Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Singer and songwriter Barbara Kessler is a performer on the rise. While her light-hearted tune "Mary Tyler Moore" made her a regional favorite in New England, her more serious work has established her on a national level. A past winner of the Kerrville Folk Festival New Folks songwriter award in Texas, Kessler was named female acoustic artist of the year by the National Academy of Songwriters; her solo album Stranger to This Land, recorded during a March 1994 performance at the Kendall Cafe in Cambridge with guest appearances by Martin Sexton, Diane Ziegler, Cliff Eberhardt, Duke Levine and The Story, received a Boston Music award as Best Debut Acoustic Album of 1995. Kessler was introduced to an even wider audience with her performance on a compilation album, Groove Magazine, which was issued by Time Warner. The collection also featured songs by Linda Ronstadt, John Prine, Jeff Buckley and Matthew Sweet. Kessler's second album, Notion, was a studio effort produced by Jerry Marrotta, longtime drummer for Peter Gabriel's group. Except for a re-recording "The Date (Making Mountains Out of rhe Molehills)," which spotlights Kessler's solo playing, songs on the album featured a full band that includes King Crimson sideman Tony Levin on bass; Marc Shulman, who played with Suzanne Vega and currently plays with Patty Larkin, on guitar; Phil Antonaides and Marrotta on drums; and Duncan Watt and Harvey Jones on keyboards; Jennifer Kimball, formerly of The Story, contributed background vocal harmonies.
Kessler spent much of her adolescence listening to records in her room. "There were two sides of my persona," she said during a 1996 interview, "my cheerleader side and my sitting-in-my-room, listening-to-sensitive-songwriters-and-writing-poetry side." Although she played guitar in the fourth grade, Kessler temporarily gave up music while studying for a degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Kessler's career outlook changed after she heard Suzanne Vega's self-titled debut album. She wrote her first song after attending a concert by folk-blues performer Rory Block. Her album roster includes 1994's Stranger to This Land [live], 1996's Notion and 2000's self-titled release.