LOW LILY SATURDAY, MARCH 11TH AT 3 PM AT THE FORT HUNTER CENTENNIAL BARN. ALSO! Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “Petting Zoo”

The string and vocal trio Low Lily, which explores the roots and branches of American folk music with traditional influences and modern inspiration, comes to the Fort Hunter Barn located at 5300 N. Front Street in Harrisburg for a matinee concert at 3 PM on March 11th.

The concert will be preceded by a fun and interactive Folk Music 101 workshop at 2:15 followed by a folk instrument “petting zoo” (both free).

This would be a perfect event to invite those family members, neighbors and co-workers who may not be familiar with folk music! Low Lily members include Liz Simmons on vocals and guitar, Flynn Cohen on vocals, guitar, and mandolin, and Lissa Schneckenburger on vocals and fiddle. They are all masterful musicians and vocalists with deep relationships to traditional music styles ranging from bluegrass to Irish, Scottish, New England, and Old Time Appalachian sounds.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22, with a maximum family fee for parents and children under age 23 of $25. Advance tickets are available toll-free at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.brownpapertickets.com. For info visit www.sfmsfolk.org

This event is made possible with an “Art for All Grant” from the Foundation for Enhancing Communities and the Cultural Enrichment Fund. Additional funding by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

We had a chance to speak to Liz Simmons who spoke to us about the band and their upcoming engagement in Harrisburg.

 

FOLKMAMA: We’re really looking forward to Low Lily’s appearance in Harrisburg and thrilled that you will be doing this special workshop to introduce “newbies” to folk music (and maybe teach the rest of us a thing or too also!).

LIZ: Yes, we’re excited too! We’ve been kicking around some ideas about the workshop and we’ve settled on a few things. First off I think we’ll talk about the backgrounds of the different members of Low Lily. Each one of us has a different way of how we came to music and there are some good stories there. For example, I started playing music because my dad put a ukulele in my hands when I was 4. Also, my parents are musicians so I was going to gigs from the time I was a baby.

We’ll definitely sing some songs together. We’ll hit on some from different regions in the country so that everyone can get a taste of the wide variety of folk styles there are in the United States. Lissa will do a traditional song from the state of Main where she is from and Flynn has done a lot of work in Appalachian traditional song, so most likely will do a song from that region. And I most likely will try a English or an Irish song so we can hear where a lot of American folk traditions are rooted.

We’ll introduce the instruments that we play and give some background about each. In general we’ll respond to the group that is in front of us, and go in what direction seems to make sense depending on how old or how young our audience is.

FOLKMAMA: And what about the concert? What should people expect to hear?

LIZ: We’ll do some traditional songs—you know songs that are so old that no one knows who wrote them but have been passed from generation to generation. We take these old songs and arrange them in a way that we feel is fresh; that presents the sounds that we like to make musically.

We also write songs, sometimes separately, sometimes together. There will also be some instrumental numbers. Flynn is a wonderful flat picker on the mandolin and guitar and Lissa, of course plays beautiful fiddle. So they’ll get to hear some of that beautiful melody playing. It will be a mix of up-tempo with some slightly slower stuff.

We do a lot of three part harmony, that’s a big feature of what we do, so that’s part of the sound as well. So audiences that like harmonies and choruses will be happy to hear us as well.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve followed Lissa Schneckenburger for a long time and love her fiddling [Lissa has appeared twice for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, as the Lissa Schneckenburger Trio and as the Lissa Schneckenburger Duo). I’ve heard her style described as “New England Fiddling.” What does that mean?

LIZ: It’s a style that, like all American folk styles is made up of a whole slew of influences. When you think of where New England is—you can kind of guess where the influences come from. You have the Quebec and the Cape Breton influences which of course is French and Scottish, and then you have coming up from the South old-time and Appalachian music influences filtering in. Then you have the Irish and the Scottish through the Boston channel. You might even hear a touch of bluegrass because Bluegrass is big in Boston area.

FOLKMAMA: Do you have CDs that you are planning to sell?

LIZ: Since it’s our first time in Harrisburg, our 2015 CD will be a new recording to audiences there. It’s our only Low Lily title so far, but are working on the next one. Before we were Low Lily, we had a previous incarnation and were known as Annalivia. This was before Lissa joined. We have a title that we sell from that era as well as solo albums.

FOLKMAMA: Have you been to any interesting venues lately?

LIZ: We just did a tour out to Folk Alliance International–which I always explain to people is a trade show for folk musicians. So we turned that into a Midwest tour. We did five cities on the way out, which was really fun.

