Karen Celia Heil
Together, Karen and Maxine, with Thomas Angell, as Plaid Strangers create music that is more than the sum of its parts. Steeped in the mysteries and creativity of the old-time genre, their music is of the past yet of the moment, driving and delicate, accurate plus out of control, serious but salty. They play an arresting assortment of tunes and songs that will have you entranced and inspired.
Karen (fiddle, guitar, vocals) is an intense and soulful fiddler, who is also known for her powerful guitar playing and singing in the Bucking Mules. More than a decade ago, Karen began making pilgrimages to southern fiddlers’ conventions and visiting the region's master musicians, thus firing up her passion for old-time fiddle music. With her work both in the West and Southern U.S., she has been privileged to play onstage and play dances with many of these tradition bearers. In addition to this and her work in the Bucking Mules, Karen performs in the Bay Area, hosts a monthly square dance, and has a thriving teaching practice. She has been on the staff of some of the best traditional music camps around the U.S. and internationally, teaching both guitar and fiddle. Karen also serves on the board of the California Bluegrass Association as a voice for Old Time music.
Maxine (banjo, guitar, vocals) has been a top tier favorite banjo player and taste maker for decades, and musical nucleus at the yearly Appalachian String Band Festival in West Virginia. With her banjo/fiddle obsession, and knowledge amassed from visits in her youth to the older generation of master players, she has nurtured several generations of up-and-coming musicians. Her distinctive, rhythmic and supportive banjo style brings out the best in whomever she accompanies. In Plaid Strangers, Max accidentally finds herself performing after teaming up with Karen to win both the fiddle and banjo contests at the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers’ Festival (2017).
Thomas Angell (fiddle, guitar) felt called to play Old Time fiddle when nothing else made sense. He's known for his hard driving style, as well as seeking out more elusive and wistful tunes. Besides teaching workshops and playing festivals on the West Coast, he's a founding member of the lively Hook N Line String Band in the Gold Country where he resides. Having learned from many of the great Bay Area musicians, Thomas is honored to play with two of the very best.