Ben Kieffer

River to River and Java Blend Host

Ben Kieffer joined Iowa Public Radio in 2000 and is host of IPR’s daily noon talk show River to River, which he also helps produce. Since 2001, he has hosted and produced IPR’s weekly, live music program which features artists from around the state and the country called Java Blend.

Prior to joining IPR, Ben lived and worked in Europe for more than a decade. He reported firsthand the fall of the Berlin Wall and covered the Velvet Revolution in Prague. Ben has won numerous awards for his work over the course of more than 20 years in public media.

Ben holds an adjunct faculty position at The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he teaches courses on interviewing and radio news. He is a native of Cedar Falls and a graduate of the University of Iowa.

Ben’s favorite public radio program is Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

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Java Blend
4:31 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Big Blue Sky on Java Blend January 12, 2013

Big Blue Sky started as a father-son duo in the mid-90s by Jon Stravers Sr and Jon-Jon Stravers. Their musical style includes the influence of folk, bluegrass, blues, and reggae. In their music they seek a closer connection to the planet, and indeed their musical writing comes from the inspiration of wild places and a celebration of our natural heritage and the natural rhythms of life.

Java Blend
4:31 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Whitney Mann on Java Blend January 5, 2013

Whitney Mann is an old soul with a child's glow. Her story is only beginning. It's the story of a poetic farm girl from Michigan who grew up to open for Loretta Lynn. It's the story of a young woman whose voice will break your heart but whose songs will bring you back for more. Her new package of country ballads and barn tales is called The Western Sky.

Java Blend
4:30 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Chad Elliott on Java Blend December 29, 2012

Averaging over 100 shows per year, Chad Elliott has been on the road for more than a decade performing a blend of roots, blues and folk music. He has played across the country and has been lauded as a modern-day troubadour.

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Java Blend
4:29 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

The Awful Purdies on Java Blend December 22, 2012

The Awful Purdies are an eclectic quintet of female multi-instrumentalists who take turns stepping up as song writer and lead singer. The ensemble purdify's each song they meet, letting the song lead the way. One song might require channeling the Andrew's Sisters, while another song might reach out to a rock-a-billy or Motown sensibility.

Java Blend
4:28 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

The Candymakers on Java Blend December 15, 2012

The Candymakers of Davenport, Iowa offer a sound that is contemporary, yet keeps the essence of old-school groove bands of music past. Emulating the many talents of artists such as Ben Harper, Aretha Franklin and BB King, it’s important to the band to produce an original sound that keeps fans craving for more.

Java Blend
4:27 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Sam Knutson and Milk & Eggs on Java Blend December 8, 2012

Songwriters Sam Knutson and Milk & Eggs (Jordan Sellergren) have recently collaborated for The Englert Theatre's Iowa City Song Project, recording their duet "Up the Street From You" as part of the Englert's centennial celebration.

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Java Blend
4:26 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys on Java Blend December 1, 2012

Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys are giving a nod to American traditional music, while boldly taking their own songs in new directions. Distinct vocals, tight harmonies, instrumental expertise, and creative arrangements are all essential characteristics of their unique sound. The group focuses on the original tunes of Lindsay Lou Rilko, which include true-life tales of bank-robbing aunties, moonshinin' grandpas, and celebrations of love, life, and nature.

Java Blend
4:25 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps on Java Blend November 24, 2012

Caroline Smith and Jesse Schuster—of Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps—will play a special duo performance on November 2nd for IPR’s Java Blend. This past summer, Caroline and Jesse toured as a duo, appearing at a small handful of intimate shows hosted in people's houses and living rooms across the Midwest. 

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Java Blend
4:24 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Mike Mangione & The Union on Java Blend November 17, 2012

Mike Mangione & The Union is a touring group that combines a folk-rock sound with an orchestrated string section, soulful vocals and literate sensibility. The band’s debut album, Tenebrae, received favorable press from all corners of the country, including the honor of being an All Music Guide Album Pick, while Blurt refers to their “tearstained folk, Memphis-styled gospel and bluesy-flavored pop” as “luminous.”

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Java Blend
4:24 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Vicki and Joe Price on Java Blend November 10, 2012

Vicki and Joe Price, a husband and wife blues duo, combine talents on this energetic crowd pleaser released on their own label, Blues Acres Productions. Fun and spunky guitar riffs that make you stomp your feet, bob your head, and smile explode right out of the gate and don’t quit until the album is done.

