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Jiggernaut

Wolf Loescher (bouzouki, guitar, percussion, vocals) set out to create a Celtic supergroup. His goal was to enlist members who excelled in their particular specialties, whether they were already in an existing band or not. As of 2001, six other musicians have joined with him to create their special brand of Celtic rock, and Jiggernaut was formed. Loescher himself, with his combined German and American heritage, may seem a surprising person to become a Celtic performer, yet his early influences from the '60s folk revival included the first signs, as he listened to the Irish Rovers and the Clancy Brothers, as well as Peter, Paul, & Mary, the Kingston Trio, John Denver, and James Taylor. A key factor to developing his Celtic interests was when his family was relocated to East Kilbride, Scotland, for three years while he was a teenager. The positive experience there was Scottish folk music, with a highlight of hearing the Corries perform live. Returning to the U.S., Loescher attended college at the University of Texas in Austin, playing in marching bands, percussion ensembles, country, pop, and rock bands, while listening to Celtic performers like the Chieftains, Old Blind Dogs, Silly Wizard, and others. In 1991, his Celtic inclinations found an outlet when he joined Silver Thistle Pipes and Drums. Beginning on snare, he went on to try bagpiping also. Then in 1993, Loescher switched to congas, and formed the band Two O'Clock Courage, which was his first venture into lead singing and playing guitar. This was followed in 1997 by SixMileBridge, which integrated folk music with rock & roll. In 1998 he went solo for a time, recording the CD Holy Grail, then in 2000, evolved the concept for Jiggernaut and began recruiting members. He was impressed by Deanna Smith's voice, and invited her to join the developing group. Deanna Smith (vocals) has been hooked on performing since her first backyard show at age eight. She grew up in Milwaukee, WI, and says she got her voice, and love of music, from her parents. Early musical influences included the Everly Brothers, Dion and the Belmonts, the Kingston Trio, and the Beatles, plus big bands and Broadway show tunes. By sixth grade, Smith says she knew all the lyrics to West Side Story and Funny Girl. In high school, she considered herself "a music geek," singing in "any choir they would let me into," and researching songs. To this day she says she looks for great lyrics. "Nothing is more moving to me than a song that captures what I am feeling," says Smith, "or transports me back to a moment of joy or sorrow. That is what I aspire to as a songwriter." Participation in high-school youth group campfires helped her find her own personal singing voice, and brought in more musical influences: Bill Staines, James Taylor, Carole King, Joan Baez, and others. She also bought a used Ovation guitar, and went to an open-mike performance at a local Irish pub, which led to the forming of the group Free Whiski. This trio played at local pubs, fraternity parties, and was invited for repeat performances at Milwaukee's Irish Fest. Then one of the group was transferred out of state, so Smith went on to perform with the blues band Mystery Train in 1998.

Wanting to return to Celtic music, in 1998 Smith traveled to Scotland and Ireland, writing what she calls "my first real song" in Dublin. About that same time she met Wolf Loescher, when he was touring with SixMileBridge. She offered crash space for the band during Irish Fest, they became friends, and Loescher performed there with Free Whiski during the 1999 and 2000 festivals. Also in the summer of 2000, Smith recorded her first solo album, Bright Light, Dark Sky. After singing at Tampa Bay Highland Games, Smith performed with Loescher at the Austin Celtic Association. There, he asked her to join the then-unnamed band. Smith accepted, moving to Houston, TX, in January 2001, and participated in recording Jiggernaut's debut CD. Joining Loescher and Smith in the production are Matthew Williams, Rodger Harrison, Lars Sloan, Brendan O'Sullivan, and Richard Kean.

Matthew Williams (percussion, vocals) hails from circus people, longtime performers. He spent summer evenings with his parents, playing an old acoustic guitar. Williams went on to study composition at the University of North Texas, playing drums there in the "not-quite-legendary 8 O'Clock Lab Band." Williams played with a wide variety of artists throughout eastern Texas and Louisiana, trying out a broad spectrum of styles including blues, rock, jazz, dixieland, funk, zydeco, and klezmer. A fan of Texas singer/songwriters Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Townes Van Zandt, Williams was surprised to find a musical home in the Celtic genre. He was especially drawn to the "stories behind the songs, and the polyrhythmic possibilities found in jigs and reels." He went on to join the Blarney Brothers in the early '90s, and continues to record and tour with them extensively, as well as performing in Jiggernaut.

Rodger Harrison (bass, vocals) is also a member of both Blarney Brothers and Jiggernaut, and says: "I live to play music. That's all I ever wanted to do." He began performing in high school as the bass player for a classic rock band, which is where he and Williams met. During college, he had "several disturbing years playing some of the seedier honky-tonks of North Texas," which left him determined to find a real band again. Then he discovered how much he enjoyed playing Celtic music. "Something clicked." Lars Sloan (pipes, whistles, didgeridoo) has been playing the bagpipes since he was seven years old, and began winning competitions at nine. By age 18, he had advanced through the ranks of competition to the open class. He has won over 40 trophies and two hundred medals, competing in the U.S., Canada, and Scotland. Sloan is internationally reputed as a piper, having played for mayors, governors, and two presidents. He played for Lady Bird Johnson at her daughter's wedding, and has made music with Clint Eastwood, Jane Seymour, and Kevin Costner. He opened the Hamilton School of Piping in Houston, TX, in 1983. He also is a member and a music composer for the Rogues, another Texas-based Celtic band. Born in Ireland, Brendan O'Sullivan (keyboards, accordion) arrived in the U.S. at age five, and grew up there. Early influences were both Irish reels and American rock & roll. He first began playing piano for family singalongs, then added accordion. After playing in assorted ceilidh bands along the East Coast, he and piper Neil Anderson formed the group Full Circle. Two albums and two years of touring later, O'Sullivan started looking for a new musical direction, and found it in Jiggernaut. The most recent addition to the band, Richard Kean, (Highland pipes, whistle) is a native of Ottawa, who spent three years apprenticing with a master bagpipe maker in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before Jiggernaut, Kean was a member of the world champion Hamilton Pipe Band, as well as Poor Man's Fortune, and the Loch Dhu Dancers. ~ Murrday Fisher, Rovi
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