Craig Edwards plays a broad range of American roots music: traditional fiddle styles including Appalachian old-time, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, Cape Breton, Irish, and Swing, old-time 5 string banjo, flatpicking and fingerstyle guitar covering Delta and Piedmont blues, honky-tonk, rockabilly, and swing, Cajun and Zydeco accordion, and solo and group singing. Alone or with other musicians, he plays with the drive and conviction that characterize these musical traditions.
Craig first began playing music as a child growing up in Staunton, Virginia. When no one was around he’d slip his father’s fiddle out of the closet and try to coax music out of it. Singing at civil rights events his parents brought him to helped him form an early understanding of the deep power of traditional music. Inspired by the fertile music scene in the Shenandoah Valley, he began playing music at age eight and picked up guitar, fiddle, banjo, and later button accordion and mandolin. Even in his teen rock’n’roll period he noticed that the musicians he most admired spoke of early blues and country players as inspirations.
In 1976 he attended the legendary Stompin’76 festival in Galax, Virginia, which featured many of the leading performers in what’s now called “roots music”- Doc Watson, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, David Bromberg, John Prine, John Hartford, and many others. He left knowing what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He began spending summers learning fiddling and banjo in West Virginia from honored old timers like Ernie Carpenter and Melvin Wine, and going from one fiddler’s convention to another, immersing himself in American roots music traditions.
Craig majored in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University. He studied West African drumming with Abraham Adzenyah, and traveled to Ireland, Louisiana and Nova Scotia to learn from old-timers there. His two-part thesis featured a written “Study of Four Musicians of Central West Virginia” based on his visits there, and a concert with both solo and group performances called “The Roots of Southern American String Band Music”.
After graduating, he formed a series of bands playing Old-time, Irish, Cajun, Zydeco, blues and other roots styles. He worked as a staff musician at Mystic Seaport for many years and served as director of the Mystic Seaport Sea Music Festival, incorporating maritime music from African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Native Alaskan, and many other cultures into the festival during his tenure there. Craig now performs solo and with several groups playing a variety of genres, teaches Traditional Fiddle Styles at Wesleyan University, and designs music installations for historic music exhibits at museums. He was named a Connecticut Master Teaching Artist by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and has won numerous fiddle and banjo contests. Craig now teaches at the United Theatre in Westerly, RI, a community non-profit cultural organization, and hosts the monthly Roots Music Stomp, bringing guests from a variety of genres for music and conversation on community, history, and the role of music in society.
Craig has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe at festivals, concerts, and other venues. He plays, records, and tours with several bands in addition to performing solo and teaching.