This week: our guest host Chris Thile is braving the cold wind and snow of Saint Paul for his first of two turns at the helm from our home base, the Fitzgerald Theater. It's a show chock full of writing talent, from pop songsmith and pianist Ben Folds, folk-rock troubadour Brandi Carlile, to comedian and actor Ed Helms. Plus: Sarah Jarosz sings a little bluegrass and plays her impressive array of stringed instruments, the host and his fellow Punch Brothers provide string quintet fireworks equally at home in Rosine (Kentucky) and Paris (France); and, holding things all together, our Royal Academy of Radio Actors, Tim Russell, Sue Scott, and Fred Newman, and our music director at the big Steinway, Richard Dworsky. Catch us on your local public radio station or watch all the action live (Saturday, 5pm - 7pm CT) online at!
  • Chris Thile

    Chris Thile made his first appearance on A Prairie Home Companion in 1996. He was 15 and had already been playing mandolin for a decade. He'd also started Nickel Creek with Sara and Sean Watkins, and released his first solo recording, 1994's Leading Off. This Grammy winner now collaborates with many musicians in myriad styles and leads acoustic quintet Punch Brothers. Thile's solo albums include Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 (Nonesuch).
  • Ben Folds

    Singer-songwriter-producer Ben Folds first found mainstream success as the leader of the critically acclaimed Ben Folds Five. The versatile pianist has gone on to have a highly successful solo career - live and studio albums, music for film and TV, and numerous collaborations with artists from Sara Bareilles to William Shatner. For his latest recording, So There (New West Records), he teamed up with the inventive chamber ensemble yMusic.
  • Brandi Carlile

    In her teens, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile sang backup for an Elvis impersonator, but when she got her first guitar - a broken and abandoned Harmony Sovereign - she was soon playing coffeehouses, parties, and restaurants in the Seattle area. Since she released her first album more than a decade ago, her fan base has mushroomed. Her latest recording is The Firewatcher's Daughter (ATO Records). Brandi is joined by Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth.
  • Ed Helms

    Atlanta-born, L.A.-based Ed Helms is an actor, comedian, writer, producer, musician, and then some. Not only is he known for his hilarious work on The Daily Show, his role as Andy Bernard on The Office, films like the Hangover trilogy, Vacation, and Love the Coopers, he is also one-third of The Lonesome Trio, a bluegrass band that had its beginnings decades ago when Ed was a student at Oberlin College. The trio's self-titled debut album was released last summer on the Sugar Hill label.
  • Sarah Jarosz

    Sarah Jarosz is a gifted multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, octave mandolin, guitar, banjo), an expressive vocalist, and an accomplished songwriter. Still in her 20s, this New England Conservatory of Music grad has already carved out a solid niche where contemporary folk, Americana, and roots music intersect. She has been nominated for multiple Grammys, including two for her album Build Me Up From Bones. A new recording - Undercurrent - was recently released on Sugar Hill Records
  • Punch Brothers

    It's hard to put a label on Punch Brothers. These five virtuosic musicians have been pushing boundaries as performers, recording artists, composers, interpreters, technicians, and stylists, since they first came together in 2006. That's when they made the album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which earned them a Grammy nomination. Suffice it to say, Chris Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Thile (mandolin), and Gabe Witcher (fiddle) are stirring things up with their extraordinary sound. Their new album is The Phosphorescent Blues (Nonesuch).
  • Richard Dworsky

    Keyboardist, composer, and arranger Richard Dworsky is APHC's music director. He leads the band, composes themes, improvises script underscores, and collaborates with such diverse guests as Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, Brad Paisley, Kristin Chenoweth, and Sheryl Crow. He has provided music for documentaries on HBO and PBS, and has released many recordings of original material, including his latest, All In Due Time.
  • Tim Russell

    One minute he's mild-mannered Tim Russell; the next he's George Bush or Julia Child or Barack Obama. We've yet to stump this man of many voices. Says fellow APHC actor Sue Scott, "He does a better Ira Glass than Ira Glass." A well-known Twin Cities radio personality and voice actor, Tim appeared in the Robert Altman film A Prairie Home Companion and the Coen brothers' A Serious Man. Tim has also been reviewing films professionally for over 10 years.
  • Sue Scott

    On APHC, Sue Scott plays everything from ditzy teenagers to Guy Noir stunners to leathery crones who've smoked one pack of Camel straights too many. The Tucson, Arizona, native is well known for her extensive commercial and voice-over work on radio and television, as well as stage and movie roles, including the part of "Donna" in Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion.
  • Fred Newman

    Sound effects man Fred Newman is an actor, writer, musician, and sound designer for film and TV. Turns out, no one is more surprised than Fred that he's made a career out of doing what he used to do behind the teacher's back -crossing his eyes, making sounds, and doing voices. He readily admits that, growing up, he was unceremoniously removed from several classrooms, "once by my bottom lip."