We hit Rochester, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Fairfield, Iowa, and Columbia, Missouri. We did many of the Northeast’s folk festivals last summer, which of course is such a rich place for New England and American folk music. And we often run into a lot of pals too, and get a chance to listen to and hear new music. So even though it’s a gig, it’s still a lot of fun.

And this summer we’re traveling a little further afield and will do a tour in England and in California in the fall. So lots of great traveling coming up!

Susquehanna Folk hosts Robin and Linda Williams on September 29th in a Concert that Marks the SFMS’ First Collaboration with the Ware Center in Lancaster

rl_close_guitarIn a musical career spanning more than four decades, iconic American musicians Robin and Linda Williams have made it their mission to perform the music that they love—a robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time, and acoustic country that combines wryly observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism. Their stirring concerts have earned them a huge body of fans over the years and they bring that stage magic to Central Pennsylvania on Thursday, September 29, for a 7:30 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society/Millersville University concert at the Ware Center, 42 N. Prince Street, Lancaster.

Robin and Linda met and fell for each other in 1971 on a visit to Myrtle Beach, SC, while Linda was teaching school and Robin was a full-time musician on a national coffeehouse circuit. It wasn’t long before they discovered additional magic when they combined their voices in harmony. Their career took off initially in the Minneapolis folk scene, where Robin had made many friends and connections as a solo artist. They recorded their first album there in 1975 and the following year made their first appearance on a new public radio show—A Prairie Home Companion. They have continued their rich relationship with the program for 40 years.

Over the decades they have issued 23 albums and crisscrossed the country many times, thrilling audiences with their songs and harmonies. In the late 1980s they began touring with a backup band, Their Fine Group, and their big sound grew even bigger. That association lasted for 25 years, but now Robin and Linda are most often heard as a duo, going back to the roots that brought them together 40 years ago.

They marked 40 years on stage in 2013 with their CD “Back 40,” a studio album featuring fresh treatments of their early classics, many from albums long out of print, and favorites by other writers.

While as live performers they are second to none, it is as gifted songwriters that they have earned a rarer honor, the devotion and deep respect of their musical peers. The list of artists who have covered their original songs includes some of the greats of country music such as Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV, Tim & Mollie O;Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, and The Seldom Scene.

Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $22 for SFMS members and $5 for students. Advance tickets are available through the Ware Center box office at (717) 871-7600 or online at http://www.artsmu.com. This concert is presented in partnership with Millersville University.

Columnist Jane Holahan (from the LPN newspaper, Lancaster) recently did a wonderful interview with Robin Williams. To read it follow the link below!

Folk duo Robin and Linda Williams coming to Ware Center Thursday  http://lancasteronline.com/features/entertainment/folk-duo-robin-and-linda-williams-coming-to-ware-center/article_7756a35e-80f9-11e6-81de-5f4f3a4e5abc.html

Pete & Maura Kennedy to play in Harrisburg, January 31st

New York-based Pete and Maura Kennedy, whose musical career spans two decades and a broad musical landscape, come to Harrisburg’s Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, on Saturday, January 31, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

643_TheKennedysfinal3643_TheKennedysfinal1The 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

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

Some of you may have followed the Kennedys for many years, while some of you may be less familiar with this group. On January 27, 2015I did the below interview with Pete Kennedy. Take a look and you’ll be able to learn what this enduring duo is up to!

FOLKMAMA: How did you and Maura meet?

PETE KENNEDY: We met in Austin Texas, in 1992. I was playing in Nanci Griffith’s band, and I had a few days off so I went to Austin to play a couple of gigs on my own. A mutual friend introduced me to Maura, and we hit it off right away, as soon as we sang together and sensed that our musical taste and style was a perfect match up.

I left town to play a show up in Telluride, Colorado, and afterwards I phoned Maura down in Texas. We decided to meet up at the equidistant point. That turned out to be Lubbock Texas, and since we both love Buddy Holly, we decided that we would each drive the 500 miles solo from Colorado and Austin, and meet at Holly’s grave. So that was our first date!

Shortly after that, Nanci had an opening for a harmony singer in her band, so Maura joined and we developed our duo act by opening or Nanci all over England, Ireland and Scotland.

FOLKMAMA: How do you describe your music?

PETE KENNEDY: Our music is described by others as folk-rock, acoustic roots, and Americana, so any one of those will do!

FOLK MAMA: What kinds of experience would you expect audience members to have at one of your concerts?

PETE KENNEDY: Our hope is that the audience finds the concert experience uplifting and empowering. Our songs have a positive, encouraging vibe, and being a duo, we have a more energetic stage presence than a solo sit-down folk singer.

