Old Time Musicians Riley Baugus and Dirk Powell perform in York, PA on December 3rd

dirk-and-rileyAmerican traditional music icons Riley Baugus and Dirk Powell come to York for a Saturday, December 3rd concert at 7:30 PM sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society to be held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street.

This will be a very rare opportunity to see these two important folk music luminaries perform together.

The Powell and Baugus concert will be preceded by a 6 PM 45-minute square dance workshop with caller Kim Forrey who grew up in York County and now lives in Annapolis, MD. She has been calling dances for 10 years. There is a $5 separate fee for the workshop. Dancers are also encouraged to free-style dance during the concert.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

Because of the expansive histories of each of these two old-time music masters, we will be presenting separate Folkmama Blog Posts for each musician. Todays will focus on Riley Baugus. Look for the companion Blog Post, this time on Dirk Powell, later in the week.

About Riley Baugus

For a long time Riley Baugus has been one of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society’s heroes of Appalachian old-time music. Riley Baugus is the real deal. He grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and learned fiddle and banjo as a young man from all the greats, especially Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham. He not only grew up with old-time music; briley_lsr_largeut also with the deep religious singing of the South.

In fact it was his haunting and authentic singing style that encouraged producer T Bone Burnett to tap Riley for the soundtrack of the major motion picture “Cold Mountain” where he contributed key vocals and also made all the banjos that appeared in the movie.

He has been part of other big projects also, including appearing on the Willie Nelson album “Country Music” and the famed Alison Krauss/Robert Plant album “Raising Sand”.

Riley and his mentor Tommy Jerrell

Riley Baugus first met Tommy Jarrell (an influential fiddler, banjo player, and singer from the Mount Airy region of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains who Riley names as one of his biggest influences) when he was just 17 years old. Riley says that his first exposure to the great old-time musician was when he went to his house one time to play music. At the time Jarrell was 81 years old. (He died three years later.)

Riley says this about what he learned from Jarrell:

“Tommy had a lifetime’s worth of knowledge about all sorts of things. Life in general, tunes, how to play them in the archaic style that he learned as a boy, hundreds of stories about things that happened to him in his life, stories about his family, the community, other musicians that he played with over the years, where he first learned the tunes that he played, stories relating to particular tunes, how to attack a tune….. and the list goes on and on.

When you went there you didn’t just go to learn one thing. You might go with the idea that you would learn, “Sally Ann,” but come away with three versions of the tune from different time periods, but the stories of why it was changed at certain times and what the song lyrics in the tune meant. I learned and still learn from him about tunes on the banjo and fiddle and guitar and mandolin and singing that are from the 1800s that he learned from his father and his uncles and his neighbors.

To learn from Tommy Jarrell was like having a time machine at your disposal. He was in his 80s, learned most of his music as a teenager at about 15 or 16 years old, from men and women who were in their 80s and 90s at the time he was learning, so the information you were getting was one person removed from the mid 1800s, and to people removed from and even earlier time, likely the late 1700s.”

Meeting and playing with Dirk Powell

Riley and Dirk first met at The Galax Fiddler’s Convention in the mid 80s. They started hanging out in jam sessions together with mutual friends and became friends themselves. Through the years they have performed together often, although both musicians have been more active with other projects.

Riley has this memory of one of his favorite times that he played with Dirk:

“Dirk and I have played tunes for a long time, but one of the best times was a few years ago at Tonderfest, in Tonder, Denmark. You are literally playing for 10s of thousands of people at any performance at that festival, and usually on a huge stage with really big time professional sound systems.

He and I sort of went over into a little shed that was provided back stage at the festival, away from the sound of the stage and the other performers and the spectators and the whole big scene. We just played a Round Peak tune together. It was the most magnificent feeling to be there at that moment, just the two of us, right in the midst of that huge environment, playing with total abandon and pure emotion, feeling each other’s music and soul and talking with each other using the instruments as our voices. We knew we loved playing with each other and being with each other, but that moment was really special. “


Riley talks about old-time music:

“The performances of the music that I give today are not merely recreations nor an attempt at preservation, but a living, breathing example of music and tradition that still lives in the mountains near my home, where my family has been living since the 1700s.

