“Andrew Calhoun is a powerful songsmith, a quiet and sly performer, and fine traditional singer as well... fascinating and unpredictable.”
— Phil Shapiro, Bound for Glory
“He’s blessed with crystalline fingerpicking, a resonant baritone, and a writer’s ear.” —The Oregonian
Andrew Calhoun's innovative music is rooted in tradition. In fifty years as a performer he has cultivated a prismatic repertoire including his poetic original songs, Irish and American folk songs, Anglo-Scottish ballads, folk spirituals, and poems and songs by writers such as Dave Carter, Mary Oliver and Robert Burns.
At age seven, Andrew Calhoun memorized W. B. Yeats' "Song of Wandering Aengus," thus earning a nickel from his mother. He got his first guitar in 1967 at the age of ten, and began writing songs at twelve. By the late seventies, he was performing in the Chicago folk scene. Six months of janitorial work funded a trip to Europe in 1977 leading him to hear a guiding musical inspiration, Martin Carthy, at the Cambridge Folk Festival in England. He has since toured internationally, performing at folk clubs and festivals, pubs and house concerts. In 1992, Calhoun founded Waterbug Records, an artists' cooperative folk label which grew to 130 titles before closing in 2019,. His own recordings have been released on Hogeye, Flying Fish and Waterbug Records. He has self-published two books of poetry, Twenty-Four Poems and Hay, a comedy book, The Trilogy Trilogy; Warlock Rhymer: An English Translation of Robert Burns' Scots Poems was published by Artemis Press in 2017.
Rhymer’s Tower: Ballads of the Anglo-Scottish Border, a double CD, was released in 2017. A duo recording with his daughter Casey Calhoun, Skeins, was released in 2018. Calhoun wrote The Liberty Lines, a historical program illustrating how the Underground Railroad spurred the Civil War, weaving Black spirituals with primary source quotations from James Pennington, Harriet Tubman, Thomas W. Higginson, Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson and Abraham Lincoln. This was produced at The Maple Street Chapel in Lombard, IL, and at the Levy Center in Evanston, IL, in 2019. For the last eight years, Andrew has been working on a Robert Burns songbook involving new research into Burns’s source melodies and early drafts.. Different Now, a new recording of twenty original songs, will be released in 2024.
2012 – Lantern Bearer Award, Folk Alliance Region Midwest
2014 – Lifetime Achievement Award, Woodstock Folk Festival
"a true voice of poetry and lore" —Jon Hogan
"Calhoun is a master at story songs, finely crafted works that swiftly and economically capture a moment or express an emotion. Like the best novelists, he is able to assume different personas and see the world through other people's eyes." —June Sawyers, Chicago Tribune
"A wonderful songwriter and funny, warm performer." —The Daily Iowan
"He's blessed with a resonant baritone, crystalline fingerpicking, and a writer's ear." —The Oregonian
"His songs are majestic in their imagery and endlessly challenging in their themes." —James Tarbox, St. Paul Pioneer Press-Dispatch
"...he goes an awfully long way toward overturning the prevalent image of folksingers trying to live in a past that never was." —Renaldo Migaldi, Chicago Reader
"Andrew's writing reminds me of impressionistic painting – an image here and there, a splash of color, light and shadow. His songs defy analysis; the impact of word and sound alone is enough to move me deeply. Andrew's music bypasses the mind and goes straight to the soul." —Lui Collins
“The James Joyce of Folk Music.” —Howard Levy
"He is a creative force in the songwriter movement, a dynamite guitarist, and a traditional song interpreter of great skill. His introductions to songs can keep you doubled up with laughter, his songs run the gamut of human experience and emotion." —Phil Cooper
"Andrew Calhoun tells the truth. To my knowledge, there is no better songwriter alive." —Dave Carter
"Andrew Calhoun's persistent pursuit of faith and beauty in the face of everything is the driving theme in his work. A demanding poet among lyricists, Calhoun delivers to standards that many songwriters barely know exist. Calhoun rejects pat answers, and the characters in his songs often follow a heroic journey of loneliness, misunderstanding, and harsh judgments that come with the territory for nearly anyone who has wanted more from life than can be found in the mill of consumerism that labors so hard to define and patrol the borders of "mainstream" American culture.
"Calhoun's music is a great companion for anyone who has ever ventured off the well-paved road to forge their own path in life. If you ever find yourself choosing art over commerce, conscience over conformity, or inner wealth over the kind that you can show off, you will know this man when you meet him. He will welcome you home." —Brad Warren