FOLKMAMA: What are some songs of yours, in particular, that are real crowd pleasers?

PETE KENNEDY: The two favorite older songs of ours are our usual opening song, “Life is Large” and our closing song, “Stand”.

FOLKMAMA: You have three new albums coming out shortly. How much of Saturday’s concert will be the new material and how much will be older material and covers?

PETE KENNEDY: We expect to do about one third new songs, one third request from the audience, and the remainder whatever feels right at the moment, including some instrumental songs on guitar and ukulele.

We don’t use a standard set list, because we like each show to be different and spontaneous.

FOLKMAMA: You’re known for adding a lot of variety to your shows. What gear can we expect to find up on stage with you?

 

PETE KENNEDY: Well Maura will be on her plugged in acoustic Gibson. I’ll be on any number of things, possibly the Gretsch or Rickenbacker (they harken back to The Beatles) and of course the ukulele for a little Gershwin!

 

 

The Howlin’ Brothers – a country hillbilly dance party in York, PA!– September 27th

The Howlin’ Brothers, a country-blues string band plays York, PA on September 27th!

The Howlin’ Brothers, a country-blues string band whose unique blend of bluegrass, heartache, and soul is building a following all over North America, comes to York, PA, on Saturday, September 27, to open the Susquehanna Folk Music Society’s 2014-15 season with a concert at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George Street. The concert will begin at 8 p.m.

The Howlin’ Brothers bring heart and passion into every performance. Their upbeat shows are heavy with original and traditional music, featuring the sounds of slide banjo, harmonica and old-time fiddle. The Howlin’ Brothers just released their latest album “TROUBLE” produced by Brendan Benson for Readymade Records. The Howlin’ Brothers are: Ben Plasse – upright bass, vocals, Ian Craft – fiddle, banjo, vocals and Jared Green – guitar, harmonica, vocals.

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.

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Following is a September 12, 2014 interview with band member Jared Green.

 

FOLKMAMA: Have you played in our area before?

 

JARED: I don’t believe we have played in Harrisburg or York or anywhere else in the area before.

 

FOLKMAMA: Can you give us a little introduction to the band?

 

JARED: The three of us met in Ithaca New York back in the early 2000s. We all had a common interest in acoustic music; whether it was blues, bluegrass or old-time. We started playing together around campfires.

FOLKMAMA: So when did you go to Nashville?

 

JARED: We moved to Nashville in 2005 and got introduced to another whole world of music like honky-tonk, rockabilly, old country music, and old-time music. So now our band plays a mix of all that stuff. We mix elements of traditional and try to write in a style that’s familiar—that incorporates old-time, bluegrass and country blues.

Our shows are pretty much half original music but you’ll hear some stuff you’ll recognize! We like to pull out some old-time fiddle tunes, for example. It’s really a fun show, it’s upbeat. Its happy songs, it’s sad songs, its danceable songs—everything from two steps to waltzes.

 

FOLKMAMA: Are you really siblings?

 

JARED: So the three of us aren’t really brothers, we grew up in different parts of the country. I grew up in Wisconsin and Ian grew up in upstate New York and Ben is originally from Halifax Nova Scotia, but grew up outside of Boston.

 

FOLKMAMA: Have the three of you played in other groups?

 

JARED: In college we all played in a rock band. We got tired of that sound and started playing acoustic guitars and banjos. Seeing people dance when we played that kind of music was just much more enjoyable. And also it was new, it was something that we hadn’t done or heard before.

 

FOLKMAMA: There is a real movement toward playing acoustic music, especially among young people. Do you feel like you are part of that?

 

JARED: Yeah, usually people use the “Americana” classification for lots of styles that incorporates some kind of country element; whether it’s an acoustic guitar, banjo or a fiddle. Americana a big thing right now, but we essentially play country music that is upbeat.

 

FOLKMAMA: When I listen to you I hear some really great straight- ahead bluegrass, and then on another cut I might hear some old-time and then on a different cut some country blues. It seems like rather blend the styles together you often change styles from piece to piece.

 

JARED: Yeah on the album we wanted to have a little bit of something for everyone. And we wanted to make the sound of each song fitting. So I think that people like that we’re eclectic or we play what we want to play and that we’re not just going to stick to one narrow genre. We do have a unique sound, I do think that’s one thing that we’ve gained over the last five years in Nashville.

 

FOLKMAMA: Do you ever feel limited by just having three players?

 

JARED: We try to fill out the sound. We’ve incorporated kick drum and high hat that Ian will play like a one man band and I have a dancing platform that I mic that creates a really nice galloping percussion.

