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Neal & Leandra

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Folk duo Neal & Leandra -- singer/songwriters Neal Hagberg and Leandra Peak -- formed after the two met while attending Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota in 1981. Hagberg, from Montevideo, MN, was a premed biology major (he later switched disciplines and got a masters degree in theology); Peak was pursuing a masters degree in Spanish, but having grown up in a musical family in Louisville, KY, with a father who was a professional singer, she was appearing in a campus production of the musical Godspell when Hagberg went backstage to meet her and invited her to perform with him. Both had been inspired to sing folk music through a connection to Bill Staines, Hagberg by hearing a Staines recording, Peak by hearing Kate Wolf over the PA while attending a Staines concert. Hagberg and Peak turned professional after finishing their studies, founding their own label, Uncle Gus Music, in 1987 and self-releasing their debut album, Rocky Road, in 1988. The following year, they married. Two more self-released efforts, Summer Evening (1990) and Old Love (1992), appeared before they signed to the Minnesota-based independent folk label Red House Records for their fourth album, Hearts & Hammers, issued in January 1994. This began to spread their renown beyond their Upper Midwest base. Red House reissued Old Love in 1995, and in March 1996 came the duo's fifth album, Accidental Dreams. Stranger to My Kin, issued in October 1998, marked the end of their association with Red House. Returning to their own label, they released the holiday collection Listen to the Angels (1999); Bridge Rail (2002), a concept album about a long-term committed relationship; and A Dreamer's Holiday: A Tribute to Perry Como (2003). ~ William Ruhlmann

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