Described as “…one of the brightest stars on the acoustic music scene by PULP online and “a monster singer-songwriter” by SEMIBluegrass, Judy Banker is known for her hook-driven songs with intensively personal, evocative lyrics, and her singular, expressive voice. Judy combines her compelling lyrics with traditional country instruments – acoustic guitar, dobro, pedal steel, banjo – and weaves them with a dirty, gritty buzz and spacey vibe of an electric guitar, lap steel, and keyboards. She brings her sound to solo and Judy Banker Band performances at clubs, festivals, and concert halls like The Ark, Johnny’s Speakeasy, Farmington Civic Theater, Mama's Coffeehouse, Michigan Theatre of Jackson, Trinity House Theatre, Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Aretha's Jazz Cafe-Detroit, Nor East’r Music Festival, Harvest Gathering, Detroit Arts, Beats, & Eats, Holler Fest, and the Rosalie Sorrels Music Festival in Boise, Idaho.
A longtime fixture on the Ann Arbor acoustic music scene (performing with Michigan folk legend Jay Stielstra for over a decade), Judy emerged as a solo artist and songwriter in 2014, releasing 4 well-received full-length albums since that time. Judy’s first release, Without You, a raw folk-country acoustic project, is at turns a celebratory and heart-wrenching ode to love and loss with the recent passing of her husband and lifetime musical partner, John Sayler, and her beloved sister, Barbara. She went on to pen a dozen new songs for her acclaimed sophomore pure Americana release, Devils Never Cry (2016), a testament to love and life’s unexpected turns expressed with high lonesome dobro, fiddle, and close harmonies. In 2019 Judy released a single, “Blessed Be The Nation”, a poem written by Pete Seeger and Jim Mussleman in 1964 that had never been set to music. Judy composed music for the poem with the exclusive permission of the Seeger family estate to help spread the “people not profits” message of the poem via free downloads of the song (free download available on this site's "Pete Seeger Project" page.)
Taking a quantum leap with her third studio album, Buffalo Motel (2020), Judy moved into expansive, atmospheric alt country/indie rock territory. Dubbed by Current Magazine (2020) “a big sounding record…a hybrid of Americana, folk-rock and tender balladry…momentous, and ruminative”. She assembled an All Star group of Michigan artists to be part of the project including multi-instrumentalist David Roof (who doubled as recording engineer at his studio, Rooftop Recording) guitarist Tony Pace and drummer Brian Williams (both of Cold Tone Harvest), bassist John Sperendi (Flying Latini Brothers) and pedal steel player Alan Pagliere (Dixons, Cadillac Cowboys) along with her son, Ben Sayler, as producer.
In November 2023, Judy released Bona Fide, her fourth studio album, which landed on a number of “best of” 2023 lists both regionally and in the U.K. Bona Fide also landed on the Americana charts within a a couple weeks post-release, wrapping up the year at #138. Radio stations both locally and from coast to coast have picked up Bona Fide. Recorded with her band and the same team of David Roof at Rooftop Recording Studio, Grand Blanc, with Ben Sayler, producer, Bona Fide has been dubbed Judy's “best record yet”, hitting even more refined, signature sonic territory, while Judy's songwriting continue to grapple lyrically with universal issues of when to stay and when to go, and what is love all about.
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"Judy Banker is...a premier songwriter with universal appeal. A singular unique talent and stage presence...that is organic and soul-driven, Banker writes songs with a more creatively complex vision. Her new CD, Devils Never Cry, is a complete compendium of the twists and turns anyone might face, turned into a delightful and at times heart-weary mix of cautionary tales and tonics for the troops. Several of the songs on this could be considered classics." Pulp Magazine Online, Michael G. Nastos, 88.3 WCBN-FM Ann Arbor, Founding member & Recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award, Southeast Michigan Jazz Association
"Ann Arbor singer/songwriter, Judy Banker, writes songs rooted in vintage country style. Torch songs rife with intrepid melodic lines that twist and turn in delightful, unexpected ways, yet stay true to the genre. Her voice, tangy and bright as fall cider, brings to life articulate, arresting songs of lost love and the perfidy of human nature. Reminiscent of Loretta Lynn and Rose Maddox, Judy Banker's music remains contemporary, rich in everything the modern listener appreciates about old-time country music." Maggie Ferguson, host of WXOU's The Old Front Porch Radio Show and Live! From the Living Room Acoustic Showcase
"If you enjoy heartfelt melodies combined with great song-writing, then you need to listen to Judy Banker. There were times when I was reminded of Tammy Wynette, Sammi Smith, and Dottie West." Chuck Marshall, Life In Michigan Online, Aug. 2016
“The lyrics of Judy’s songs sound effortless and conversational and then you realize as you’re listening that your eyes are hot and something warm is running down your face. You’ll want to listen to this album (Without You) many times…you’ll surely feel more alive.“ Johnny Williams, owner of Johnny’s Speakeasy, Ann Arbor, MI
"Judy Banker's sweet Americana Folk album "Without You" nearly makes a listener wish for a breakup or fresh-risen memories of a lost love." Trish Lewis, host of WUCX-FM's Eclectic Chair
“Judy Banker...a monster singer/songwriter talent… Classic folk-style guitar…remarkably rich and nuanced. With a flexible voice that moves from a sultry tenor to a crystal clear soprano depending on the mood of the song, melodies flow seemingly effortlessly from her as she sings. It’s also great to see how much fun Banker has on stage. Find an opportunity to go see her, you will love every minute of it.” John Bayerl, SeMiBluegrass.com