 

FOLKMAMA: Do you dance?

 

JARED: Yeah, I do flat foot and clog dancing. I dance in cowboy boots or platform shoes.

 

FOLKMAMA: You recently signed on a record label. Tell me about that.

 

JARED: We signed onto a Nashville record company owned by Brendan Benson who is a rocker. We met him in Nashville and he really liked what we were doing. The first album we did with him was Howl which came out in 2013 It had a good mix of old time and blues and we had another CD that came out in May of this year that’s called Trouble, and that’s been well received too. It’s the first album that we did with all originals. Ricky Skaggs played on it which was pretty cool.

 

FOLKMAMA: How did the sound change after you signed on? I understand that you’re touring more.

 

JARED: Yeah, that’s the thing. We’ve been a local Nashville band for so many years; we made money playing around Tennessee mostly. So now we have a producer and people helping us to book shows, it took Brendan saying that he wanted to put us on his label to make that happen. Now they are playing us on the radio and you can buy us in record stores. It’s a total good change. It did change our sound a little bit, but it made us write more songs.

 

It’s really been a really busy last few years. We made that second album the same week that my wife and I had our first baby. We went into the studio—the second day we had the baby—I was gone for four days then I came back, spent four more days and finished the album.

 

Also you might want to mention that we’re going to Europe in October. Three weeks in October so it will be exciting. We’re going to the UK (England and Scotland) and Holland and doing 16 shows.

 

FOLKMAMA: Was it an aspiration for the band to do a lot of touring.

 

JARED: Oh, it was necessary growth. It was a necessary step for the band.

 

FOLKMAMA: I understand that you do a video at Sun studio that’s been televised on PBS? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzYlGfCz1Ks)

 

JARED: Yeah we did that last summer. We went down there for an evening and recorded six songs. They’ve been playing it all over the country on PBS. People will come to our shows and say, “Hey I saw you on PBS last week.” They just played it in Harrisburg and Lancaster, but they’ll repeat it I think.

 

 

Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret & Bruce Campbell perform for SFMS May 18th in Harrisburg

Central Pennsylvania is home to many fine musicians, and four of the best—Kevin Neidig, Henry Koretzky, Ken Gehret, and Bruce Campbell—appear for their unprecedented fifth Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Sunday, May 18, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. at the Appalachian Brewing Co. Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg. The four have drawn such acclaim in their four earlier concerts that the decision was made to bring them back again for 2014.

Concert tickets are $18 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students to age 22. (Note: Appalachian Brewing Company requires guests to be age 21 and over for evening shows.) Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. Funding for Susquehanna Folk Music Society concerts is provided by the Cultural Enrichment Fund and by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered locally by the Cultural Alliance of York County. This concert is presented in cooperation with Greenbelt Events­. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

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Following is a reprinted, but updated, interview done in 2012:

Folkmama: So Kevin, from your posts on Facebook it seems like you’ve been really busy. What have been some of the highlights in your musical life since you played for Susquehanna Folk last time?

Neidig: This past year has been wonderful musically.  I have been teaching various instruments and voice in private lessons, classes and workshops at the Perfect 5th Music and Arts Center.  I bought my first ever classical guitar, which I love.  I play a lot of classical guitar when I am home by myself but I haven’t taken that part of myself to the stage.  In some ways I feel like that music is just for me.  Actually most of the music I practice and play at home never reaches the stage.  It’s a funny thing.  Maybe I am selfish with that part of me or maybe I just haven’t found the right avenue to express that side of myself yet. I am not really sure.  I have also fallen in love with gypsy jazz and have been listening to it almost exclusively all this year.  I have always liked the style but maybe a certain gene switch on from a solar flare or something and it’s made me obsessed with this music.  You’re definitely going to hear me and the boys play some of this music at the show on Sunday!

Folkmama: And what about you Henry? How has your year been?

Koretzky: Probably the most interesting thing has been the Harrisburg Mandolin Ensemble. A fellow named Tom Cook who is a lawyer and a mandolin enthusiast got the idea to put together a Harrisburg equivalent of a mandolin orchestra. Mandolin orchestras were a popular tradition in the early part of the 20th century. Every town would have them. There are still a few around; they have been making a comeback.  But they tend to be large groups with dozens of people so what has evolved with our group is a six piece band. We’ve got mandolins, mandolas, mandocellos and even a mandobass. This has been interesting because even though it’s an old tradition the fact that it’s a six piece we have to arrange and choose all our own stuff so we’re doing some original tunes and we’re doing almost all original arrangements of tunes.

