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Shawn Craver is sometimes a singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, but always a performer. For decades he's been gigging–playing a show somewhere with some of the best musicians who can hang with genre-bending that ranges from Appalachia to post-punk. All of this somehow paints a picture of an overcast rocky landscape meeting the rushing rivers of his native Appalachian Mountains. Craver grew up in what he calls the "panhandles" of West Virginia and Maryland where the Potomac rushes from the high Allegheny Front. "The towns are coal and timber towns with names like Oakland, Kingwood, and Elk Garden," he says. "My family has deep roots there and music was all around, but I knew I had to leave." 

After high-school Shawn went west to the Dakotas, California, and New Mexico with a guitar and no real plan. He ended up in random situations "like Forest Gump," he says. The early 90s saw Shawn busking in Santa Fe and swapping songs at San Francisco's Owl and Monkey Cafe with Jeff Pehrson who went on to play with members of the Grateful Dead in Furthur. "The San Francisco scene was supportive and friendly to a kid who wrote mediocre songs." Shawn's music was a soup of gospel, Bob Dylan, and The Cure. Ironically, the city lead him to his roots. "Dead-heads wanted to hear the old mountain songs. I'd never met people who thought those songs were cool. Most of my friends my age were into hair-band guitar."  

 

 

After California, Shawn turned up in Branson, Missouri crafting songs with pro songwriters at clubs around town and going to six consecutive Merle Haggard shows. "Haggard was a magician. Country, jazz, and pop crafted together on stage in real time." But Shawn soon went back to the mountains and  hung around the old fiddlers as much as possible. He ended up winning some contests and honing his picking with family and friends. Moving west again in the mid 90s Shawn's bands shared shows with bluegrass legends like Chris Thile, Special Concensus, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band.  At the same time Shawn was discovering that the older songs he learned from his grandmother like Barbara Allan, Jay Bird, and Sourwood Mountain spoke to him, "deep in my bones..." In the 2000s Shawn was in the northern Shenandoah Valley playing solo sets at cultural events where his folk songs "fit in," he says. 


 
"Back then bluegrass had a lot of rules and expectations and I was always moving in a different direction with arrangements and presentation. I hear the world in the old songs. Europe. Hindu mantras." When Shawn's grandmother died in 2005 he threw himself deeper into the "ancient sounding Appalachian music." Shawn explains, "I was wandering into the future with a fresh look at my music that tied into my study of martial arts and mysticism." 

When Shawn landed in Wichita, Kansas in 2008 he started a band "named for a song I wrote called Raging Sea." Traditional, but crafted for a contemporary world, it begins with the familiar lyric, "If I had the speed of an arrow," but crashes into another realm with, "Your eyes flee away like a wild deer. You guard your heart like a lion. My words slip away in a  cold wind. Is this the raging sea I find?" Chuck Dicken of Frostburg State University once described Shawn's music as "a perfect example of where the Celtic musical heritage of Western Maryland came from, where it's been, and where its going..." And after all of these years, Shawn Craver is still going somewhere.

"I don't label my music now," says Shawn. "When people come to my shows I hear all sorts of genres used to describe it and that's fine with me." 

 

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