Portals Featured Artist: Dan Cantrell

Dan Cantrell.

Dan Cantrell.

Of all of the Portals artists, Dan Cantrell is the one I know the least. Although Winter has worked with Dan on a few projects, I have only met him once, when he was sitting in with Stellamara. His circus-like vibe and playing style captured my imagination, and I immediately knew I wanted him to play on Porcelain Princess. I introduced myself after the show and told him as much. He was the first guest artist we knew we wanted, so in a way, he started the whole idea of Portals as a window into the talents of a variety of artists.

Dan’s style is very “old world carnival”, with a strong Balkan and Klezmer influence. He has played music with Tom Waites, Beats Antique, Stellamara, and Fishtank Ensemble, as well as bellydance superstars Rachel Brice, Mardi Love, and Elizabeth Strong. He has had music in numerous films and TV shows, and has done an admirable job crafting a career for himself out of strange music.

When your music is as ‘off the beaten path’ as Dan’s is, the best way to be successful is to be damned good at what you do. This strategy has worked quite well for Dan!

You can look forward to his carnival whimsey on Portals by year’s end!

Here he is playing with some outstanding musicians and bellydancers:

You can learn more about Dan and his music here:


Dan’s feature concludes our Portals Featured Artist series, and as the artist who first sparked the “carnival of mystery” theme to our next album, he brings this series full circle.

I have enjoyed presenting the talents of these fine artists to you, quite a bit! Thanks for reading along!

Now it’s time to sink into my favorite part – creating the music!

We are so very excited about Portals! We’d be delighted if you would make your pledge now! The more money we can make up front, the less we will need to rely on banks and credit cards and gnawing uncertainty. All of which will help the Portals ship sail smoothly and efficiently toward completion.



Portals Insight: A Heartfelt Message

Sharon Knight and Winter.  Photo: PixievisionProductions.com

Sharon Knight and Winter.
Photo: PixievisionProductions.com

If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution – Emma Goldman

Our crowd funding efforts are in the final stretch, and before they end, I thought I’d share a bit about why this project is important to me.  I have featured many of the Portals artists on my blog but I haven’t featured Winter and I, and what is driving us to do this.

So here goes!

Over the course of our touring life, we have shared stages with many amazing musicians, and numerous times we have sat in on each other’s sets to make a special synergy that only exists in that moment. We have supported each other with show leads or warnings, places to stay, and boosting each others’ signal on important projects. In short, we have formed a sort of informal musician’s guild.

This is cool as hell.

This is an example, on a small scale, of how a healthy society can work. About how people can band together to make things better for the entire group. Artists typically lead precarious lives, and when we all throw in together, it makes it better for all of us. And it makes it better for the fans, because with support, more musicians you love don’t give up when the road seems fraught with peril.

We thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could showcase our small but mighty musician’s guild in album form?” If we crowdfunded it, all the musicians involved would get paid. We’d all be signal boosting each other as part of the process, and we’d get to create together. Everybody wins. Not just the artists, but the fans of these artists as well.

Thus Portals was born, as a traveling ‘Carnivale of Mystery’,  a theme we myth-based artists live every day.

The campaign ends Monday night at 11:59pm.

We have made a big play, shooting for $20,000. We wanted to tell the world, “Look, we take this project seriously. We want to do something at a higher level than we ever have before”.  We still need $7700. Will we make it? It will take a big push in the final hours, but I’ve seen these things shoot up dramatically at the last minute to meet their goal.

Right now every dollar that comes in goes toward the music video. It is our hope that it can happen in keeping with our original vision.

In our final few hours, Winter and I are asking that you please share our link far and wide, with a few words on why you support the project. Let’s see if we can get this project all the way funded, and be one of those 11th hour success stories.

We’ve got until Monday at 11:59pm.

For your convenience, the link is http://www.sharonknightportals.net

Thank you for your support!

Portals Featured Artist: Tim Rayborn

Tim Rayborn. Photo: Paul Nordin

Tim Rayborn. Photo: Paul Nordin

Tim Rayborn plays everything, including several instruments you have never heard of. He is a medieval scholar (Leeds University), and has toured extensively through Europe and the United States with several early music ensembles. He has appeared on over 30 recordings to date, including Pandemonaeon’s Dangerous Beauty, and Winter’s and my last album, Neofolk Romantique.

Tim specializes in early music not only from Europe but well into the Middle East. He is also an excellent singer.

We met Tim through the Middle Eastern dance community, and he joined Pandemonaeon for awhile. It was during the time when Caith was also in Pandemonaeon, and those two together were a non-stop humor train.

In addition to his solo work, he co-directs the medieval ensemble Cançonièr with recorder virtuoso Annette Bauer, performs with Celtic harpist Patrick Ball, and regularly works with Shira Kammen.

Tim has a penchant for storytelling, and has created several popular shows based on historic characters and legends throughout history. Project names include “The Black Dragon: Music from the Time of Vlad Dracula” (Cançonièr) and “The Far Famed Ones – Poetry and Music of the Vikings” (Music Sources Concert Series – solo show).