Folkmama:  Bruce, I know that you’ve always been pretty busy with a multitude of bands. Any particular highlights, or has the recession really cut into your gig schedule?

Campbell: Recession?  What recession?  As a hired gun, I’m open and willing to commit to any gig with any band, provided that A. it’s challenging, B. it’s fun, and C. It pays enough to cover expenses.The Rue de la Pompe gypsy swing band that I’m doing with Ken continued to be busy throughout 2013, as well as Ruby and the Hummingbirds, the Isaak Trio and other jazz piano trios I get called for. The Vintage Jazz Dixieland band stays steady and I’ve picked up some big band work as well.I work with Kevin occasionally and was proud to add the bass parts to his latest recording.Contra Dances keep popping up on my schedule both with the Contra Rebels, as well as Henry’s group, Unbowed.As a backup bassist, I fill in any holes in my schedule taking work from Vinegar Creek Constituency, Harrisburg Mandolin Ensemble, Barbone Street Jazz, The Launies, Rampart St. Ramblers, and Dixieland Express.

Folkmama: Ken, I know that you identify yourself more with the Reading, PA area so our readers may not be as familiar with your various project. What kinds of things have you been up to musically?

Gehret: I’ve been playing a lot of different styles of music; jazz and Brazilian music, Irish, and some classical too. I do some different band situations and I do some solo performances too. I have a band called Irish Mist and I’m in a band with Bruce Campbell and others called Rue de la Pompe which is Parisian swing—Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli . And of course Irish Mist does Celtic music, traditional, but some originals. The Brazilians do Brazilian music—a lot of Jobim, Bonfá—that sort of thing and some original material also. And I have the Violin Quartet–it’s a jazz group, but instead of having a tenor sax I play the violin. We play modern jazz—Coltrane, Miles Davis—that sort of thing.

Folkmama: Henry, you’re really responsible for putting this Neidig, Koretzky, Gehret, Campbell composition together. You selected guys that are all so good individually, but have terrific chemistry on stage together. How has this worked for you?

Koretzky:   I’ve always enjoys putting different groups together and seeing how they interact.  All the time that I’ve been playing, that’s always been a fun thing to do. I play with a lot of different ensembles and a lot of different styles and I’m always thinking, “Mmmm…I wonder how these two people would get along. I wonder how they would interact.”  The opportunity that this concert presents gives me the chance to do this on a more public stage.  It’s been great, for example,  to get Ken and Kevin together to bounce ideas off of each other and support each other’s ideas. It’s always fun for me to do this and in this case I’m doing it in a concert situation with a great listening room atmosphere so that the audience can be part of the experience as well.

Folkmama: Bruce, you play with some of these guys in different bands already. What has it been like playing together as a foursome?

Campbell: It’s fun to think that I play regularly with Ken in the gypsy band and sometimes bluegrass bands, I play with Henry in contra dance bands like the Contra Rebels, and I play with Kevin Neidig usually in concert situations where I play his original tunes. Now we’re all getting together and we are all going to play what we want to play or what we want to feature. It’s a completely different repertoire for the most part than anything I play with these guys on an individual basis. It’s a completely different band made up of people that I routinely play with using a completely different repertoire.

Folkmama: What about you Ken?

Gehret: Playing with this composition of musicians is a lot of fun; it’s certainly the right chemistry. We all hook up very well musically and personally.

Folkmama:  Anything to add Kevin?

Neidig: Henry, Ken and Bruce are just the real deal. They are just fine acoustic musicians that are always trying to hone their craft. They are really the cream of the crop and to get to play with them is just really awesome. It’s very exciting.

Folkmama: So you’ve played this gig for the Folk Music Society two years in a row already, and you’ve been invited back for a third concert. Do you have any special memories of past concerts that you’d like to share?

Neidig: I think I was just so surprised by the attendance and that got us so energized. I talked about this with the group afterwards. You know we are not even a real band, we’re just a bunch of guys who get together to put on a show and we’ve got this packed house. That is just so cool!

Folkmama: And what about you Henry? What has it been like preparing for shows with this group?

Koretzky: I think it’s interesting how every musician prepares for it in a different way. Kevin, for instance is ultra-organized and he will do very precise demos of his original tunes and post them on a private website that we have access to so that we have a choice to work every chord off those tunes individually.

