Martin Carthy & John Doyle April 28th in Harrisburg!

Two legends of English and Irish traditional music—Martin Carthy and John Doyle—combine forces for an unforgettable Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The 7:30 p.m. concert will be preceded by a free 5 p.m. ballad singing workshop and a free 6 p.m. potluck dinner.

MARTIN CARTHY

Former member of STEELEYE SPAN, one of folk music’s greatest innovators!

Carty, who received a BBC 2 Folk Award Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, has long been known as one of folk music’s greatest innovators and one of its best-loved, most enthusiastic, and at times quietly controversial figures. Trailblazing musical partnerships with, amongst others, Steeleye Span, Dave Swarbrick and his award-winning wife (Norma Waterson) and daughter Eliza Carthy have resulted in more than 40 albums.

He is a ballad singer, a ground-breaking acoustic and electric guitarist, and an authoritative importer of newly composed material. Carthy prefers to follow an insatiable musical curiosity rather than cash in on his unrivaled position. Perhaps most significant of all are his settings of traditional songs with guitar that have influenced a generation of artists, including Bob Dylan and Paul Simon.

JOHN DOYLE

Former member of SOLAS, one of Ireland’s greatest guitarists!

John Doyle has worked with many of the most notable Irish music performers. From a musical family in Dublin, he went on the road at age 16 with the group Chanting House, which he formed with Susan McKeown and which eventually included Irish music greats like Seamus Egan, Eileen Ivers, and Donough Hennessy. Doyle went on to form the highly acclaimed super group Solas with Egan, John Williams, Karan Casey, and Winifred Horan that took the folk and Celtic music worlds by storm, due in large measure to Doyle’s powerhouse rhythmic guitar style and innovative arrangements.

Solas appeared on The Today Show, A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, E-town, and World Café. The group received three NAIRD awards and a Grammy nomination. After leaving Solas, Doyle performed and toured with many other greats in the folk, Celtic, and bluegrass worlds. There are few artists more respected in the genre or more in demand in the studio, as a songwriter, and as a performer. In recent years, Doyle has focused primarily on writing songs based on the varied experiences of Irish emigrants.

Before the concert, come to a free workshop on ballad singing with Carthy and Doyle at 5 p.m. and then the free 6 p.m. potluck dinner. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

Concert tickets are $26 General Admission, $22 for SFMS members, and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online at www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling toll-free (800) 838-3006. This concert is presented with support from Your Name In Lights sponsors Steve and Nancy Wennberg and i cooperation with Dauphin County Parks and Recreation. 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. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org.

 

Advertisements

March 2, 2018 Grosswendt and Salem-Schatz to bring pre-war blues/country music to Harrisburg

Martin Grosswendt and Susanne Salem-Schatz bring their compelling voices, uncanny sense of harmony, and deep grounding in traditional country blues and old-time to Harrisburg for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Friday, March 2, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Grosswendt is internationally known as an interpreter of prewar blues and other roots music, while Salem-Schatz slips into any genre and makes it her own, appearing as soulful blues singer one minute and sassy honky-tonk gal the next. Their performances strike a deep emotional chord as they share their deep love of and respect for the roots of classic blues, old time, and early country, making the music their own and presenting it with style, grace, and wit.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $22 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online at http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com or by calling toll-free (800) 838-3006.

I was able to have a delightful conversation with multi-instrumentalist Martin Grosswendt. Just by talking to him I can tell that his and Suzanne’s concert is sure to be filled with lots of warmth, great music, and laughs!

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about your background. How did you come to love traditional music from the South?

GROSSWENDT: I’ve always loved singing, for as long as I could remember, but I just kind of fell into the music when I was about 12 or 13 when I got hooked on a Jim Kweskin Jugband album and just about wore it out!  And then a couple of years later I started playing guitar and I discovered that I could learn to copy the noises that I heard on records and so Mississippi John Hurt’s album on Vanguard Today was just a tremendous, tremendous influence on me when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I learned a lot of guitar playing just from that album.