In short, Tim is a great guy, with a dark sense of humor and a flair for musical performance, and we look forward to working with him again!

Check him out shredding on saz here:

And learn more about Tim here:


Portals Featured Artist: Mark Abbott

Mark Abbott studiously taking notes.

Mark Abbott studiously taking notes.

You may recognise Mark Abbott as Pandemonaeon’s illustrious drummer. Mark is funny, smart, and doesn’t shy away from an odd time signature. He’s done us boatloads of favors over the years and we really want to make sure he gets both recognition and pay for being the backbone of Portals.

Drummers are too often the unsung heroes in bands, with guitarists and lead vocalists getting the lion’s share of the attention. The Portals album is going to be dripping with talented guest musicians, all of whom have made a name for themselves in the indie music world, and they deserve a rhythm man who can provide the groove that will inspire their mojo.

Mark Abbott is that man. And he deserves every bit the sparkle that some of our more recognizable names get.

As the drummer in indie rock band Box Set, Mark has bona fide rock star cred, traveling the world and living what for many is the ultimate dream. All due to his rocking chops! He keeps the backbeat for us not only on Portals, but in Pandemonaeon, and in a variety of sessions in EMB Studios. If you liked Pandemonaeon’s Dangerous Beauty album, that was Mark on drums.

The easiest – and most relevant to Portals – way to showcase his talents is to post our Pandemonaeon montage video. Check out his chops, and then please join me in ensuring we can give the lad a decent honorarium for giving Portals its groove!


Featured Portals Artist: Caith Threefires


Caith Threefires. Photo: Elizabeth Henderson

We love Caith! He is our musical soul mate. Apparently we are meant to be star crossed lovers, however, because circumstances have decreed that he live on the east coast and we live on the west coast. Lucky for us, we find ourselves out east fairly regularly!

We met Caith on Myspace, believe it or not. Proof that at least one worthwhile thing came out of Myspace. We immediately hit it off as we shared love of many of the same bands. Ardent fans of strange folk and medieval music as well as dramatic gothic metal, we quickly realized we should all be in the same band. We asked him to join Pandemonaeon and he said yes. And for a few years, we made beautiful music together.

Caith is a consummate musician. He plays all sorts of instruments; bass, guitar, keyboards, and just about anything from the mandolin family. And his stage presence is outstanding. Badass yet playful, fans love him.

He is highly coveted as a live and session player. He has logged several hours on the road as part of the Celtic rock ensemble Tempest, and has also been heard lending his talents to the Heather Dale Band. And of course, we don’t miss a chance to play with him whenever we can get out to the Boston area.

Here are a few videos of Caith, one with him playing bass in Pandemonaeon, and one with him shredding on Bouzouki. Acoustic or electric, the man is a kickass musician, and we are so glad that he’ll be joining us on Portals!




Featured Portals Artist: Wendy Rule


Wendy Rule

If you are remotely interested in the realms of magic, you almost certainly have heard of Wendy Rule. She is pure witchcraft. Born on Halloween, her voice is perfectly suited to pagan music.

Her voice sounds like Edith Piaf and opium and the dark caves of Hecate. To listen to her is pure intoxication.

She also has a real glamour about her. She walks into a room and fills the space with a commanding and mysterious presence. She’s got a star quality, such that you’d expect her to be quite the diva. Yet when you get to know her, she is completely down to earth. Fun loving, witty, and well traveled, Wendy is a person who truly relishes life, and I am honored to call her friend.

Wendy is the only Portals artist that I don’t already have a song for. I am going to write one special, because I so very much want to sing with her. Her voice is pure magic, and singing with her will inspire me to my most evocative.

Extra tidbits: Wendy was a jazz singer for many years! Winter and I spent a week with her and her husband Timothy in New Orleans and got to hear her sing a jazz standard with a New Orleans band. That was a great time!

Wendy and Tim also teach a year long online class on magic called Living a Life of Magic.

Here is a gorgeous video of Wendy:

You can learn more about Wendy on her website:

And you can make your pledge to Portals right here:


Portals Featured Artist: Alexander James Adams


Alexander James Adams

Alexander James Adams is the original Faerytale Minstrel. He has been playing faerytale folk music on dozens of instruments long before it was cool. He’s been on the circuit since I can remember, defining the genre almost single handedly. He is the consummate session man, able to jump in at a moment’s notice and learn your songs in real time, as you are playing them on stage. And what he comes up with is devilishly tasty!

He is one third of the wildly popular band of frolicsome fey, Tricky Pixie. Along with Betsy Tinney and SJ Tucker, Alec charms the socks off of audiences all across the US and Europe.

Give a listen, and then get excited for his addition on Portals!

Learn and listen to more of Alec’s work here:


And make your pledge to PORTALS right here:


Portals Featured Artist: Betsy Tinney


Betsy Tinney

Cellist Betsy Tinney is one third of the dynamic trio known as Tricky Pixie. Along with SJ Tucker and Alexander James Adams, Betsy charms audiences in America and Europe with her soulful yet whimsical playing.