It might surprise audiences to know how fresh the material is, that we don’t have much of a chance to play together, all four of us, before we hit the stage. It’s actually been part of the energy that has gone there. We prepare the stuff, we know exactly what we are going to do, material wise, and we’ve all had a chance to rehearse individually and in small groups. When we played last year we had one four-piece rehearsal the week before. So we knew where the edges of the tunes were, we knew what work we had to do individually, but when we got on stage everything was extremely fresh and exciting. That was part of the excitement of what we were able to deliver up there.

Folkmama: What’s the experience of preparing for these gigs been like for you Bruce?

Campbell: The pattern starts with Henry being the driving force and the disciplinarian.  As of last week said, “Come on boys! Crack the whip. Crack, crack. Snap, snap. We need to get together; we need to make some decisions. We need to decide what our set list is. We need to have MP3s and demos flying around between us so that we can all individually learn this stuff so that when we get together we can launch from there.” So Henry is the driving force. If it wasn’t for Henry nothing would be happening until like two days before the concert and then there would be this panic.

As far as the concert itself, just from me doing sound all those years and me playing there the last couple of years it’s just a wonderful audience and a wonderful venue. Everyone hangs on every word and every lyric and every note. They are attentive and they are sober and they’re appreciative and it’s just a wonderful gig.

Folkmama: And when the band hits the stage, what has been your experience Ken?

Gehret: Well, I was so taken by the warmth of the audience. It has been so wonderful to play for Susquehanna Folk audiences—they are just so into the music. They really made us feel at home.

Folkmama: What’s in store for audiences at the upcoming February 25th concert?

Neidig: For this next concert we’re going to really try to outdo ourselves and get some really cool songs that we normally wouldn’t play because we have these fabulous musicians that can really handle it.  It’s like, “Let’s do a Paul Simon song but do it in a bluegrass format.” I think it’s really going to be a great, interesting show.

Interview by Jess Hayden, Executive Director of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society, January 2012. (updated 2014)

 

Neidig, Koretzky, Gehret and Campbell

The Steel Wheels Live in Harrisburg on April 6th!

Selling out coast-to-coast and appearing at many top music festivals, The Steel Wheels come to Harrisburg for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society matinee concert on Sunday, April 6, 2014, at 4 p.m., at the Appalachian Brewing Company Abbey Bar, 50 N. Cameron Street, Harrisburg.

Based in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, The Steel Wheels have captured audiences across the county with their heady brew of original soulful mountain music and their deep commitment to roots and community. This dynamic four-piece string band marries old-time musical traditions with their own innovative sound and lifestyle.

The group is known for their raw energy and chemistry on stage, where they often cluster tightly around a single microphone to support Trent Wagler’s unmistakable tenor with four-part harmonies inspired by their Mennonite heritage.

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 at (800) 838-3006 or online at www.BrownPaperTickets.com.

Following is an interview with the band’s leader Trent Wagler.
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FOLKMAMA: I’ve actually never seen the band, but I’ve seen a lot of your You Tube Clips and I really love what I see. I know that you toured with Red Molly and I asked them about you and they said that you were really good.

TRENT: Aw, that’s nice!

FOLKMAMA: So, you did a small tour with them so there must have been something about both of your groups that made you good companions.

TRENT: We’ve know Red Molly for a little while. We’ve played at a lot of the same venues and a lot of the same festivals. We were backstage at a festival in Vermont a couple of years ago and we were just talking about touring and we were joking around and someone was talking about how they were a super group of all females with three great lead singers and great harmonies and great songs and us being all male we joked that their audience must be all middle aged men looking to come see them and our audience must be all middle aged women and that we should get together for a Valentine’s Day tour. So that was the original impetus for doing the tour. We had such a great experience and I would say that the similarities are many. We definitely did connect with that band.

We are cut from a very similar cloth in terms of the kinds of music that we try to bridge. We bridge the mountain music with singer/songwriter sounds and original songs that are important to us. In our band we share, kind of by accident, a Mennonite heritage, we all grew up Mennonite in different parts of the country and we found that that common heritage has a lot to do with our harmony singing.   That’s a big part of the heritage of the Mennonites because they didn’t always have a lot of musical instruments so singing became their instrument. So we sing a lot of harmonies. That’s a lot of what we enjoy bringing to the stage.

FOLKMAMA: So in your music I hear a lot of gospel, but I don’t necessarily think of it as religious music. Sometimes I think there is a really division between modern Christian music and gospel music. Do you feel that your music is Christian, or are you just interested in following the gospel traditions?

TRENT: Where drawing from the environments that we grew up in, but we definitely don’t think of our music as Christian. Some of the themes and language and biblical imagery is Christian music is definitely in what we do and some of the forms of gospel music–particularly some of the a capella songs that we do–but I usually try in the lyrics to open it slightly so that it’s different in form and function than a bible beating gospel but instead trying to turn a lyric more towards an open audience.