I’ve never taken formal lessons, I was just in a situation where I was lucky enough to hear a lot of great people play. I went to Tryworks Coffeehouse in New Bedford, which is sort of legendary, starting in 1968. And Maggi Peirce, who is a great singer from Belfast and has become a great storyteller, ran that. Most weeks it was just local acts, kids playing, but she started to bring in some wonderful traditional singers; Lou Killian, Norman Kennedy, and Helen Schneyer.

The last year I attending high school, in tenth grade, I was in DC at that point and I got to hear John Jackson several times, who was just a remarkable Piedmont Blues guitar player, from Virginia. And I also got to know this banjo player, Reed Martin, and I learned a lot of stuff from watching him play. He was kind enough to make me a reel to reel tape recording of a whole lot of tunes which became my bible for old-time banjo. But he also turned me on to Robert Johnson and around the same time I discovered Son House and Blind Blake, a great east coast guitar player, and a bunch of other Delta players including Charlie Patton who just was amazing.

So that was all in my teens and from there I was just lucky enough to be around people who took me seriously and I was precocious enough on my instruments and I had a good enough sense of humor so that people took me under their wing.

FOLKMAMA: When you started touring, did you play mostly on your own?

GROSSWENDT For the first part of my career I was usually by myself, but I toured with Utah Phillips and I played with Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer when they were on the east coast. For awhile I lived in Saratoga and of course I washed dishes at Café Lena and I got to see a lot of fantastic people play there. I lived in Vermont in the 70s and I got to do a lot of session work at Philo Records with Bruce Phillips, Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer, and I believe I got to play on one of Jay Unger and Lynn Hardy’s records too.

FOLKMAMA: How would you describe your style?

GROSSWENDT: I self identify as “a working guitar player with a short attention span”. So I’ve always heard these noises that I’ve wanted to make. And it’s been five string banjo and guitar and mandolin and some fiddle and dobro and pedal steel guitar and just a bunch of different things. Guitar and five string banjo are probably what I have been most consistent at.

FOLKMAMA: What are you most passionate about?

GROSSWENDT: I just love a lot of Southern music from before World War Two. Part of what fascinates me is the interface between the back and white traditions. So I switch back and forth a lot. I love old time music, I really like old time country music, and I love Delta and East Coast blues. There are just so many good types of music to play that I’ve just sort of followed my nose.

And I think that’s what the culture was like down there as well. Black and white musicians lived cheek by jowl and I’m sure that they played together at times, and the repertoire went back and forth. There were always songs and licks and techniques going back and forth between the races.

FOLKMAMA: When musicians were playing during that time period, do you think they thought much about distinctions between what the different races were playing?

GROSSWENDT: The taxonomy and classification of music being “black” or “white” really occurred when the record companies (all these small record companies owned mostly by people who made Victrolas) went in to record artists. They essentially invented these categories. They invented the category of the “Race Record” which was for black audiences, and “Hillybilly” music which was for working class white people in the south, regardless of whether they were in the hills or not.

The “Race Records” were usually blues because that’s all that the record companies let itinerant or community musicians from down there record. Charlie Patton, one of the great Delta Blues singers who was the first guy from the Mississippi Delta to record extensively, did all kinds of music. He did country songs, he played party songs, he did blues, he did standards, he did whatever his audience wanted to hear, whether that audience was black or white.

FOLKMAMA: So tell us a little more about what we’ll hear during Friday’s show. What instruments will you be playing?

GROSSWENDT I’ll play guitar and a little mandolin and I’ll play some banjo. The repertoire won’t be strictly blues. We do some classic blues, we do some old time music, what they call hillbilly music, we do some standards, and we do a few contemporary things. We do some old time music by Doc Bogs, and we can’t seem to make it through the night without doing at least one George Jones tune.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about Susanne Salem-Schatz.

