary Chapin Carpenter w/ Tift Merritt
Wednesday, July 25, 7 p.m. at York Street
Tickets still available!

Which artist started playing on her mom’s bass ukulele and then graduated to her gut-strings guitar? Which artist is also an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle? Which artist decided in her twenties that she was better suited for writing short stories instead of singing and playing a guitar? Which artist now resides in Denver instead of Los Angeles because of a broken-down rental truck? Find out who they are, and much more about these artists, by reading these great pre-concert reviews by Gardens' member Rick Hum.

Al Green was born as Albert Greene on April 13, 1946 in Forrest City, Arkansas. He was the sixth of ten children born to Robert and Cora Greene. The son of a sharecropper, he started performing at age ten in a Forrest City quartet called the Greene Brothers; he dropped the final "E" from his last name years later as a solo artist. They toured extensively in the mid-1950s in the South until the Greenes moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when they began to tour around Michigan. His father kicked him out of the group because he caught Green listening to Jackie Wilson.

He first started recording with a group called Al Greene & the Soul Mates in 1967. On October 18, 1974, Mary Woodson White, a girlfriend of Green's, assaulted him before committing suicide at his Memphis home. Although she was already married, White reportedly became upset when Green refused to marry her. At some point during the evening, White doused Green with a pan of boiling grits while he was showering, causing burns on Green's back, stomach and arms. Then she went and found his .38 and killed herself. Green has cited the incident as a wake-up call to change his live. He became an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976 and continues to serve in this capacity.

After spending several years exclusively performing gospel, Green began to return to R&B (Rhythm & Blues). First, he released a duet with Annie Lennox, then in 1989 he did some recordings with Arthur Baker. In the past 45 years Green has released 29 albums. He has received 11 Grammy awards (8 for gospel). He has been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone listed Al Green as #14 in their top 100 Singers of All Time. He last performed at Denver Botanic Gardens on August 31, 2008 with Otis Taylor.

Hazel Miller was born in Louisville, Kentucky and started performing there in the late 1970s. Hazel Miller was greatly influenced by Nancy Wilson and especially Aretha Franklin. In 1984, she attempted to relocate with her two children to Los Angeles to further her musical career. But her rental truck broke down in Denver, Colorado, where she stayed. Hooking up with Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Hazel Miller became a regular part of the band's lineup and toured throughout the world. Ms. Miller appeared in "The Vagina Monologues" in Boulder and Denver, receiving an award for "Best Local Star in a Theatrical Production." She is also a regular performer on the ETown Radio Show on NPR.

The Hazel Miller Band was recognized by Westword Reader’s Poll as the Best Blues/R&B band in 1995, 1996 and 1997. The band members currently include Rich Lamb (bass), Dana Marsh (piano), Brian Mikulich (drums) and Brian Monroney (guitar). They last played at Denver Botanic Gardens as part of the inaugural celebration for Mayor Michael Hancock in July 2011.

Mary Chapin Carpenter was born February 21, 1958 in Princeton, New Jersey, to Chapin Carpenter Jr., a Life Magazine executive, and Mary Bowie Robertson. Carpenter described her childhood as "pretty typical suburban," with her musical interests defined chiefly by her sisters' albums of artists such as The Mamas & the Papas, the Beatles, and Judy Collins. The Carpenters lived in Japan from 1969 to 1971 before moving to Washington, D.C. She started playing on her mom’s bass ukulele and then graduated to her gut-strings guitar. When Carpenter was 16 her parents divorced, an event that affected Carpenter--she wrote about in her song "House of Cards."

Carpenter graduated from Brown University in 1981 with a degree in American Civilization. She played some summer sets in Washington's music scene, where she met guitarist John Jennings, who encouraged her to perform more of her origninal songs. When she signed to a record contract with Columbia, they started to promote her as a "country" artist which brought her a wider audience. For a long time, Carpenter was ambivalent about this pigeonholing, saying she preferred the term "singer-songwriter" or "slash rocker" (as in country/folk/rock).

Over the past three decades Mary Chapin has released 16 albums. She has received 5 Grammy Awards and 3 Country Music Association Awards. She was honored with The Americana Association’s esteemed Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music award. On June 30, 2012 she was nominated for induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Carpenter has struggled with periods of depression since childhood. Starting in the Spring of 2007, she suffered a life-threatening pulmonary embolism, her marriage ended in divorce, and then her father died after a lingering illness. From all this came her latest album Ashes and Roses. When asked about the album, she said, "Songwriting is what I do. This is how I make sense of things, it’s how I seek connection and make my way through the world."

Mary Chapin Carpenter last played at Denver Botanic Gardens on July 28, 2010 with Dar Williams. Before embarking on her current North American solo tour, she toured with her old friend Shawn Colvin. One of the concerts on the tour with Colvin was at Colorado Academy on May 6, 2012.

Catherine Tift Merritt was born January 8, 1975 in Houston but her family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina soon after. Her father taught her guitar chords and how to sing harmony. In her early twenties Merritt decided she was better suited for writing short stories. She enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study creative writing. There she met Zeke Hutchins, whose band had just taken a hiatus. Merritt began her professional career with her band, The Carbines, playing small clubs in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Over the past ten years Merritt has released 7 albums. Her second album, Tambourine, was nominated for a Grammy as Country Album of the Year in 2004.

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