An Interview with Hulda Quebe of the Quebe Sisters Appearing Sunday May 1st in York, PA

 

12832409_10153895305542279_3576683473748180190_n.jpg

 

When the Quebe Sisters from Texas take a stage, and the triple-threat fiddle champions start playing and singing in multi-part close harmony, audiences are usually transfixed, then blown away. It’s because the group plays their own unique blend of Western swing, hot jazz and Texas fiddle tunes with extreme authority, energy and talent. And whether the Quebes are decked out in denims and boots or fashionably dressed to the nines, the three sisters, all in their 20s, look as good as they sound!

The Quebe Sisters will perform on Sunday, May 1st at 7:30 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street in York. The concert is sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society. The Quebe Sisters will be joined on stage by Simon Stipp on guitar and Daniel Parr on bass.

Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $22 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online HERE, or toll-free (800) 838-3006.

For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website.

The interview below with Hulda Quebe was conducted by Brandon Merritt and originally published on February 18, 2016.

______________________________________________________

BRANDON: Tell us a little about the start of the Quebe Sisters, and what brought you to where you are today.

HULDA: – You know, my sisters and I first heard fiddling at a contest.  And we had never heard fiddling before.  And it was just like a whole new world opened up to us.  My mom had always really like the violin as an instrument.  So, we had kind of taken some classical lessons, and we actually quit for the summer.  We weren’t that serious into it, and when we heard fiddling, it was just kind of a light bulb going on.  And then I thought, “Well that looks really fun, you know, we could try that”.  I remember our mom called and asked about taking some lessons with these teachers.  We just started taking lessons and it was just kind of something that happened, where we started taking lessons and fiddling and I guess you could tell that we progressed pretty quickly.  We started competing in contests, and that’s kind of how we got started playing music.

After we had been playing awhile individually in these contests, we all took lessons together.  So, we would all kind of sit in the same room, and we also all played at the same level since we had all started together.  And so it was just kind of a natural progression I think for us to work up tunes together.  We were listening to a lot of different styles of music at that point, other than just fiddling, Texas-style fiddling, and things like that.  So, when our teacher said, “Do you all want to work up a tune together?” it was just kind of a natural progression and just went from there.

Quebe-Hi-Res-1.jpg

BRANDON: What (or who) has had some of the greatest influence on your music?

 

HULDA:  Well, definitely the Texas-style fiddle players were the first people who influenced us.  Benny Thomasson, and I would say Terry Morris.  Other fiddle players that you might be more familiar with, Johnny Gimble, who passed away, and we’ve got the guys who were session players, they really influenced out playing.  Then we started playing country and western swing.  The jazz fiddle players, we listened to a lot of that.  And we also listened to a lot of western music growing up.  Then we went through the other styles of music.  We listened to jazz, and we listened to a lot of bluegrass too.  I remember the first bluegrass band that I ever heard, that I really sat down and listened to steady was a group called Hot Rize, and they’re still going today, they’re actually awesome.

I remember vocally we had been listening to the Mills Brothers before we started singing.  So, the Mills Brothers I think are to this day my favorite vocal group as far as just perfection wise.  We also listened to the McGuire Sisters a lot, and we listened to the Andrews Sisters some.  The biggest vocalists that I can think of that really influenced our singing were Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, and Ella Fitzgerald, all the classical singers that you can think of, we listened to everybody.

 

BRANDON We can see that you’ve had a lot of different influences on your music, yet you have a very unique style.  How do you bring all of that together and make your sound?

 

HULDA:  A lot of it, when we were a lot younger, our teacher was kind of crafting our arrangements and things, and we were all kind of listening to music and learning, and we would be like “Oh, we listened to…” and we would work up some tunes from that, or listen to that and see what we could learn from it.  For us I think, as you can see, we listened to a lot of different types of music, and of course then we also delved into swing music and jazz.  I could list all the artists from the swing era and even a few today that influence us.

Picking songs, picking arrangements – we look at our set list, we look at whether you need a slower one or a faster one, what have you been listening to, does the song hit you.  We just listen to a lot of different types of things and then just kind of go, well, how does everyone feel about this song?  Do you love it?  And then wait for everyone else.  “Have you heard this?”  And most the time, we all have.  That’s kind of how we go about picking our material.  And also we’ll find a song that will fit our band and the vision that we have for the music, and how we want to grow to the next step.

