It's a small, stripped-down EP, but Songs from the Stratton Sessions encapsulates just about everything Jon Rauhouse stands for musically.
And oddly enough, there isn't one lick of steel guitar, the instrument he's made his name with. There's the joy and spontaneity of creating: Rather than stick to the few unrecorded songs he'd intended to play, Rauhouse added another song he and Megyn Neff of Dry River Yacht Club had written. There's the fortuitous collaboration: Neff played violin on the EP just because she happened to be visiting. There's the sense of sharing, both music and good fortune: Half the proceeds from the EP go to providing free Suzuki violin lessons and half go to child abuse prevention.
"The first thing I started playing was a banjo. I started learning with some boys in Tempe back in 1977," he says. "It was so much fun that we would just get together and get a case of beer and sit down, and even if we knew just three songs at the start, we'd play them over and over and over, and it was a complete blast. It's always been something that was a positive camaraderie thing."
Camaraderie is right. The Stratton Sessions release comes in the midst several projects for Rauhouse: recording for Neko Case's next album, working on songs with Visqueen's Rachel Flotard, and recording his next "solo" album, which will feature Case, Flotard, Calexico, Kevin O'Donnel, Tommy Connell, Billy Bob Thornton, Steve Berlin, and Sergio Mendoza.
"My records are like giant collaborations," Rauhouse says. "I get Joey [Burns] and John [Convertino] from Calexico a lot to play the rhythm section for me, and they love it because it's not the usual things they get to do. One of the best things about music is it gets to brings people together." -- Eric Swedlund