Winter and I were fortunate to have her play on Mistress of MacLyr (Neofolk Romantique) and now that we’ve had a taste, we want her on more songs! She also appears with us when we play Faerieworlds.

Betsy writes playful songs about animals, and is the author of an SJ Tucker performance favorite, “Alligator in the House”. If you know SJ Tucker, you know the song I am referring to.

Betsy is highly sought after, playing with the Heather Dale Band, SJ Tucker, Tricky Pixie, Jessica Star, Kellianna, Molly Lewis, and, whenever we can get her, us!

She’s also got a great sense of pixie style! I love her stage outfits and her kind heart and her love of cats. And of course her divine cello playing! She’s got a solo album out called “Release the Cello” which features beautifully layered looping cellos.

This haunting song from “Release the Cello” is one of my favorites:

You can learn more about Betsy Tinney at:


Reserve your copy of the Portals album plus get lots of specialty perks and help the Portals project realize its full vision here:


Portals Featured Artist: Nathaniel Johnstone

Nathaniel Johnstone

Nathaniel Johnstone, charming the masses!

This is Nathaniel Johnstone. Most well-known for his work with Abney Park, Nathaniel is a multi-instrumentalist who won my heart when he and his partner Tempest performed at Hexenfest. His sweet and melancholy violin playing struck me as a cross between classical discipline and Eastern European joy de vivre. We loved his style instantly, and knew that he would be perfect for Portals.

He’s got an old world carnival vibe in dress as well as musical and visual style, and he’s got a down to earth personality, which makes him a joy to work with. He’s also a great showman, with a healthy enthusiasm for the spirit of collaboration. All of which make him a perfect Portals artist!

Nathaniel will be playing on Slippers of Rose, a song that is very dear to my heart, as it was written for my Dad shortly after his passing. We rarely play it live, it is so intimate, but we have decided to share it with the world through the Portals project, and I am so glad to have Nathaniel’s talents in bringing to life the mingled sweetness, sorrow, and nostalgia of the song.

His partner, Tempest, is also known as Laura Tempest Zakroff, and will be a featured visual artist in the Portals art book, offered as a stretch goal in the Portals Project.

I couldn’t find a live show video that does Nathaniel justice on violin, so I give you this Game of Thrones theme song rendition, which features his violin work prominently. We are playful here at Camp Portals!

You can also hear more of Nathaniel on Bandcamp:

(Hey that song would do well paired with a Pandemonaeon set!)

And of course, on his own website:


As you can see, Nathaniel is one more reason why Portals is going to KICK ASS!


Portals Featured Artist: Paul Nordin


Paul Nordin reviewing a take on the set on August Falls

This friendly fellow is Paul Nordin. He may look like a refugee from the set of “Vikings” but as it turns out, Paul is much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. So much so that he was asked to be the cinematographer for August Falls, Fairuza Balk’s most recent movie. (Bonus for Breaking Bad fans: Skinny Pete is her co-star in the movie).

Paul filmed our Song of the Sea music video many years ago, and we have wanted to do another one with him ever since. It was the desire to do a music video that first got us going on the idea of crowd funding.

Paul has been the Director of Photography on numerous award winning films and music videos. He has an eye for dramatic lighting, and best of all, he has the collaborative spirit that is key to the Portals vision. He has been an ardent supporter of Winter’s and my music since we met, and over the years we have grown to become family.

Which is exactly the way we like it. Every Portals artist chosen has become family to us in some way!

During our touring escapades, our song Porcelain Princess has emerged as a favorite among our concert attendees. The story of a porcelain marionette in love with her puppet master, she yearns to be a living, breathing girl. Indeed, she would come to life, with a beating heart and a flush in her cheeks, if only he would see her for what she could become. She laments alone in her dusty attic with the other theater props, living for the moment when the curtains rise and she can dance on the stage with him again.

The song is about feeling invisible, and also about the yearning we all have to feel fully alive. Porcelain Princess is the song we have chosen for the music video, and also the impetus for the theme of the entire Portals project; an old-world theater of mystery, where uncanny things happen between the cracks of the expected.

The Showtime feature “Penny Dreadful” is the perfect look to tell this tale, and Paul Nordin is the perfect cinematographer to capture it. His eye for framing and light, mixed with his penchant for the archetypal and mythic, make him our number one choice. Not to mention, he commands a capable and loyal crew! As any good pirate captain does! (Hey this is a Sharon and Winter production after all. Did you expect there wouldn’t be pirates?)

But enough talk! This part of the project is about pictures, not words. We’ll let Paul’s cinematography speak for itself, and post his reel:

And of court, the Song of the Sea music video, also filmed by Paul Nordin!

You can learn more about Paul’s work at http://www.embstudios.com

And of course we’d be thrilled if you’d make a pledge to the Portals Project right now and help us make all this awesomeness happen! There are great perks in it for you!

Learn more and make your pledge here:


Thanks for sharing in our journey!