We’re also working on original stuff.  But, we haven’t put that into the set just yet, but hopefully it will be coming up real soon, so we’re really excited about that.  [Editor’s note-this interview was a few months ago.  I believe this has changed since then.]

8f87dc733f98663dbc747b36161607b1.jpg

BRANDON: You’ve put out three albums, the latest being Every Which-A-Way.  What are some of your favorite things about putting that album together?

HULDA:  I think that one of the things I really love about that album is that the vision we had going in was to record it as naturally as possible.  The three of us got in one room, we got three mics, we set it up, and we recorded all of our parts live, vocals and our fiddles.  That was our goal, to create something that was very natural, and that would also stand out compared to other records, and still have the same precision and quality.  That’s something I’m really, I guess you could say, proud of about that album.  It’s the way that we recorded it.  A lot of the song selections were tunes that a lot of people had requested.  A lot of our favorite arrangements and tunes we wanted to get down and record them.

 

BRANDON: Music is ever-changing, and all musicians and bands want to see a progression as time goes on.  What are some the changes that you have seen as a group over the years?

 

HULDA: That’s a good question, it’s a hard question to answer.  I think for us some of it is performance wise, growing our audience, getting your name out there, and going and traveling and seeing people enjoy your music, that they like it and what you’re doing and what you put your life into.  You know, that’s come to fruition and people like it and enjoy it.  You can actually be a professional full-time touring band and make a living off of it, and it’s really rewarding.

IMG_1826.jpg

     For us I think musically since we started out not really intending to be a band, there were a lot of things.  I remember one day it was kind of like a blink and we were playing the Grand Ole Opry, and it was just very surreal.  I never really considered myself, “Well, I’m a professional fiddle player at age thirteen”, because one I wasn’t, but two I was looking at music and learning and growing.  When we were younger we got to do some really cool stuff – play for the President, play for Asleep At The Wheel.  I remember Ricky Skaggs brought us out to the Grand Ole Opry in 2003.  And there were a lot of things that happened like that.  We feel really blessed that they happened.  It was really crazy to think I never even dreamed…I never even really considered that this would be a dream of mine.  When I played the Opry, I didn’t even know that I could dream to do that!  It’s really been fun for us growing and becoming better musicians.  It’s something that’s not always obvious to an audience, but there’s nights when you can tell the band just got tighter, or that was a way better show, or you had a breakthrough musically where you figured something out and had little victories.

For us vocally, we took some vocal lessons.  I remember learning new information because your voice is so different than playing another instrument.  It changed our lives, I remember that was a huge moment for us.

 

BRANDON: As the band pours itself into creating and playing music, what is it that you want listeners to take away from it, be it at a live show or a recording that they hear?

 

HULDA: One, I want them to take away from it that it’s good music.  I truly believe that whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.  And if you’re playing music it’s just like any other art, you really want your art and your craft to be excellent.  That’s one.

But I think the biggest thing for me is that people go away with it having an emotional response.  They feel the sad songs, and the happy songs really truly bring them joy.  And when we play live, I think one of my things is the reaction.  Just last night I looked out at the audience and this lady, you I could just tell that there was a huge smile on her face and she was just grinning from ear to ear, she was having so much fun.  And I thought, “That’s what makes everything we do worth while”.  If you can bring someone else joy and bring a smile to their face, that’s the whole point of putting on a performance I think, to make people feel things that they wouldn’t otherwise.  Having someone come up to you at the end of the show and say, “I’ve had a terrible week, I almost didn’t come tonight, but I’m so glad I did because you made me forget just how bad my week was and I just enjoyed myself so much”, that’s why we do what we do.

_______________________________________________________

This interview was published on the blog “Merritt’s Mandolin Minute”. Brandon started this blog out of a love for bluegrass music, and a desire to preserve and pass it on to others.  This interview was used with permission.  You can view its original publication HERE.