In these mountain communities you can still go to several dances every weekend, jam sessions within the community, and to performances of old time music all over this area. It is not an art form that is dead and simply being recreated by people as a spectacle, but the music and culture of people from the Southern Appalachians. “


Riley talks about the church singing that is associated with the region where he is from:

“The singing that is done in the Baptist churches takes many different forms in the mountains. The style that is done by the Old Regular Baptists in Eastern Kentucky and the Mountain Primitive Baptist styles are similar. They sing old songs in a lined-out fashion. That is to say that a song leader “Chants” the first line of a verse and the congregation repeats the line to the melody. This continues for each line of each verse. That way no one except the song leader has to have a book or know the words to a song.

This method is also still used in the churches in the Hebrides, on the Isles of Scotland, except they sing the songs in Gaelic. It is called Psalm singing there and the melodies are very similar to the ones used in the Southern Appalachians for many of the old songs. “

Material for this Folkmama Blog was mostly obtained from the following source: http://nodepression.com/interview/hearth-music-interview-riley-baugus


Pete’s Posse, featuring Pete Sutherland, comes to Harrisburg November 22nd

Begin the holiday season right by joining us for a pre-Thanksgiving Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert with the Vermont based band Pete’s Posse. The concert will be held on Tuesday, November 22, 2016, at 7:30 p.m., at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, petes_posse_3-upHarrisburg.

We just couldn’t resist picking up this concert with the great Vermont fiddler Pete Sutherland and his exciting new band Pete’s Posse which includes Pete’s talented protégé Oliver Scanlon and the dynamic Tristan Henderson. Featured will be the group’s “multi-generational roots music sound” which will include New England Contra Dance tune, original songs as well as folk songs from New England and a smattering of Appalachian, gospel, bluegrass and country.

The group distinguishes themselves by their intricate, multi layered arrangements and selections often accompanied by Quebecoise style foot tapping.

Central to the group is Pete Sutherland; a warm voiced singer, songsmith and accomplished multi-instrumentalist.  Sutherland is a veteran of many touring and recording groups including Metamora, Rhythm In Shoes, The Woodshed Allstars, Woods Tea Company, Ira Bernstein’s Ten Toe Percussion and is a founding member of the long running ‘contradance jamband’ The Clayfoot Strutters. He is also a producer with over 80 projects under his belt, and a prolific songwriter covered by the likes of Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, Nightingale and Altan.

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

I had a chance to speak to Pete Sutherland about Pete’s Posse; his newest project.


FOOKMAMA: Tpetesposse-jendeanphoto-4294-editell me about the group.

PETE: It’s a string band. The multi-generational part is the energy-maker I would say. I of course have been at this for decades. So anyone who has seen me in other bands, particularly Metamora back in the 80s; we are reminiscent of that.

Pete’s Posse pays a lot of dances so we have a good sprinkling of contra dance music; all arranged for concert listening. About half of our concert is vocal numbers. Quite a few of the songs are my originals or traditional, and we’re doing a song of Tristan’s at this point. So it’s a good, well rounded, acoustic roots program I would say. There is some humor, and there are definitely some tearjerkers, so we’re hitting all sides of the emotional spectrum.

FOLKMAMA: Is there a Vermont sound that you are drawing from?

PETE: Most places have a roots sound, if you go back far enough. We are doing a handful of things that are fairly rooted in the folklore of Vermont. This is music that was collected either by people of my grandparents generation or I learned from people of my parents generation.

The music from Vermont was definitely Scotts-Irish. It was definitely Quebecois and Maritime related and of course other European countries as well.

FOLKMAMA: Listing to your CDs and watching your You Tubes I couldn’t help but notice that you employ quite a few instruments.

PETE: Yes, we’re always adding and experimenting. Aside from what we’ve been using for awhile; fiddle, banjo, piano, guitar, mandolin, and jawharp we’ve just added an instrument called a melodica; it’s a mouth blowing keyboard. Oliver is now playing his childhood instrument—which is a viola. The two other guys are both tapping their feet Quebecoise style. That is part of our rhythm ground game.

FOLKMAMA: You call yourselves ‘rehearsal addicts’. That must mean that your repertoire is pretty fluid.

PETE: We’re always adding new tunes. Typically right now, we’re on this tour, and we’re playing two back to back dance weekends where you in 12 or 14 hours over the course of the weekend. That’s a lot of music. We don’t like to repeat ourselves so we have a lot of dance sets.

