THE JAKOB’S FERRY STRAGGLERS appearing in Harrisburg on March 23rd



“With sublime vocals and stirring harmonies, this is not a band to be missed or trifled with.”

— Appalachian Jamwich

Since their formation in 2014, the Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers have been drawing freely from old-time, bluegrass, jamgrass, rockabilly, and swing music to create their own brand of high-energy Appalachian bluegrass. The band brings its powerful songwriting, mesmerizing vocals, and hard-driving rhythms to Harrisburg for a March 23, 2019, Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

The members of the Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers say their goal is simple: write good songs, honor the music, have fun, and take it to the road.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available here: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3601136 or by calling (800) 838-3006.

 More information can be found at: www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/JakobsFerryStragglers.html

We had a chance to talk to Gary Antol about the band’s music, history, and what concert goers should expect at a Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers concert.

FOLKMAMA: Can you tell us about the members in your band? How long have you been together?

GARY:  Libby Eddy and I founded the band in 2014. We’ve had some personnel changes throughout the years, but the two of us have always been central to the band. Libby plays the fiddle and does lead vocals. She’s from Morgantown, West Virginia and grew up steeped in old-time music. Her dad taught her to play fiddle, and her mom taught her to sing.

I play guitar and sing and actually came to Stringband music a little later in life. I was into a lot of kinds of music and majored in jazz guitar at Duquesne. When I first got exposed to string band music, I remember thinking, “This is it.”

In the band, we also have Ray Bruckman who is from Stahlstown, PA and plays Mandolin and sings. Our bass player Evan Bell is from Hagerstown, MD. These guys have been with us for the past two years. For this concert, we are happy to be adding Corey Woodcock, who is a banjo player who had played with the local Harrisburg area bluegrass band Mountain Ride.

FOLKMAMA: How do you tell us about the music that you play?

GARY: I would describe us as a semi-traditional string band. We do play traditional bluegrass and old-time, but we have three albums of original music, which is mostly what we play. The crowd should expect a lot of variety, and with Corey joining us for the Fort Hunter concert, I know that there will be a lot of excitement and spontaneity because the band will be literally flying by the seat of our pants!

FOLKMAMA: Who does the songwriting in the band?

GARY: The songwriting is mostly done by me, but Libby and Ray also wrote some instrumentals that appeared on our last CD, ‘Poison River.’

FOLKMAMA: Tell me a little more about Poison River. I understand it was Brewgrass Chronicle’s “One of 2018’s Top New Releases”

GARY: We released the CD back in June and it’s our third full- length CD and the first with our current band composition.  The lead single ‘When the Red Bud Blooms’ has been picked up by some pretty nice national bluegrass shows.

Of the 10 songs on the CD, seven are our own, and three are some covers that we really like. The band financed the production of the album, but in this age of crowdfunding, we asked our fans to purchase advance copies even before the CD was completed. The sale of pre-orders went so well that we had to do a reorder even before the CD was officially released! The CD has done very well and has gotten good reviews.

FOLKMAMA: How did the band get its unusual name? Is there actually a Jakob in the band?

GARY: Although sometimes call me Jakob, there is actually not a Jakob in the band!

But here is the story: Libby and I had fronted a band under another name, and at a certain point we felt we needed to change the name because there was another band that we were getting mixed up with. I remember my dad telling me about Jacobs Ferry, which is a little town in Greene County, Pennsylvania and how it would be a cool band name. During frequent trips in and out of Carmichaels, I would often pass signs for Jacobs Ferry, so one day I decided to take a look.

It turned out to be a little tiny town alongside the river, with a couple of trailers and a boat dock. It seemed funny to me that there were all these signs, but the town was basically in the middle of nowhere! But as it turns out I did agree with my dad that it was a pretty cool band name so we adopted it. We added the ‘Stragglers” part because we always seem to be just a little bit late for everything!

FOLKMAMA: The band has accomplished a lot in a short period of time, three full length CDs, a gig schedule that has you doing some 150 concerts a year up and down the east coast (with occasional forays out west), participation in The Emerging Artist Showcase at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, and appearances at many other festivals.

What has happened recently that you are the most excited about?

GARY: The band has been fortunate to get so many opportunities to play all over the country and really build up our fan base, but we were super excited to get selected as official showcase artists at the 2018 International Bluegrass Music Association Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was really a fantastic time with so many fantastic bands. We were part of the ‘Bluegrass Ramble’ and got to play three official showcases in clubs throughout the town.

FOLKMAMA: Congratulations on scoring an IBMA showcase placement, that’s very impressive! It seems that IBMA while honoring bluegrass traditions, has been quick to embrace the newer, more contemporary Stringband sound. Do you see the Jackob’s Ferry Stragglers among the wave of young string bands that are really doing some innovative things?

GARY: I really get excited about how many young people are playing string band music now. Even musicians younger than us (the ages of the musicians in Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers range from 25-42.) Sometimes we see even teenaged kids with amazing talent. But I think we’re all being propelled by a common desire which is to make music that is organic. Some of the music that is on the radio is not even made by real instruments. I think the string band music that young people are playing now is just an attempt to connect with what is real and basic.



