Robert Russell-Dan Johnson Live Music and Film

Robert Russell’s acoustic show is a chance to hear how blues sounded before it moved to Chicago.

7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2
Doors and Varsity Bar at 6:30  

Acoustic blues musician Robert Russell will take the stage at The Varsity on Feb. 2 for a unique show featuring music and clips from filmmaker Dan Johnson’s documentary on the artist.

Russell is a professional musician who has been on the road with Dennis Stroughmatt and Creole Stomp for more than 16 years. Creole Stomp is a nationally recognized Cajun and Zydeco band that plays major festivals and theaters across the country.

Russell fell in love with acoustic blues as a teenager, growing up in North Carolina, where he was exposed to the southeastern or "Piedmont" tradition of blues. This includes players such as Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell and Gary Davis. He also became enamored with Mississippi blues players such as Charlie Patton, Skip James, and Robert Johnson. His acoustic blues performances provide an opportunity to hear how blues sounded before it moved to Chicago. 

Johnson’s idea for a documentary began a few years ago when he and Russell were hanging at a bar in Chicago with a few friends. Johnson became intrigued with Russell’s stories about his adventures in the Mississippi Delta and descriptions of some of the characters Russell met along the way. Johnson suggested a short documentary film of Russell performing with an emphasis on his storytelling.

The show at The Varsity will combine live music with highlights from the documentary. Come for the music, the laughter and the insight into this unique musician.

Tickets are not available in advance at the venue. They will be available on the night of the show when doors and the Varsity Bar open at 6:30. 


‘Godfather of Americana’ Jason Ringenberg

Jason Ringenberg performs music from his new solo release, ‘Stand Tall" at The Varsity on March 9.

7 p.m. Saturday, March 9
$10 in advance / $15 at the door
Doors and Varsity Bar at 6:30 

Jason Ringenberg is returning to Carbondale and will be joined by local musicians featured on his new record at a concert at The Varsity on Saturday, March 9.

Ringenberg’s latest solo release, “Stand Tall” was recorded and co-produced by Mike Lescelius at Misunderstudios in Murphysboro and included local musicians Andrew Staff, Stace England, Robbie Stokes, Gary Gibula, Tom Miller, Adam Fletcher, Robert Bowlin, Beth Koehler, Kathy Livingston, Kyle Tripplett and Mike Kartje. Many of those musicians will be joining Ringenberg for the March concert.

“This show will be more than just a Jason Ringenberg concert,” the artist said. “It is celebrating the release of ‘Stand Tall,’ which was primarily recorded in Southern Illinois. Tom and Gary were in my first bands at SIU back in the ‘70s, so this is really a Southern Illinois project.”

Ringenberg, a northern Illinois native, moved to Nashville in 1981 to pursue his dream of “making a band that could kick American Roots music into the modern age.”

He formed Jason & The Scorchers and never looked back. Throughout the '80s and '90s, they tore up venues across the globe and became known as one of the most exciting live bands of their era. On classic LPs like “Fervor” and “Lost and Found,” they “single-handedly rewrote the history of rock ‘n roll in the South” (Rolling Stone.) Their instinctive ability to combine traditional country music with high-energy punk rock has not been surpassed to this day. In 2008, they were awarded the Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. 

In 1999, the “Godfather of Americana,” as Mojo magazine dubbed him, went solo. He has released five albums, with everyone from the BBC to USA Today lauding his songwriting. His high-octane, one-man show prompted The Times (UK) to call him “one of the most exciting performers of his generation.” In 2002, he created a children’s music character called Farmer Jason, winning numerous awards including an Emmy for his PBS video program, “It's a Farmer Jason.”

“Stand Tall” was conceived and penned in June 2017, while Ringenberg was commissioned as the artist in residence at Sequoia National Park in northern California. The National Park Service put him up in a remote mountain cabin for a month to write songs and do concerts there.

“I found that spending so much time alone in that primal wilderness did wonders for my songwriting,” Ringenberg said.

The result is a record filled with characters on a mission, from John the Baptist to John Muir to a disillusioned Confederate conscript. There is even a song about Ringenberg’s experiences opening for the Ramones across Texas in 1982. In addition to local musicians on the local recordings, Ringenberg enlisted the help of some of Nashville’s finest Americana musicians, such as Richard Bennett (producer of Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town”), Fats Kaplin (Jack White), Steve Fishell (Emmylou Harris's Hot Band) and Robert Bowlin (fiddle player for Bill Monroe.) The chemistry of those artists, combined with songs written in a place of profound natural beauty, yields one of the most authentic records of Ringenberg’s career. 

The performance is presented by Cousin Andy’s Coffeehouse and produced by Black Acre productions.

Tickets are not available at the venue until doors open on the night of the show, at 6 p.m.