We’re also preparing for our third album and we’ve set ourselves the goal of arranging three band new pieces that we haven’t done before, so that’s taking quite a bit of rehearsal time. We’re pretty meticulous.

FOLKMAMA: I see that you play a lot of house concerts.

PETE: We’re interested in doing more concert material, period and the house concerts have given us this opportunity. There is a pretty good network out there. We find, as many of our peers did, that you can call on friends that area really excited about your music and they will just have a pop-up house concert. We’ve probably been responsible, over the last three years that we’ve been together, of getting at least of half a dozen of people’s series started. They became a series because they a good enough time doing our band.

But we are of course looking for the bigger fish, like folk societies such as yours and festivals.

FOLKMAMA: Is this your main group now?

PETE: The vast amount of my work is going into the Posse. I must say I’m really blessed with two amazing collaborators. Tristan is a real go getter with the business side of things and Oliver is excellent at book keeping and tax prep. So now we are a legitimate organization with a credit card and a bank account and a nice website!

Cassie and Maggie MacDonald perform in Harrisburg, November 13th

With a level of talent surpassed only by the joy they show in sharing music from Nova Scotia, siblings Cassie and Maggie MacDonald appear in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 13, at Appalachian Brewing Company’s Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. Celtic fiddle, piano, vocals and step dance will be featured. This is a sit-down concert in a listening-room cassie-maggie-promo-2014environment.

Born to a Nova Scotia family with a rich musical heritage, the MacDonald sisters have used their upbringing as a springboard for their own brand of Celtic roots music. Among their honors are 2015 Live Ireland Radio New Group of the Year, 2015 Chicago Irish-American News Emerging Artist Album of the Year, Independent Music Awards nominee for World Song of the Year, Canadian Folk Music Award nominees for Young Performers of the Year, two-time East Coast Music Award nominees for traditional album and trad/roots group album, and double Music Nova Scotia Award nominees for new artist and roots album of the year.

Their newest CD is called “The Willow Collection”.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 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

I got a chance to speak to Cassie MacDonald about their music, which in a large part has been passed down through family traditions, and their efforts to preserve and keep vital the Celtic music from their region.


FOLKMAMA: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what audiences should expect when they come to a Cassie and Maggie MacDonald concert.

CASSIE: Maggie and I are sisters and we come from a small town in Nova Scotia that was populated by Scottish people who came over in the 1700s. Northern Nova Scotia, where we come from, is still very much entrenched in that heritage although the music has really taken on a life of its own after it was brought over from Scotland.

There are a lot of young people, ourselves included, who are really taking those traditions and bringing something fresh to it. I play the fiddle and Maggie plays piano and guitar and we both sing as well. We are also both [step] dancers, which we think of as another element of percussion—an instrument almost.

So there will be the instrumentals that we are really known for across the globe and also vocals in both English and the Gaelic language that we have in Nova Scotia. It’s sort of an interesting dialect; kind of between the Scottish Gaelic and the Irish Gaelic. It’s really grown and evolved in its own way. Especially in the music, there are a lot of beautiful songs that use this special dialect.

Visually it’s just the two of us but we bring a lot to the table with Maggie’s instrumentalist background on piano and guitar and the fiddle playing and of course the dancing. There is never a dull moment! We have a lot of fun.

FOLKMAMA: Tell us about the repertoire. How much of it is traditional and how much contemporary?

CASSIE: Everything that we do is based in tradition –that provides the bedrock of what we do. But we have really taken it to a new place. We try to balance the traditional tunes with contemporary arrangements. Of course we are doing a lot from our newest album which is more contemporary. So we try to maintain a balance with old music, but present it in a fresh way.

FOLKMAMA: I’m really impressed with how BIG your sound is! It’s a bit unexpected for a duo.

CASSIE: We actually get that comment quite a bit. It just comes of out the kind of music that we play. It’s naturally very energetic. Maggie’s style of accompaniment is very, very full. She almost takes the place of a percussionist and a bass player. So she’s really covering a lot of bases with her accompaniment. And my style of playing is quite bold, not aggressive but very full I would say.

