By Barry Barbe

Salt of the earth; (noun) – A group of people considered to represent the most decent and admirable parts of humanity.

Art in any form can be therapeutic, whether for the creator, or the audience as we each experience it in a different manner drawing our own meaning from it, or reflecting on past experiences to form who we are.

For Susan Kelly, writing poems during her youth was a way to understand and process life.

Her first poem, The Rose Garden, written at the age of 13 stayed with Susan, expanding and evolving until being published five years later while in college. Susan would continue writing, gathering memories and experiences together, first on paper and later as song.

Music was not at the forefront in her younger life despite having a secret fantasy of becoming a performer. More the athlete in high school, poetry and music were more personal passions.

“I would tape Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 every week and try to memorize as many lyrics as possible to the top 40 songs,” Susan said. “This was the time of Seals and Crofts, America, Bread, along with The Grateful Dead are some of my personal early favorites.

“My love of music and my choice of career come from the same place as I tried to understand situations in my life and also to be able to help others through theirs.”

Susan would continue this path at college studying psychology and eventually family therapy and counseling at Linden State College in Vermont.

Teaching would follow and, after moving to Prescott in 2000, she worked with Child Protective Services for 13 years, and another four with Arizona’s Children as program director of the foster and kinship program. For the past several years, Susan has had her own counseling practice.

An experience in college with her roommate having overheard her singing, enticed Susan to join him in the college talent show. They came in second, losing to her brother, who attended the same school.

Music continued in the background until Susan connected with Prescott musician Becky Dalke.

Becky and Susan found they shared the same taste in music and began performing and writing their own tunes as “Two Girls.” Later, when Mike Lewis joined the duo, they expanded the name to “Two Girls and a Mike.”

For the past 15 years, Susan has been performing with “Salt of the Earth,” a blend of Americana Folk flavors and sounds with each member bringing their own influence into the mix.

Salt of the Earth includes Susan on vocals; Mike Lewis on guitar; and Dallas Norman on Mandolin. The group performs around the area with a unique combination of their individual tastes and influences.

With a blend of tight harmonies, each member brings a different flavor to the mix. “Mike is more rock influenced, Dallas, being a mandolin player is obviously bluegrass inspired, and myself, I’ve always been heavily influenced by female artists, and we get to bring our own sound to classic tunes as well as our own songs,” Susan added.

Crosby Stills, Nash and Young and the folk rock sound of the ’70s is the biggest constant that ties them together.

The music of Salt of the Earth tells the stories of their lives. Whether heartache, loss or friendship. It’s also the sound of a generation that experienced life in a different time and climate filled with hope backed by the warm sounds of classic Americana.

As well as giggin’ around town for years, the group has a special evening coming up. The trio will be performing and intimate evening honoring the song lyrics and the stories behind the songs they’ve written (and songs they wish they had written) at the Elk’s Crystal Hall on Friday, Feb. 9. Located on the third floor of the Elks Theatre, the evening promises to be full of tales, tunes and memories.

The show will also feature special guest Alicia Previn on violin. “We’re really excited to have Alicia join us for this event. She brings a ton of talent, fun and sound to our mix.”

Salt of the Earth; (noun) – A front porch pickin’ musical combo. Progressive mountain music meets folk rock.

For information and tickets to the 7 p.m. Feb. 9 performance, Salt of the Earth is on Facebook or visit

Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email:

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