FOLKMAMA: So are you the main songwriter or do you write together?

TRENT: We write together to a certain extent. I’ve been the primary songwriter and lyrically speaking I’ve written everything. And then always the band is extremely important to the arrangement and in some cases to the final rewrites of the song. They’ve always been a very helpful part of that. So in some extent there’s been a workshoping of songs that brings everybody into the writing process.

FOLKMAMA: So have you played in Harrisburg before?

TRENT: We played at the Appalachian Brewery a couple of years ago, and we’ve certainly played a lot of shows in the Philadelphia area. We’ve played at the Steel Stacks in Bethlehem as well as Musikfest and we’ve played at the bluegrass festival in Gettysburg.

FOLKMAMA: I see that you release your recordings in CD form and also on vinyl. Have you had a lot of call for the records?

TRENT: Yeah. The whole interesting in renewing vinyl recordings is such an interesting thing to watch. For some of our fans and some of the folk crowd, we say that we released it on vinyl and go get the record and they look at us like they think we’re crazy, “We threw away our vinyl 10 years ago!” But then there is a population of primarily young people who are really getting into this music and who love to hear it in this older way. It seems like there is something really special about people seeing the value in some of the older ways. I think that’s why we keep on playing these traditional melodies and playing these old songs because there is value in it. It’s not just out of responsibility, feeling like we have to keep the old songs alive.

The Steel WheelsThe intentionality of putting on a record, and listening to one side, a really thinking about why this band or artists decided to put these songs in this order and then you turn it over and you have another mini set. You have to pay attention because that record is going to stop, and then you have to turn it over and put it on again. All these things are things that we’ve lost with digital music.

 

 

Jimmy Gaudreau & Moondi Klein Perform in Harrisburg March 29, 2014

 

World class instrumentalists and singers Jimmy and Moondi bring their updated and refined duets that are reminiscent of the old time acoustic country duos of the 1930s and ‘40s to a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday, March 29, 2014, at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The concert will be preceded by a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838-3006 or online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society web site at www.sfmsfolk.org

I recently had the opportunity to speak to Jimmy Gaudreau about his and Moondi ‘s past accomplishments, their music, and how they select their repertoire.

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FOLKMAMA: You’ve had a really sensational career, playing with some of the very best bluegrass musicians in the business. Could you give me a little recap?

JIMMY: I came to the DC area in 1969 after John Duffy left the Country Gentlemen and they were looking for a replacement for him—a tenor singing mandolin player—and I came down for the audition. I passed so I joined the Country Gentlemen and recorded some with them and then moved on after a couple of years. I joined up with Eddie Adcock, former banjo player with the Country Gentlemen to form a group called the Second Generation.

But after about a year they started becoming more of a lounge act rather than a bluegrass act so we parted company and I formed my own group called The Country Store and the first lead singer in that group was the late, great Keith Whitley, who of course started with Ralph Stanley and he went on, before his untimely death in 1989 to become a major country star. He’s among the best lead singers that I’ve sung with and I can say that I’ve been privileged through the years to sing with guys like Charlie Waller, Glen Lawson, Tony Rice, John Starling and Moondi Kline. And actually Emmy Lou Harris, I worked in her band for awhile. I’ve been privileged to hook up and sing with some of the best singers in the industry.

From Country Store I went to J.D. Crowe and the New South. That was a big move for me because I moved from the D.C. area to Lexington, KT and really got indoctrinated with bluegrass and what it meant to play “timing” because he was, and is one of the best banjo players on the planet. And he concentrated very much on the timing of bluegrass which was drilled into me during my stay with that group.

Went from there to a group called Spectrum which was myself, Bela Fleck on banjo, Doyle Lawson on guitar, and Mark Schatz on bass. And that was mostly because after I heard Bela Fleck play banjo, I knew that I had to hook up with him because he is such a phenomenal player; I knew that I could learn a lot just by being around him and the three years that we were together I did. It advanced my musical knowledge immensely.

After that I went back to the Country Gentlemen for a short stint 1981-1985. Then I went to the Tony Rice Unit. I stayed there almost 10 years up until the time that Tony had major vocal cord problems. From there I hooked up with Moondi and that’s when we formed Chesapeake which included the late, great Mike Aldridge on Dobro and steel guitar and Michael Coleman who worked with Doc Watson as his bass player for 18 years. So it was a pretty stellar group and we recorded three CDs for Sugar Hill.