Our style of music, what we grew up with, was always playing for dances. And most of the time there wasn’t a really reliable sound system. But the dancers were still there wanting to give it their all, so you had to find a way to really fill up that sound so they could hear the beat and the rhythm in the tune and it wouldn’t get lost in the big dance hall.

FOLKMAMA: How does the music that you play differ from the Acadian and Quebecois music also found in Canada?

CASSIE: These traditions all have a lot of Scottish influences, and even in the Cape Breton music that we pay there is also a lot of French influence. The boundaries are kind of blurred and we’re always trading ideas back and forth.

I think if you wanted to understand the differences, it really would come down to the style of dancing. That’s what really drives traditional music from Nova Scotia—the dancing. Also, the foot percussion that is a defining feature of Acadian and Quebecois music isn’t really found so much in the Cape Breton style.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve visited Nova Scotia and it seems like in many families there are family members playing music together. How important has family connection been to you?

CASSIE: In our case what has really driven our whole career is that history of family music. When we play we always play a least a couple of set that our grandfather had recorded and would have played himself. And we always try to keep his personal sound alive because it was very unique and very special and we’re so lucky to have that legacy.

Both Maggie and I feel this intense responsibility to keep our family music alive, although we do play a lot of contemporary music and we’ve been honing our own individual sound.

FOLKMAMA: Do you feel that you sing together better because you are siblings?

CASSIE: Actually, singing is relativity new to us. We grew up in such a rich instrumental tradition with so many fiddle players in our family; singing wasn’t really part of the equation. So we’ve been on a journey ourselves to really discover, with our vocals, what we want to bring to the tradition ourselves.

FOLKMAMA: Why is the style of music so distinctive in Nova Scotia?

CASSIE: A lot of people have looked into that. Not just in Nova Scotia but in all the Maritime Provinces.  It was a very isolated but we also had a lot of people traveling on the sea; a lot of fishermen. So we did have influences from different cultures who may have planted little seeds here and there. For the most part the isolation has been a big part of keeping the traditions very pure.

A lot of the first settlers that came from Scotland weren’t concert musicians, they were farmers or fishermen. If they were musicians they weren’t necessarily classically trained, but they were there to provide entertainment and they were there for dancing. Because it’s dance music it has that intrinsic rhythm. You can’t keep your feet still!


It’s All About the Song: Nov 3 in Hbg, PA The Murphy Beds w/ Anna and Elizabeth

med_colliton_murphybeds__20140520-8770975491In a recent Folkmama Post we focused on the group Anna and Elizabeth. Today we are sending you information about The Murphy Beds. Both groups will be performing traditional songs both separately and together tomorrow, Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 p.m. during a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street.

The event will be signed for the hearing impaired by Deb Maul. There is special pricing for families.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22, with a $25 maximum admission for families (parent(s) and child(ren) age 22 or under). 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

Below is some interesting information about The Murphy Beds

The Murphy Beds (Jefferson Hamer and Eamon O’Leary) present traditional and original folk songs with close harmonies and deft instrumental arrangements on bouzouki, guitar, and mandolin. They have performed and collaborated with artists across the folk spectrum including Beth Orton, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Anais Mitchell, and Sam Amidon.

It was a deep love of all things traditional that brought The Murphy Beds together a few years ago, and the love of taking traditional sounds and making them relevant to listeners today that keeps the duo going strong.

The two musicians met in NYC in the Lower East Side when playing at traditional Irish sessions. They discovered that they had a mutual love for all different kinds of songs. They started getting together in their apartments; set up some microphones and recording what we were working on. That lead to their first CD which they called “The Murphy Beds”. Somehow the name of the CD got appendaged to their act, which Eamon said is very confusing when they tour in Ireland because there are no Murphy Beds in that country!

The duo reports that they spend a lot of time on the arrangements of the old songs. They may adjust the text so that it tells the story that they want to tell and they work on the instrumental arrangements and the harmony singing. In this way they “decorate” the old songs.

Eamon started playing Irish music while growing up in Dublin through his friendship with the Mayock family, traditional musicians from County Mayo. When he moved to New York City in the early 90’s, he immersed himself in the city’s traditional music scene and travelled widely, performing with many of the great players in Irish music. In 2004 he and fiddler Patrick Ourceau released the album Live at Mona’s. Eamon has taught at many traditional music programs in the US and also records and performs original music. His last solo record, Old Clump, was released in 2012.

