Suburban News

Muriel Anderson to be joined in Downers Grove by ‘Weird Al’ guitarist

Muriel Anderson

DOWNERS GROVE – Guitarist/harp-guitarist Muriel Anderson will star in a multimedia concert when she returns to her hometown of Downers Grove on Nov. 26 for an evening featuring world-class acoustic music, stories and a special guest, Grammy winning Jim “Kimo” West. Known for his Hawaiian slack key guitar, West is the longtime guitarist for “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Jim "Kimo" West

The show will be presented both in person and via livestream at 8 p.m. Nov. 26 at the First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1047 Curtiss St. in Downers Grove.

The first woman to have won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship, Anderson embraces music from all over the world, moving seamlessly between folk, classical, bluegrass and international.

The concert celebrates the release of a book and double-CD project titled “The Optimism Collection.” It features a selection of photo art by Bryan Allen, whose video imagery provides the visual backdrop for Anderson’s live concerts.

Anderson’s hometown concert, now in its 31st year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, will feature music from the collection – all in the optimism vein, she said in a phone interview.

“I’m looking forward to playing with our special guest,” she said. “It’s a perfect time to have Hawaiian music, and how [do you] listen and not just feel good. … I’m just so happy to share him with my hometown crowd.”

Anderson said slack key guitar has a fascinating history.

“When guitars were first brought over to the islands, there were no instructional books with them,” she said. “[Players] tuned them down until they made a pretty chord. Each family – and village – came up with a different tuning. It’s kind of created a whole different way to approach music. It’s all very beautiful and makes you smile.”

West is regarded as one of the world’s foremost “ki ho’alu” or Hawaiian slack key guitar artists. His music has garnered more than 75 million spins on streaming services. He is a 2021 Grammy winner for his CD “More Guitar Stories” and a 2019 Grammy nominee for “Moku Maluhia – Peaceful Island.”

For the concert, Anderson and West will perform individually and also team up for duets, as well as some spontaneous jamming, she said.

Continuing the island vibe, she will play her composition “Hawaiian Lullaby.” Anderson said she will perform that evening on her favorite harp-guitar, which has 20 strings, adding she doesn’t always bring it on tour.

“And I’ll throw in a couple sailing tunes as well,” she said, noting she’s working on several new ones inspired by her 2020 sailing adventure with Allen.

The two previously collaborated on the “Acoustic Chef,” a CD of music from around the world with a cookbook of recipes and stories to go with each tune.

“Wouldn‘t it be nice to put out a collection of just optimistic photo art,” Anderson recalled as the inspiration for the latest project. “That’s what drew me to Bryan in the first place, [his] art saying the same thing as my music.”

The book is interspersed with inspiring quotations on optimism collected by Allen.

“I’m glad to be working with the staff with the Congregational church,” Anderson said of the concert venue, which is home to the Two Way Street Coffee House. “That was the first place I ever played professionally. We made $20 for the three of us. We were so proud to be paid to make music. It’s coming back to my roots.”

As in previous years, audience members will have a chance to win a new guitar.

“Tobias Music donated a Walden guitar to give away during the show,” she said. “We’ll give away a Trader Joe’s gift basket and some other things.”

Hot apple cider will be served to everyone who attends in person.

People can find tickets on her website at or pick up tickets at Anderson’s Bookshop or Tobias Music in Downers Grove. Tickets are $28 for the in-person show and $18 for the livestream.

Check out all of Anderson’s projects at

People can pick up “The Optimism Collection” at the concert or pre-order online.

Among Anderson’s many accolades, “Nightlight Daylight” was chosen as one of the top 10 CDs of the decade by Guitar Player Magazine and her “Heartstrings” recording accompanied the astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery. Her facility across genres of acoustic music has long been admired by guitarists around the world, most notably Chet Atkins and Les Paul.

As always, a portion of the concert’s proceeds go to Anderson’s Music for Life Alliance, helping to bring music education to young people who may not otherwise have the opportunity.

Photo (c) 2015 David Bergman / -- Jim "Kimo" West is photographed by David Bergman in New York, NY on August 2, 2015 for his new CD album cover.
Renee Tomell

Renee Tomell

Covering the arts and entertainment scene in northern Illinois, with a focus on the Fox River Valley.