From City Pages
The name Mother Banjo conjures up an image of a woman passing along wisdom and stories via her music, mainly her banjo, and Minneapolis artist Ellen Stanley does just that. Along with her band, Stanley has created a new album prime for listening. The Devil Hasn't Won owns its string-led riffs that entwine themselves throughout the album that is creative, stripped-back, and shuffled together.
She has a spare voice that paints great vistas between the notes. Her music is honest, not trying to convince you of anything, sell you on a story or impress you. She simply gives you the space you need for reverie. This is music for looking off into the far distance, and I hope it affects you like it affects me.
By day, she's a publicist for St. Paul's Red House Records, but by night, Ellen Stanley performs as the one-woman folk band Mother Banjo.
The point of [Swing Low], unexpectedly, is Stanley's voice, a strong confident instrument, not afraid to stretch, to break, to open most of the way up, to reveal. I tend not to do well with sensitive folk-style singers, but she has moxie, this one. And poise at the microphone.
There’s something about that voice. At the Winter Bluegrass Weekend this year I was walking down the hallway toward the Europa Room Saturday afternoon. I heard this woman singing from the stage and flat-out stopped in my tracks. “Who the heck is that?” I asked myself — the answer is Mother Banjo.
When she's not busy plugging away for Storyhill, Greg Brown et al at her day job as director of publicity for Red House Records in St. Paul, Ellen Stanley is busy plucking away on her banjo and writing songs under her musical pseudonym Mother Banjo.
From City Pages
The new [album] from Mother Banjo...is a tasty excursion into rootsy gospel called The Devil Hasn't Won. Offering an array of philosophical originals, nuggets from Dave Carter and Eric Peltoniemi, plus standards "Wade in the Water" and "Go Tell It on the Mountain," Devil thrives on the spare eloquence of Stanley's open, slyly nuanced voice, which bends and creaks with emotion as it flirts with a gospel chorus and finely wrought, earthy arrangements.
Despite the stereotypes associated with this unique string instrument, the Minneapolis musician loves its haunting, percussive sound.
"The Sad and Found" is a stripped-down, highly atmospheric collection of Americana performed largely by Mother Banjo herself.
The Sad and Found is MoJo, a.k.a. Ellen Stanley, in about the finest form imaginable.
If all you knew of Ellen Stanley was her music, you’d swear she was the saddest little banjo player in the whole wide world — but you’d be wrong, way wrong.