Advertisements

Ken and Brad Kolodner with Alex Lacquement perform in Harrisburg on April 23rd

Brad, Ken and AlexThe dynamic father-son duo of Ken and Brad Kolodner, known for their tight and musical arrangements of original and traditional old-time music, come to Harrisburg on Saturday, April 23, 2016, for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street. The Kolodners will be joined on bass, banjo, and harmony vocals by Alex Lacquement. The concert is preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

The Kolodners weave together a captivating soundscape on hammered dulcimer, banjo, and fiddle, pushing the boundaries of the Old-Time tradition into uncharted territory. They infuse their own brand of driving, innovative, tasteful, and unique interpretations of traditional and original fiddle tunes and songs.

Preceding the concert is a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided. Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

BREAKING NEWS: Brad Kolodner + Alex Lacquement will be playing during Susquehanna Folk’s 2016-2017 series with their group Charm City Junction on January 19th. Keep an eye out for more information on the SFMS website!

I had to chance to speak to Brad about the band’s repertoire, the banjo style that he plays, the origins of the hammered dulcimer and playing in a father-son duo.

_______________________

FOLKMAMA: Is this still a good time to talk?

BRAD: Yes it is. I’m just about arriving at the studios at WAMU where I do a weekly radio show. I actually studied television and radio in college and so one day a week I have this radio show down in D.C. It’s a three hour show where I play a mix of contemporary, progressive bluegrass, old-time music and I get to interview bands.

You can stream it online [(https://bluegrasscountry.org/about/hosts/brad-kolodner/]. People listen to it in Germany, in Australia, Denmark…it’s cool .It’s a lot of fun and I get to use my degree a little bit, but mostly I play music full time and teach banjo and fiddle.

FOLKMAMA: You are coming to play for Susquehanna Folk on Saturday. What’s the music going to be like?

BRAD:  We play music that I would characterize as old time influenced, but we do take a lot of liberties with the tunes. We change the melodies a little bit and the chords, tempos, sort of breathe new life into the tunes that we play. Not necessarily try to restrict ourselves to the boundaries of what had traditional music is supposed to sound like.

It’s our own approach and takes into consideration that the banjo and the dulcimer are an unusual pairing of instruments. So we’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with how to bend the grove and keep on pushing that tradition forward.

FOLKMAMA: You play the clawhammer style banjo. Tell us what that means and how does it compare to the bluegrass style?

BRAD: The instrument itself isn’t any different-it’s still a 5 string banjo. The clawhammer is more about the way in which you pick the strings. In the old days clawhammer was actually the predominate style. It was the original style that has its roots back to Africa where the banjo came from. It’s very percussive; certainly more percussive than what is often heard from a banjo player in a bluegrass band.

‘Clawhammer’ actually refers to the shape of your hand when you play. I hold my hand like a claw and I don’t use any fingerpicks. It’s more strumming based, and less individual note picking whereas in the bluegrass style you use steel fingerpicks and it’s mostly single notes rather than strumming.

By far the most popular styles these days is the three finger bluegrass style but the clawhammer has had a bit of resurgence lately as old-time influences creep into more Americana and bluegrass music.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about the hammered dulcimer. Where does it come from and where is it usually found?

BRAD: The hammered dulcimer is seen all over the world. It dates back thousands of years to Persia and it’s the predecessor to the piano. Essentially you open up a piano and bang on the strings with mallets. In our country the hammered dulcimer has been called “the lumberjack’s piano”. There is a common agreement that when it came to this continent it was first brought to the logging camps in Michigan and from there it made its way down to Appalachia.

So the hammered dulcimer is very old, but in its modern form in the US it’s more of a solo instrument. It’s not an instrument that you usually hear integrated into the old-time, bluegrass or Irish tradition. There really aren’t many players who perform on a large scale within the old-time tradition—just my dad and a few others. So as a duo, or trio, what we are doing is pretty unique.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about Alex and how the bass fits into all this.

BRAD: Alex studies classical and jazz at the Eastman School of music up in Rochester, NY, but lately he’s really gotten into old-time and bluegrass. He adds a nice groove to our sound and helps to expand the sonic range so we get that really powerful bottom end.

As a player Alex is very versatile. He knows how to use the bow in really creative ways which is something that you don’t always hear in old time music. He does some interesting harmonies and can play fiddle tunes on the bass which is really cool.

FOLKMAMA: You’re a father-son duo. What’s that like?

BRAD: We really enjoy playing together. I have a lot of stories to tell the audience about growing up in a musical household and how my father is passing his music through me. Honestly, growing up and hearing the dulcimer all the time, it took me awhile to appreciate it and love it like I do now. We both play music full time and we’re primary performing partners now, so it’s really cool.

