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BIG Business News in Bluegrass- Compass Buys Red House

Donald Teplyske  |  November 7, 2017

I don't normally post news releases here, but I hope you will find the following of interest. Compass Records, a label with significant bluegrass roots and an ongoing and active presence in the industry, has acquired well-established 'folk' label Red House Records. This is fairly large news, me thinks: it points to the ongoing health of Compass Records, a label that continues to produce several bluegrass (and bluegrass-ish) albums annually (while also releasing broader Americana and such titles), and to the vibrancy of roots music as a business. Here is the release:

NASHVILLE, TN, November 7, 2017 - Compass Records Group has announced the addition of Red House Records to its label family.  

The 34-year-old St Paul, MN based imprint is an iconic brand in Americana and folk music and has been home to a long list of cornerstone artists of the genre, including The Wailin' Jennys, John Gorka, The Cactus Blossoms, Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams, Eliza Gilkyson, Lucy Kaplansky, Robin and Linda Williams, and Greg Brown, the legendary Iowa-based singer/songwriter whose debut album launched the label. 

Officially established in 1983 by Bob Feldman after meeting singer/songwriter Greg Brown, Red House went on to become one of the most iconic labels on the folk and Americana scene.  Under Feldman's guidance, up to his untimely death in 2006, Red House received indie music awards, numerous GRAMMY nominations and a GRAMMY award for Ramblin' Jack Elliot's album, South Coast, in 1995.  Feldman himself became widely recognized as a leading advocate for roots music and a leader in the independent label community.  

Compass co-founders Alison Brown and Garry West are long admirers of Red House and fans of its artist roster.  They first met Feldman at a conference in 1995 in the early days of their label.  Both were struck by his transparency and willingness to share his inside knowledge of the business, and over the next ten years their mentoring relationship evolved into a mutual friendship, with Feldman and West often serving as an advisor and sounding board for each other.

West said: "When we first launched Compass we were really learning the business from the ground up.  Of all the people from whom we would seek advice, Bob was always the most straightforward and would tell it like it was.  His support was immeasurable and we were extremely grateful for his willingness to take us under his wing.  I have to admit it gave me a great feeling of accomplishment when, over time, Bob started calling me to compare notes."

Adds Brown, "It is incredibly meaningful to us to be able to carry Red House's legacy into the future. We are really excited to work with such a fine roster of artists and are committed to keeping Red House's brand of folk and Americana music alive."

"It's a great accomplishment and I couldn't be prouder or more grateful," says Red House owner Beth Friend, who has kept Red House going since Feldman's death. "We have believed in and worked hard for every artist on the label and it's been our privilege to - as Bob used to say as he'd leave for work in the morning - "bring music to the people".  This was a very personal and very difficult decision for me to make," she says. "It's simply time for me to bring this chapter of my life to a close and move on. Compass founders Garry West and Alison Brown were friends of Bob's and have often commented on how his mentorship helped them in the early days of launching their own label.  I know they will bring a level of care to the Red House imprint that I don't believe I could have found in another buyer.

2017 has been a busy year for Red House, with releases from Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams and Minnesota songwriter Charlie Parr.  Most recently, Red House released the long-awaited follow-up album, Fifteen, from contemporary folk darlings The Wailin' Jennys.  The new project, which streeted on October 27, was the # 2 album on iTunes' Singer/Songwriter chart and # 31 on the iTunes album chart in its first week. First quarter 2018 will include a new studio release from critically acclaimed singer/songwriter John Gorka among others.

Compass Records was founded in 1994 by Grammy-winning musician Alison Brown and bassist/producer Garry West.  The label group, which boasts multiple GRAMMY, Indie and IBMA awards, has over 600 titles in its catalog from a diverse artist roster including Colin Hay, The Infamous Stringdusters, Shannon McNally, Mike Farris, bluegrass luminaries Bobby Osborne and Claire Lynch and label co-founder Alison Brown, and is also home to two seminal Irish catalogs, Green Linnet and Mulligan Records, both acquired in the mid-2000s. Compass' latest signings include NYC indie darling Elizabeth Ziman (Elizabeth and the Catapult) and rising bluegrass/Americana star Molly Tuttle.

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