Vicki’s powerful bluesy voice evokes an image of a woman in a 1920’s speakeasy singing her heart out.

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Java Blend
4:23 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Brooks Strause on Java Blend November 3, 2012

No secrets between friends, ignorance is bliss. Brooks Strause is a singer, songwriter and musician from Iowa. Since first crawling out of incapacitating melancholy to begin playing music in the late nineteen-nineties when he was in high school, Brooks has written hundreds of songs, played numerous shows in and around Iowa, and toured in the United States and Canada.

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Java Blend
4:22 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

The Giving Tree Band on Java Blend October 27, 2012

The Giving Tree Band's third full-length and most recent release, "The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious," spent multiple weeks on various radio charts (peaking at #15 on the Roots Music Report and #39 on the Americana Airplay Chart).

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Java Blend
4:21 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Jim the Mule on Java Blend October 20, 2012

A seasoned 4-piece band based in the Quad Cities, Jim the Mule blends the twang of country with the gritty rock & roll textures of the late 60’s and early 70’s in order to produce something best described as Midwestern Alt-Country.

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Java Blend
4:20 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

The Future Laureates on Java Blend October 13, 2012

With a successful presence at SXSW and Summerfest 2012, plus airplay on 140 college radio stations, The Future Laureates are celebrating with unabashed energy and triumph. Offering positive punk-rock energy with folk/pop musicianship, their sonic champagne is frothing and bubbling with the release of their third studio album, FORTRESS SESSIONS. It is seriously full of fun.

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Java Blend
4:20 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Tony Bohnenkamp on Java Blend October 6, 2012

The release of Side 2 exposes a different view of Des Moines musician Tony Bohnenkamp. For nearly twenty years Tony has been active in the music industry, but Side 2 marks the life-long musician’s debut solo album. Tony has played just about every role — owner of a successful recording studio, well-known dueling pianist, drummer for The Nadas, singer for Lunchbox, not to mention producer/songwriter/composer — but now it’s time for Tony to showcase his own material. “Every project I’ve ever worked on has been for someone else.

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Java Blend
4:18 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Jeremiah Nelson on Java Blend September 29, 2012

Wisconsin based singer-songwriter Jeremiah Nelson is constantly creating and reinventing his music with an ever-evolving cast of characters. “Drugs to Make You Sober”, Jeremiah Nelson’s new solo record feels like a real labor of love. It’s made up of seemingly traditional rock arrangements adorned with beautiful atmospheric and dreamy sonic wanderings.There’s something lonely and heartbreaking hiding underneath Nelson’s sonic layerings.

Java Blend
4:18 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

The Feralings on Java Blend September 22, 2012

The Feralings are Benj Upchurch (mandolin / vocals), Nicole Upchurch (clawhammer banjo / vocals), Patrick Bloom (upright bass / vocals), and Stacy Webster (acoustic guitar / vocals), but the name is a bit of a misnomer, as the members of the band are far more likely to invite you to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea than they are to jump you and steal your beer money.

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Java Blend
4:17 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Gatehouse Saints on Java Blend September 14, 2012

Begun as a side project between singer/songwriter Jen McClung and her husband, poet/musician Jim Coppoc, the Gatehouse Saints cover great lyricists from Leonard Cohen to Trent Reznor to the Dixie Chicks, and use these influences to build their own original music.

Java Blend
4:16 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Jen Chapin on Java Blend September 7, 2012

With story songs that search for community and shared meaning, Jen Chapin creates a funk and soul inspired kind of urban folk that has been called “brilliant and soulfully poetic” by National Public Radio and “addictive” by the Boston Globe. With five albums to her name, Chapin’s most recent release, ReVisions: Songs of Stevie Wonder debuted in 2009 and was praised as sophisticated and miraculous.

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Java Blend
4:15 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Nic Arp on Java Blend August 31, 2012

Nic Arp is a singer-songwriter. He writes songs, he sings them. Other people write songs, he sings them. You should write a song, and he'll sing it.

He often plays with the Magnificent Few--the outrageously talented and devilishly handsome Dave Rosazza on lead electric guitar and Jim Rossen on harmonica. And sometimes others, like James Goodrich on the bass, and maybe a drummer or something, who knows? He lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with his daughter and two yippy little dogs.