When Chesapeake disbanded Moondi took a couple of years off because his kids were pretty young and he was tired of road traveling, so he went back to being a stay at home dad. A couple of years later I called him and asked him if he wanted to do some duo work and he said he would providing it was most local dates—the folk clubs and house concerts and the like. So we got together and it sounded good.

You know Moondi is still a major, major vocal hero of mine. To this day when I get on stage with him I still get chills hearing the guy sing because he’s such a great performer. It wasn’t my major source of income because I started working with Robin and Linda Williams and that was a major travelling experience for me, but Moondi and I did some dates off and on.

Moondi and I were pretty much a side line until about 4 years ago when we cut our first CD called “2:10 Train” and from that point on we pretty much figured that we were going to ride the duo. We just cut our third CD, which is coming out soon. We’re just doing what we want, playing locally, because both of us are burned out on traveling.

FOLKMAMA: How about Moondi. What’s his background?

Moondi and his brother sang with the Metropolitan Opera’s Children Chorus when they were living up in New York. His dad was a music critic for the New York Times, and then went on to write grants for the Rockefeller Foundation. His mother was an accomplished artist. So they were around that element growing up. It was when he was with the Metropolitan Opera’s Children Chorus that he got his musical training being around some of the acknowledged greats in the opera field. He learned how to really use his diaphragm and project his voice, scales and being able to sing a capella.

Hi dad was asked to come down to the Carter Family Fold which is at where the Carter Family is from, in Southwestern Virginia. It’s a performing venue that was put up to honor country music. It’s become kind of a musical icon place for country music. But they didn’t have a great sound system. So Moondi ‘s family went down there with his family, saw that they needed a new sound system and got the Rockefeller Foundation to back it. Once Moondi hears the banjos and fiddles and things he said, “You know, I really want to do that.” And his dad told him to go for it if that’s what he wanted to do.

Years later when he moved down here to do the bluegrass and folk thing in DC the first group he got involved in was Rock Creek, and he was the lead singer in the Seldom Scene for close to three years. We met at a local friend’s jam session, and we played a few tunes and we both really liked the blend. Eventually we played together in Chesapeake full time.

FOLKMAMA: Where does his name “Moondi” come from? It’s an unusual name.

JIMMY: It’s a nickname. His real name is Lawrence. Mondi was a name that he picked up when he was growing up. His parents had a nanny who looked after the boys, and I think as the story goes that she said “Oh, his eyes are so ‘moony’ looking and somehow the nickname came out of that.”

FOLKMAMA: I’ve been listening to your CDs, and it seems like your music has diverged from bluegrass. How do you categorize it?

JIMMY: We just refer to it as Americana. That encompasses a lot of things and that’s how the term came about. It’s kind of a coined term these days—they have “Americana” festivals and it means that you are not pigeonholed into being folk or bluegrass or a country singer, you can have elements of all of the country styles incorporated into your music and that’s where we are. We like to listen to classic bluegrass and classic country and a lot of the folk styles and the Americana stuff that’s around now like Jonathan Edwards and Tim O’Brien.

When we were with Chesapeak we rehearsed a lot. If you go back and listen to our CDs you’ll find musical precision and heavy arrangements. When Moondi and I decided to do the duo we made kind of a pact between ourselves that we would not be that structured, we would leave room for improvisation, we would not try to do something that was so slick and clean that it was perfect. Now we have a little bit more room for entertainment. We challenge each other musically on stage. When he breaks, he’ll look at me and say, “There, take that!” and he’ll have this look in his eye—he just played something great and the audience applauded and I’ll go “Mmm” and then it’s my turn for a break and the audience will wait to see what I’m going to do next just to see if I can top what he did. So it’s having fun and being entertaining and playing good music at the same time.

On of the things that I store back in my memory—talking to people on breaks—at house concerts because it’s an informal setting, you might be talking to the guy that was sitting in the front row that’s been watching your fingers all night long and he’s got a bunch of questions for you. One guy, just a few months ago at a house concert, came up to me and said, “You know, if I were to describe your act I would call it like a triple threat. You both are world class pickers, you sing, and then, you’re entertainers.”

FOLKMAMA: How do you select your repertoire?

JIMMY: I write some of the instrumentals. We don’t tend to write most of our vocal things. Mondi has written a couple over the years but he admits that he’d rather go to the well of people like Jonathan Edwards and Tim O’Brien and other singers and choose material that he likes to sing. He can hear a song and know right off the bat if it suites his voice or not. I leave that to him. I don’t force or even suggest tunes that he should sing because he knows best what suites his vocal style.