Ruth Pelham & Kevin McKrell to Be Honored with Eddies’ Hall of Fame Awards
Singer-songwriter Kevin McKrell and Music Mobile founder Ruth Pelham have been announced as the first inductees to the Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards Hall of Fame. Both will be honored at the inaugural Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards at 6pm Sunday, April 14 at Proctors in Schenectady.
McKrell is recipient of the Eddies Artistic Lifetime Achievement Award; Pelham of the Eddies Lifetime Achievement Award for Music Education or Community Impact.
McKrell pioneered Celtic music in the Capital Region, beginning in 1979 with Donnybrook Fair, where he was joined by Jeff Strange and David McDonnell. The original trio’s 1982 album Tunnel Tigers remains a landmark of the form. Over the years, McKrell was also a founding member of such bands as the Fabulous Newports, Hard Times, the Hard Road Ceilidh Band, the Mountain Snow Orchestra, Tin Can Alley and others. In 1998, McKrell — who has three solo albums to his credit — formed The McKrells, merging the Irish sensibility of Donnybrook with a steely, world class bluegrass edge. The McKrells toured hard, bringing their music to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and festivals and concert venues around the country. The band, in its current incarnation, many members on, released its eighth album, My Big Old Broken Heart, in 2018.
He is best known for his indelible songs — classics like “Donegal,” “I Miss the Rain” and the eternal “All of the Hard Days Are Gone” — which have been sung and recorded by artists like the Kingston Trio, Bob Shane, North Sea Gas, the Furey Brothers, Seamus Kennedy and others.
“I’m uncomfortable to say the least,” McKrell says when asked to describe his response to learning of the award. “Being as cynical as I am, I will be pointing fingers and making fun of myself. It’s very cool. I’m proud of it. It just feels a little weird is all.”
Ruth Pelham is moved by joining the Hall of Fame.
“This is really touching,” she says. “It tickles me to the core. It’s a tremendous affirmation not only of my contribution to the arts and community building, but to the need for this kind of work and the power of its effectiveness to generate love.”
Hailed by the legendary Pete Seeger as “one of America’s great songwriters and an even better community organizer,” Pelham, with initial funding from the Albany City Arts Office, launched the Music Mobile on Memorial Day weekend in 1977, as a planned six-week summer program. Instead, the Music Mobile, a brightly-decorated van
visiting neighborhoods around the city, became her life’s focus, bringing the joys of music, music-making and, most importantly, a sense of belonging to tens of thousands of children over nearly 40 years.
Outside the Capital Region, Pelham brought the materials for making her famous jingle sticks to the greater world, with trips to the former Soviet Union, Sri Lanka and the Havasupai Tribe of the Grand Canyon.
On the streets today, adults with beaming smiles approach “the Music Mobile lady” and spontaneously start singing, from memory, “come along, sing a song, it’s the Music Mobile.” Pelham has touched so many lives with the power of song.
She is also an internationally recognized composer, with classics like “I Am a Woman,” “Turning of the World” and “The Activity Room” — all featured in the iconic “Rise Up Singing” songbook — being covered by Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, Guy Carawan, Bill Harley and others. Pelham’s original album releases include Collage, Under One Sky, Look to the People and Room for Us All.
“I don’t think of my work as music education,” she humbly says. “I think of it as community action and community impact, using music to teach all kinds of life lessons about getting along, about cooperation, about standing up for other people. My work has been to make music, and to have it be a gentle, but powerful force that fuels and holds and helps people be the very best that we can be.”
Tickets for the inaugural Capital Region Thomas Edison Music Awards at Proctors in Schenectady are on sale now, priced at $20 in advance; $25 at the door.