A Grammy-winning guitarist, singer and songwriter is bringing his unique brand of folk music to Woodstock.

Off Square Music will present Mike Dowling in concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Unity Spiritual Center, 225 Calhoun St.

Dowling’s musical resumé reads like a who’s who of Americana music, playing with artists such as Vassar Clement on “Nashville Jam,” Joe Venuti and Jethro Burns in Chicago, and George Barnes in California. For 20 years he performed with various ensembles and bands from Chicago to Nashville, playing sessions, fronting his own band and writing songs for artists including Del McCoury, Kathy Mattea and Emmylou Harris. In 1995, he launched a solo performance career.

“I had the benefit of playing in a lot of different bands, but now as a solo performer, I’m concentrating on material for my concerts,” said Dowling.

He’s been a featured guest on public radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” as well as a substitute guitarist in that show’s Guys All-Star Shoe Band. In 2005, he was one of 12 of the country’s top fingerstyle guitarists who won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album for their solo arrangements of Henry Mancini compositions on a CD called “Pink Guitar.”

About a third of the material Dowling now performs he’s written, but he also enjoys playing familiar tunes. His arrangements are for solo guitar, using what he calls quirky tuning.

“I take pride in taking an old tune and rearranging it, putting my spin on it,” he said.

Drawing from a deep musical bag of American roots – ranging from the melodic Piedmont style of acoustic blues to ragtime to vintage jazz – Dowling enjoys putting a little of himself into each arrangement.

“It’s the folk process,” he said. “You have to be mindful of the integrity of the original song.”

This is Dowling’s third visit to Woodstock. His connection to the town is a former student, Kent Fishburn of Off Square Music. His first visit was for in an intimate house concert and about five years ago he performed at the Unity Spiritual Center.

When he comes to Woodstock, he’ll play selections on three different guitars: a resonator, a National Steel and a bottleneck.

“I play a lot in open tunings,” Dowling said, adding that these are a good way to play the blues. “It allows you to do more fingerpicking.”

Born in Racine, Wis., Dowling grew up in Stevens Point. In his early career, he moved from there to Milwaukee and finally to Wyoming.

“My travels take me west these days,” Dowling said. He recently attended the National Association of Music Merchants show in Anaheim, Calif., where he demonstrated guitars for National Guitars.

About 20 years ago, the Midwesterner took a leap of faith and moved to Wyoming. He and his wife bought a cabin overlooking the picturesque Wind River. After some renovation work, they opened Wind River Guitar, where they offer intensive personal master guitar instruction, eight to 10 times per year.

“It’s really beautiful here,” Dowling said, adding that it’s also nice to get out and connect with people.

Referring to the beautiful backdrop for his home and lesson program, Dowling said, “I don’t have the blues, although I still play them sometimes.”

Tickets are $15 at the door. Tickets can be reserved by emailing offsquare@gmail.com. Reservations are optional.


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