Jefferson is a guitarist and singer based in Brooklyn, NY. In 2013, in addition to The Murphy Beds, he and songwriter Anais Mitchell released Child Ballads, a collection of new adaptations of English and Scottish folk songs which won a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award. His original songs are featured on the 2016 album Great Shakes by Cambridge, MA roots rock ensemble Session Americana. In the Oct. 2013 issue, Acoustic Guitar magazine wrote, “A gifted guitarist and singer, Hamer is able to hit close harmonies… and weave gorgeous instrumental lines.”

For more information visit http://www.MurphyBedsMusic.com

Information for this story was also gathered from this webpage which also has some very nice recordings of the band: http://www.folkalley.com/music/extras/the-murphy-beds-2015-folk-alley-session/


November 3rd: Anna & Elizabeth and Their Crankie Perform with the Murphy Beds

Join us for this very special evening when performing separately and together, two traditional music duos that feature music from Appalachia and the British Isles come to Harrisburg on Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 p.m. for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street. Featured will be Anna & Elizabeth, who present a mesmerizing collaboration on Appalachian music and stories, sung in close harmony, and The Murphy Beds, offering traditional and original folksongs with tight harmonies and deft instrumentation.


Anna and Elizabeth perform with a CRANKIE. According to the duo a CRANKIE is a long scroll that is placed in a frame. As they sing a ballad or tell a story, the scroll is cranked around (it has a crank at the top) so the audience sees one part of the scroll at a time. Anna and Elizabeth make the scrolls together. Some of them are quilted and stitched together, so they’re giant 16-yard collages. They also make them with paper cuts and put a light behind them so they can be in silhouette.

Each scroll takes about a month to create. The Crankies help the duo to engage audiences in the stories behind the traditional music that they sing.

The event will be signed for the hearing impaired by Deb Maul. There is special pricing for families.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22, with a $25 maximum admission for families (parent(s) and child(ren) age 22 or under). Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online, or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website.

Read excerpts of an interview with Anna and Elizabeth from the April 15, 2016 Bluegrass Today publication, used by permission.


BLUEGRASS TODAY: Listening to [your] record, the first thing that hits you is the arrangements; some of them are risky and not so traditional. And vocally there’s some complex interplay between you and Elizabeth. Is everything planned to the note or do you leave room for improvisation?


ANNA AND ELIZABETH: Our music is rooted in an approach we learned from playing old-time music, which is about feel. We hear a song and figure out what kind of feel we want, and then within that framework a lot is improvised. We don’t do a ton of planning. Old-time music has really given us an aesthetic of simplicity.


BLUEGRASS TODAY: Do you feel any pull to stay true to the “classic” versions of some of the songs you cover? Ever think you might be messing with something sacred when you arrange them so unconventionally?

ANNA AND ELIZABETH: I think in some ways we’ve avoided that issue. We’ve done a lot of work trying to learn music from field recordings as a way to not get bogged down in more recent old-time recordings. If you’re learning from a field recording you only have one voice that you learned the song from and it’s not really giving you any harmonic or rhythmic information. That gives us a lot of leeway to say, “Well, how do we hear it?”


BLUEGRASS TODAY: So then is it difficult balancing your creative impulses with staying true to the music?

ANNA AND ELIZABETH : As a pair we really value the relationships we have with some of the families of the singers who we draw a lot from. It’s important to know that we have their support. Like with Texas Gladden, it means a lot to us that her family is excited that we’re carrying on her music. And weirdly, they help us be ourselves in her music. Because who better to know that we’re not Texas Gladden than Texas Gladden’s granddaughter? She’s not expecting us to sound like her granny.


BLUEGRASS TODAY: For newcomers to this music, they generally need a way into it. And its players like you who’ll be their gateway. How do you bring them in and get them interested?


ANNA AND ELIZABETH : The coolest thing we do in our travels is plant the spark of, “You can learn this too!” We take stagecraft really seriously because it’s a crazy challenge to explain to someone how moving a little song is. This is subtle music and I think you have to figure out how to invite people into that space where they can hear it. We rely a lot on storytelling techniques and creating a whole show that can put the music in context. Because I think the context is what makes it magical.


This interview was taken from “Anna & Elizabeth: New Twists on Old Tales” written by Robert Kimmel. Read the full article HERE.