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Interview with Premier Irish Fiddler Zoë Conway: “We Haven’t Looked Back Since.”


Married Musical duo Zoë Conway & John McIntyre, touted by the BBC as “simply one of the best folk duos on the planet,” will bring their innovative combination of Irish fiddle and guitar to the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn in Harrisburg on Monday, March 18th at 7:30 pm.  The concert is sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society.  More information can be found on the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website. Tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS Members, and $10 for students (ages 3-22).  Tickets will be available at the door or online.

Earlier this week, Zoë Conway chatted with SFMS staff writer Peter Winter via email about the origins of her ongoing musical collaboration with her husband John McIntyre, her personal musical journey, and her unique position as a celebrated musician with a foot in both classical and traditional folk music.

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You took the road less traveled, learning both classical and traditional Irish music.  How did that come about? I know you were eight at the time, was that something you wanted to learn or were your parents and teachers advocates for both styles?

Ah! My parents don’t play any music but they love it, and brought all five of us children to traditional music lessons, sessions and competitions.  By the time I was born, my older siblings were excellent traditional musicians, so I was totally surrounded by it from day one.  When I was around 9, I saw a young girl performing an incredibly difficult virtuoso piece on an American Chat show – Introduction and Tarantella by Sarasate – and I said “That’s what I want to do!”  My father then found me a classical violin teacher and I went to her for some years and continued my studies into my twenties in Dublin.  At the time, traditional music teachers wouldn’t allow you to learn classical and vice versa, so I had to continue living separately in two worlds with this hidden life for a long time.

I am so fascinated by your dual musical background, because I think so many people still think these two styles are at odds with each other. What are some distinct elements from both trad and classical that have made you the musician you are today? 

You know, a lot of the time they are at odds with each other.  But for some reason, perhaps if you start both early enough, they complement each other, a bit like learning two languages at once – things just click into place.  In the trad world, you must learn by ear and memory, and remember an incredible amount of tunes which is so beneficial for musicality.  In classical, you learn so much as it is so disciplined.  You learn your whole instrument, technique, tone, tuning, speed, accuracy, control and  to relish practice.  Put the two together and it’s a winning combination!

How did you and your husband John begin working together musically?

We have a very long story, actually living across the road from each other as children before both moving away, then meeting once in secondary school, but when we finally got together we were both professional musicians.  John was at the time touring worldwide with his Indie band, The Revs, and I was touring with Riverdance and Rodrigo y Gabriella, so we didn’t have any time to actually play together!  When we got married, we slowed down a bit and wanted to spend more time together, so we started to play, and it was just so easy and fun!  We haven’t looked back since!  Of course, as it now turns out, John was the perfect fit for me as he also studied classical guitar, and grew up playing traditional music sessions in South West Donegal, alongside his rock and roll!

You two keep it eclectic in your performance! Why is it important to you guys to not limit yourselves to just one genre?

Really, our first love is traditional Irish music.  That’s what we listen to in the car and at home.  However, quality music from every genre is amazing, and it inspires us. These other genres have really influenced our interpretation and composition of traditional Irish music, and they challenge us as musicians.  I also find that these pieces from other genres, say Tiger Rag which is a swing jazz piece, acts like a sorbet in a meal – they give light and shade to a whole performance, and actually help shine a light on the traditional elements in a way.

In 2018 you released the record “Allt” with Julie Fowlis and Eamon Doorley. They have also been guests of our concert series a couple of times! When did your paths first cross and how did the idea for the project come about?

Well, you already know how amazing they are! As people and as musicians!  I have known Éamon from a young teenager, and met Julie a few times at events and more recently when we were both filming for a TV show.  I was frantically finishing a commission for orchestra, so running away into corners to get a few more bits done, and I think Julie was delighted to meet someone very similar to her!!  We both have a lot on with family and music!  She suggested that we could collaborate on a project and so we spent a while emailing, coming up with ideas.  John speaks Irish in our house, and Julie and Éamon speak Irish and Scots Gaelic, so we came up with the idea of taking Gaelic poetry and composing new music and settings for it.  We then spent over a year gathering ideas and rehearsing, and finally recorded and released the album.  We are very proud of it, but were absolutely overwhelmed with everyone’s response! 

You have collaborated with so many different artists and been a part of so many different projects! What is one that always comes to mind as being special? 

Oh gosh, everything I do is such a pleasure.  Last night for example, we performed at the University of Limerick Concert Hall with singer Iarla O Lionard of The Gloaming, and Australian-Irish genius guitarist, Steve Cooney.  What an honour!  But the main one for me was being invited to perform at a night for Leonard Cohen at The Point in Dublin some years ago, as the only Irish musician there!  I had been recording the week before with an American producer on a track with Bono and Andrea Corr, and the producer asked me to come and play at this special event at the Point.  I got to perform that night with so many legends – Beth Orton, Jarvis Cocker, Lou Reed, Nick Cave…it was amazing!

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Peter Winter lives in Harrisburg where he writes, teaches music, plays in the Celtic group Seasons, and DJs. He is on instagram