Java Blend
4:15 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Brass Bed on Java Blend August 24, 2012

Originally started as a psychedelic recording project in 2004, Brass Bed describes their produced and performed sound with the words “sunshine, sarcastic and sullen.” With a light-hearted, indie rock sound, the band pulls influence from 60’s revivalist bands like Dukes of the Stratosphear and the Elephant 6 Collective mixing feel-good rhythms with vocal harmonies and foot-tapping keyboard and guitar solos.

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Java Blend
4:14 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Bermuda Report on Java Blend August 17, 2012

With a cool, indie, calypso-timed, jazz sound, Bermuda Report features Abbie Sawyer, formerly of Iowa City’s funk band, The Diplomettes, on vocals. Little Village says the band creates a “vacation in the tropics” through bluesy lyrics accompanied by jazz reminiscent melodies. The band’s five-track EP features Paul Kresowik, drums; Billy Legrand, guitar; Nick Leo, keyboard and Jeremiah Murphy, bass.

Java Blend
4:11 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Koplant No on Java Blend August 10, 2012

Koplant No mixes jazz, electronic and rock stylings to create a mystic progressive sound influenced by Radiohead, Telefon, Garbage Factory and Happy Apple. Complete Life, the band’s debut album, was released in October of 2010 and is said to be one of the best jazz rock records released in years by Omaha’s KIOS 91.5 FM in Nebraska. The band’s unique jazz fusion sound features Brian Lewis Smith on trumpet, Drew Morton on bass, Rob Baner on drums and Joe Vanderheyden on saxophone.

Java Blend
4:10 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Scott Cochran & Flannel on Java Blend August 3, 2012

Producing a brand of Americana-country they like to call “Genuine Cornfed Cosmic Iowa Roots Music,” Scott Cochran and Flannel join Java Blend for this week’s broadcast. Calling Eastern Iowa home, the group coins an alternative country sound playing mostly original songs with a few covers thrown in the mix.

Java Blend
4:09 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Ivan & Alyosha on Java Blend July 27, 2012

Born from a scene in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan & Alyosha have been an interesting pair from the beginning. The duo, originally from Seattle, Washington, released their debut EP, The Verse, The Chorus, in 2009 and has musically sought to debate the existence or non-existence of the idea of god ever since. This year, they are out with a new EP entitled, Fathers Be Kind.

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Java Blend
4:08 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Whitney Mann on Java Blend July 20, 2012

Taking inspiration from her youth on a grain farm in rural Michigan, Whitney Mann released her debut EP, The Way Back Home, and garnered much attention in Madison, Wisconsin and quickly enticed the ears of listeners elsewhere. After the EP’s release in 2009, Mann performed with headliners Willy Porter and Bettye LaVette and was a musical guest on Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? on NPR and Wisconsin Public Television’s 30 Minute Music Hour.

Java Blend
4:07 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Englishman on Java Blend July 13, 2012

Englishman is the song-vehicle for Lexington, KY native Andrew English (The Scourge of the Sea). Englishman’s self-titled debut full-length was produced by Justin Craig (These United States), a long time collaborator and honorary band member. It arrives after English and Matt Duncan (keyboard/vocals) spent a year sharing stages with Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Deer Tick, Vandaveer, Lost in the Trees, Frontier Ruckus, Sam Quinn, and many other fine folks.

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Java Blend
4:06 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Alison Scott on Java Blend July 6, 2012

Alison Scott is the strongest new voice to come out of the Minneapolis music scene in many years. Her soulful, organic, sound completely ignores the rules of cool that define so much of today’s music.

Java Blend
4:05 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Ernie Hendrickson on Java Blend June 29, 2012

Chicago-based Americana/folk-rock musician Ernie Hendrickson grew up on a steady diet of Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, and The Grateful Dead. These early heroes opened the gates to the deep well of American roots music which he continues to draw inspiration from. For Hendrickson’s latest release Walking with Angels, he sought out famed producer and guitarist Bo Ramsey.

Java Blend
4:04 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Kevin "BF" Burt on Java Blend June 22, 2012

This week Java Blend welcomes Iowa blues artist Kevin “BF” Burt. A social worker by trade, Burt’s smooth and powerful voice soothes the spirit when paired with his soulful guitar playing. Burt’s special blend of funk inspired blues has come from almost two decades of touring across the Midwest.

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