Option 22 is an ecelctic Americana ensemble with a revolutionary vibe. Dubbed by one listener a “new age jam band,” their broad style spans from newgrass to space-folk to roots-rock world funk and points in between. They are channels for the music, allowing it to flow through them and deliver it to whomever is present along with messages of hope, love and healing. On the fly collaborative dynamics, rhythmic muscle and thematic inventions shower you with sound that is sure to lift your vibration and unlock the doors of your heart, allowing you to groove freely and transcend.
Based in Princeton, West Virginia, Lori McKinney (vocals, drums, djembe, spoken word) and Robert Blankenship (guitar, banjo, shamisen, hand-drums, didgeridoo) have been writing and playing music together since early 2004, forging songs from the creative blast furnace of the divine flow. Now infusing the mix are the funky, driving bass lines of Kayla McKinney (bass) and the seasoned, soulful guitar stylings of James Hart (lead guitar).
Their work as healing artists and arts organizers (2 of them founded and run Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival and The RiffRaff Arts Collective) is fueled by a strong desire to build and contribute to community. Their music reflects that passion. With backgrounds in theatre, performance, yoga/meditation, and visual arts, the group comes together with an artistic mind-set and a vision for a better world.
Their latest release, "The Change," is now available. Their last album, "Choose The Music," was nominated by HomeGrown Music Network for 2010 Album of The Year. One of its tracks was featured on the CD Sampler of the March edition of Relix Magazine.
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Option 22 has been featured by the following venues:
Floydfest - Blue Plum Festival - Tamarack- The Best of West Virginia / Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg / The Purple Fiddle / FestivALL Charleston
Taylor Books, Charleston / Acoustic Coffeehouse, Johnson City, TN / Studio One on WETS-FM, Johnson City
WV Arts Assembly / Radio Free Charleston / Neighborhood Watch, 103 CIR / LiveMix Studio, Charleston
Create WV Conference, Snowshoe Resort / Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival / Festival of the Rivers
Soldier’s Memorial Theatre / Gary Bowling’s House of Art / Summit Stage II, Bluefield Area Arts Center
Appalachian South Folklife Center / State of Franklin Radio, Johnson City, TN / Unitarian Universalist Church
Fine Arts Center @ Concord University / Sisters Coffee House / Vandalia Lounge / The Pub on Gatewood
Cantrell's Ultimate Rafting / Unkl Ray's / Fort Savannah / The Wild Bean / Attitude's Bar & Cafe - Blacksburg, VA
Donkey Coffee - Athens, OH / Buffalo Gap Jam Fest / Pink Moon Festival / N.P.R.'s "State of the Re:Union" /
Blue Plate Special on WDVX- Knoxville / Boulevard Tavern- Charleston, WV / Radio Free Charleston / Bruno's
The Down Home, Johnson City / Preservation Pub, Knoxville / 3DL / Club Metrosphere, Asheville /
The Rudyard Kipling, Louisville / WV State Fair / Avalon Resort, Paw Paw, WV
and many more!
We are creative visionaries and healers. We believe in the power of music and the importance of spreading peace and kindness. We are based in downtown Princeton, West Virginia where we run The RiffRaff Arts Collective. We breathe positive, creative energy into a downtown which was once dark and depressed. We burn incense and blow bubbles onto the street. We play didgeridoos on the sidewalk and hold drum circles in the town square. We give light and hope wherever the door is open. We pour our hearts and souls into organizing Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival, which you should attend.
We came together at a time when we were all seeking... for that something. Each of us had music in our hearts and minds as we sought the next open door. From the first strum of Robert's guitar connecting with Lori's lonely river of melody, a horizon opened before us. We knew that we had found it. Many special musicians have graced the stage with the group. When James Hart brought his passionate, seasoned guitar stylings to the mix, we knew we'd found a fit. The wickedly talented bassist Kayla Lynn McKinney and the seriously tight drum style of Miss Ary'an Graham are carrying the sound to its newest height.
Lori McKinney (vocals, drums, spoken word) has been writing and recording music since the year 2000. Her years previous were spent gaining a B.A. in Music Theatre from James Madison University, performing in scores of productions there, and performing professionally over the summers as a featured singer / dancer at Paramount’s Carowinds in Charlotte, NC and Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. She spent a semester her senior year in London, UK, where she discovered her alternative sensibilities and emerged as an independent, veering from a life of auditions into a world of her own creation. She established LLyniuM entertainment and dreamed of producing multimedia shows which would bring people together and inspire change. Lori searched for musical collaborators and hit the jackpot when she found her soul mate, Robert. The two merged in a profound way and have not stopped writing and recording since. Together they founded Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival in 2004, and formed the RiffRaff Arts Collective in 2006. They now run the establishment which includes a recording studio, a fine art gallery, a performance venue and artist studios. They were equally blessed to find Brandon and Jordan; the music they make together is from the depths of the soul and each aspect of their creative lives intertwine. The rest of the members of the collective have found a mutual space in which to create, encourage and inspire one another and the community.
Robert Blankenship (guitar, banjo, didgeridoo, etc.) is a multi-faceted artist and musician from Summers County, WV. He is co-founder and mastermind of The RiffRaff Arts Collective where he displays his photography, paintings and pottery, and produces the technical aspects of the productions there. His work can also be seen at Tamarack- the Best of WV and Gary Bowling's House of Art. A talented photographer, Robert met Lori at an open mic in late 2003 as he was documenting the event. They began playing and writing together and never stopped. They formed Option 22 in 2004 and have since made four albums of original material together. With an unlimited well of music pouring from his soul, Robert created the perfect bed for Lori’s vocal to dance atop. He is a multi-instrumentalist, quickly grasping any instrument he puts his hands on. In his current arsenal are the guitar, banjo, Japanese shamisen, hand drums, the didgeridoo and the shakuhachi flute. His ability to create a transformative soundscape for an audience to indulge in is what hooks fans. In addition, Robert is director of Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival and he operates Audible Art Studios, a multitrack recording studio and artist development service.
Kayla Lynn McKinney (Bass) is a fiercely talented young musician. Having grown up in a musical family, her mother performed and taught all her life at music schools; then when Kayla was 8, they moved to WV where they founded Stages Music School, which is a powerhouse for music and all things creative. Kayla grew up surrounded by this music, immersed in the festivals that were produced by her family (Culturefest) and exposed to music festival culture from an early age. She plays multiple instruments but found her passion in the bass guitar. She roars like a lioness, igniting the air with her powerful stage presence and her deep musicality. Her love of funk music drives her now in the music she creates with her band "The Change." She tours and performs extensively and has graced stages from Boston to Nashville. She's played for thousands and has won numerous awards. There is a bright, bright future ahead for this young artist.
James Hart is a soulful and seasoned musician who plays guitar, drums, bass, piano, harmonica, violin, and anything else he can get his hands on. He has a gift for teaching, and is one of the brightest lights and key pieces of the puzzle at Stages Music School, part of The RiffRaff Arts Collective. He is a gifted songwriter and a passionate human being with a positive spirit he brings into every scene he walks into.