Joe’s been playing in bands for nearly 50 years, since the age of 12, and has played all across the U.S., as well as in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Great Britain, and Venezuela. Joe’s music over the years has spanned genres from rock’n roll to bluegrass, folk to jazz, country to Motown, and more. From his early days growing up along the banks of the great Lake Erie, and working in an aluminum mill in Central Pennsylvania and on heavy and highway construction, Joe developed a keen interest in Rock & Roll and the Folk and Country sounds of working class music, protest music, and environmentally-themed songs and has become a well-known performer of songs of work, hope, freedom, and environmental action and labor rights.
Joe has performed with Pete Seeger, Lester Chambers of The Chambers Brothers, Dave Alvin, Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Boots Riley, Jill Sobule, Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, Emma’s Revolution, John Kadlecik, Billy Bragg, John McCutcheon, Si Kahn, and with the punk band, the Dropkick Murphys. Joe has also performed at all of Washington, DC’s finest venues, including the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, The Birchmere, Strathmore Music Hall, IOTA Club, Jammin’ Java, the Hamilton, Howard Theater, the Black Cat, and more. Joe has also played NYC’s Knitting Factory, Starlight Ballroom, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Bally’s in Las Vegas, among other fine venues.
Joe is the founding President of the Labor Heritage Foundation, a labor arts organization, and founder of the new arts and activism project, the CultureWorks Collective. Joe is also a founder of Voices for a Sustainable Future and the Labor Network for Sustainability. Joe has lived his life at the confluence of art and activism.
Avril Smith is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist and vocalist. She started playing guitar at a young age winning local contests in her teens and recording her first album in 2003. She is widely recognized as an accomplished electric and acoustic guitarist and mandolin player.
She has appeared on numerous recordings by D.C. and N.Y.-based artists. Her innovative style and rhythmic drive shines through a spectrum of Americana, folk, roots, bluegrass, traditional and progressive acoustic music. She was invited to join The U-Liners in 2002.
The Washingon Post called Avril’s “hot country licks” a highlight of tribute to Woddy Guthrie. She played with Pete Seeger in 2006. Avril won the Wammie–the Washington Area Music Association’s top honors–for best contemporary folk instrumentalist in 2008 and 2004.
Avril has performed at top venues from the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage (Washington D.C.) and the Birchmere (Alexandria, VA); to the Knitting Factory (New York, NY); Freight & Salvage (Berkely, CA); Rock-n-Roll hall of fame (Cleveland, Ohio), and many more. She plays in a Collings OM-2H acoustic guitar, Paul Reed Smith custom electric guitar and Lawrence Smart F-Style mandolin.
Orginally from New York, she has lived in the Washington, D.C. since 1999 and has worked in the labor movement since 1996.
Although she began formal musical training on the piano at age 5, Jess Lake will tell you she’s been a singer since birth. Since honing her unique, dynamic sound (at-times powerful, at-times sultry, but always soulful) through consistent years of high school and college choral and a cappella experience, Jess’ performances over the past decade span many genres including pop, funk, jazz, American roots rock, and R&B. She currently performs regularly at DMV-area venues with the DC Mystery Cats, Better Off Dead, and the U-Liners.
Inspired by boyhood summers spent in the tobacco fields of eastern North Carolina, Tom has carried the traditional music torch for over 35 years, melding it with jazz, classical and avant-garde influences for a distinctive style all his own. Cited by The Washington Post as a “superb technical player who rise[s] to the standards established by David Grisman,” Tom’s virtuosic work on mandolin, mandola, guitar and other instruments appears on over 50 recordings, in addition to his own Feather River and Which Way Waltz (both with Lorraine Duisit). He has played with Bruce Hornsby and with the Richmond, VA Symphony Orchestra, and toured the East coast with the New Morning String Band and the Nothin’ Doin’ Band. Paying tribute to what he calls “the living tradition,” Tom is also a prolific composer and sought-after producer. His compositions have been featured on NPR and National Geographic programs, among others, as well as on many albums. As a guitar and mandolin teacher, Tom passes his passion for and knowledge of traditional music to a new generation of players. http://tomespinola.com
Larry Ferguson earned a BME in percussion from Western Kentucky University (99), and a M.M. in percussion performance from the University of Michigan (01). Larry is an active freelancer and enjoys playing in a wide variety of musical situations. He has done everything from orchestral playing in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Northern Virginia to jazz, to contemporary music, to the U-Liners. Larry is a Kentucky native and currently lives in Alexandria with his wife, Carrie, and their two rescue dogs, Buster and Sadie.
Barry can be found playing bass in the Cravin’ Dogs, the Billy Coulter Band, and the U-Liners. Barry has also played bass on studio recording with Venus Rising, the Oxymorons, the Cravin’ Dogs, Billy Coulter, David A. Alberding, Ann Blair, and Jay Britton. It was through Venus Rising that Barry ended up in The Situation, a duet with guitarist/vocalist Sharon Gruber, and later with former Riser Nancy Dougherty, whose first solo record included two of Barry’s songs. Barry is also an accomplished computer programmer, and father.
Eli Gonzalez is a native of Rio Grande City, TX. He attended Baylor University where he received a Bachelor of Music in 2001. Upon graduation, Mr. Gonzalez won a position with the United States Army Band, “Pershing’s Own”, the Army’s premier musical organization. After moving to Washington, DC to join the Army band, he quickly began a busy schedule as a free lance saxophonist, performing regularly with several notable local bands. When not playing music, Eli enjoys outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, and hiking.
Mindy McWilliams performed and recorded with The U-Liners for ten years. She has now decided to focus on her family and profession and step away from being in a working band. We wish her the best.
A Chicago native, Mindy started playing the violin at age six. At Oberlin College she branched out from classical violin into jazz, resulting after college in the formation of a small jazz combo in Boston with other Oberlin graduates. In 1999, Mindy moved to DC for graduate school and discovered her love of bluegrass fiddle. She currently plays in a bluegrass rock band called Nog and is a founding member of TakomaZone, a musicians collective based in Takoma Park, MD.