American Songster: An Interview with Dom Flemons Appearing Sunday April 10th in Harrisburg, PA

Dompromo2_resized

More

Acoustic Bluesman Scott Ainslie to appear in Harrisburg, PA on April 2, 2016

Scott Ainslie, an acoustic blues player who brings the history, roots music, and sounds of the rural South to life, comes to Harrisburg on Saturday, April 2, 2016 for an evening concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society in collaboration with the Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania. The concert will be held at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. It begins at 7:30 p.m.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS and BSCP members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006.

For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

I had a chance to talk to Scott Ainslie about the upcoming concert, his music, and the instruments that he plays.

_____________________________

FOLKMAMA: You haven’t played for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society before, so we’re excited about your concert! Where else are you heading on this tour?

SCOTT AINSLIE: I’m starting at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem before coming to you, and then I’ll head out to the Midwest, to Wisconsin and Chicago

FOLKMAMA: Tell me a little about yourself.

SCOTT AINSLIE: I’m an acoustic blues musician. I started playing music when I was about 3 when my mother found me at the piano picking out melodies for the records that she listened to. I played everything that I could get my hands on during as I was growing up including the flute which I played in the elementary and middle school band.

A defining moment in my life came at about 15 years old when I heard John Jackson, a magnificent ragtime and blues guitarist, play in the middle of a Mike Seeger concert. I just fell out over what he could do with a guitar. And the first great folk scare was in full swing of course, but nobody was playing guitar like that. It was remarkably athletic, interesting, highly syncopated guitar style that I was just floored by.

After having played guitar for a couple of years I wound up falling in with old time musicians and so I studied southern old time banjo and fiddle and the ballad traditions from old time musicians.

From there I wanted to do the same kind of work with black blues and gospel musicians on the other side of the color line in eastern North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

So now I have almost five decades of playing stringed instruments and nearly 60 year at playing music.  What that gives me, along with my time with the old people, is a tremendous respect for tradition and also deep pockets in terms of how one goes about communicating with an audience.

FOLKMAMA: So how do you go about telling an audience what you have learned?

SCOTT AINSLIE: When I play I typically tell some stories to orient the audience about a repertoire and genre that might be unfamiliar to them. I’ve got a 30 second, and a minute and a half, and a 2 minute introduction to probably everything that I play and I choose when to talk and when to play. So it’s a lovely combination of music and background information.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about your repertoire.

SCOTT AINSLIE: So I play a lot of slide guitar. I play a lot of Robert Johnson’s work [Scott transcribed all of Robert’s music and published a landmark book in 1992] as well as Mississippi John Hurt. I play things off of my new record “The Last Shot Got Him”–it’s named after a second line of a Mississippi John Hurt song called “The First Shot Missed Him”. My concerts are largely a tour of a variety of different blues guitar and song styles.

FOLKMAMA: What about originals?

SCOTT AINSLIE I have a select number of original songs that sits well in this repertoire. When I write a song it has to lay next to something that has been sung for a long time. It has to be as durable as a piece of artwork. So I’m careful about what I write and what I ask songs to do. But there are some originals that I like to play and there will be a few in both the sets.

FOLKMAMA: What instruments do you bring with you?

SCOTT AINSLIE: I usually travel with my 1934 Gibson and a 1931 National. Also a gourd banjo and a one-string, homemade diddley bow or cigar box guitar. Since you have been doing focus on the banjo this season, I’ll also bring a homemade clawhammer style banjo that I made in my kitchen when I was 18.

FOLKMAMA: It seems like blues musicians, more than just about any other musicians I know, are very concerned about paying homage to the masters and preserving the traditions. What are your thoughts on this subject?

SCOTT AINSLIE: My strategy for learning traditional music has always been to put myself in front of the oldest and the best musicians that I can find, and stay there until I learn something about the tradition. So I’m a great believer in apprenticeship.

I think that you should allow a tradition to transform you, to change you, before you change it. And some of the musicians that you have had in your series, John Hammond and Rory Block for example have all done this.

It’s especially important for those of us that are white who have crossed the color line to play a style of music that we adore, to do it with respect and care and to do more research than you might have had to do if you were raised in the tradition.

Scot small