GROSSWENDT: She’s just a phenomenal singer. I’m really lucky to be touring with her. I’ll tell you how we met. I used to play rhythm guitar for an old-time jam in an Irish pub every Sunday night for about 12 years. One night I was singing something and it came to the chorus and I heard this voice immediately behind me start in with this really terrific, compelling harmony. And it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And I guess it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up too and several of the people around us and I couldn’t believe it and I turned around and saw her and that’s how we met. About three and a half years ago we started touring together as a duo.

We try to only play at places where people will like the music and will listen. We are looking forward to playing for the Central Pennsylvania audience at Fort Hunter!

Jim Hurst, performs February 10th in Harrisburg. Also, a free harmony singing workshop!

On Saturday, February 10th at 7:30 PM, the Susquehanna Folk Music Society presents Jim Hurst, an International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year, in a concert to be held at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 North Front Street in Harrisburg.

Jim Hurst’s unique picking style and mastery of bluegrass guitar wows audiences and is revered by both novice guitar players and his musical peers. His eclectic career has made him a remarkable performer, an experienced instructor and a highly sought after session musician. His affability and gregariousness make him one of the most approachable musicians of his caliber.

The product of a musical family, Jim honed his musical style after being influenced by the likes of Tony Rice, Clarence White and Jerry Reed. He got national exposure with Holly Dunn’s Rio Band playing acoustic guitar and mandolin, and singing harmonies; followed by several high profile television and radio appearances while touring with Trisha Yearwood playing acoustic and electric guitar, and harmony vocals. Jim also experienced performances with Travis Tritt, and Sara Evans.

Itching to play more bluegrass, Jim joined the Grammy-nominated Claire Lynch and her Front Porch String Band in 1995 where he teamed up with kindred spirit bassist Missy Raines. While with Claire Lynch, Missy and Jim formed a duet, creating ground-breaking arrangements. They earned IBMA Guitar and Bass Player of the Year for 2001 and 2002.

Wanting to pursue greater artistic freedom, Jim left the Claire Lynch Band in 2010 to embark on a solo career. As a soloist, Jim Hurst combines savvy guitar picking and a broad vocal range to deliver a performance that has been described as “flawless” and “jaw-dropping.”

The concert is preceded by a free harmony singing workshop from 5-5:45 PM and a potluck meal at 6 PM. Bring a dish to share. Plates, utensils and drinks will be provided.

Concert tickets and information are available http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/JimHurst.html

We had a chance to speak to Jim about his early influences and what people should expect during his Fort Hunter performance and Harmony Singing workshop.

FOLKMAMA: Tell us about your early years and how you developed your love of music.

JIM HURST: My initial inspiration was my father. There was always a lot of singing in our home. He would play and sing with his brother, and he would also sing three part harmony with my sister and older brother. And all this music just kept on filtering down to me and my younger brothers. And it was just a wonderful place to start.

My dad ordered albums. Back then you there was no internet to get music from, so you ordered the music that you wanted through a local music store. He would tell them which album he would want and the music store would order it from the distributer and then we would listen to it on our LP player in the living room usually.

We would listen to records of the Carter Family and traditional country bluegrass like Jim Reeves, Jimmy Rogers, and Doc Watson. So many guitar players and singers– Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, the list goes on and on. I learned by listening to those artists that it’s possible to do more than play three chords and sing.

So that’s what started me on my journey. In 1988, my wife and I moved to Nashville to get me into the music business. My first job in Nashville was working for Holly Dunn. Then I played stints with Trisha Yearwood, Sara Evans and Travis Tritt.  But then I decided that the big country thing wasn’t necessarily for me. I really loved the posh treatment–riding in the nice buses, playing in big arenas, doing things on radio and TV and touring over the United States, North America, Europe and Japan—but I missed playing roots-based music, bluegrass specifically.

So I started playing with Claire Lynch and the Front Porch String Band. Then Missy Rianes and I had a duet and I worked with some other artists like Mark Shatz and Tim O’Brien. And then I started on my own, started doing solo and I also have a Jim Hurst Trio and we perform whenever the opportunity allows.

And I just try to keep on working through inspiration and opportunity and I’ve been thankful and blessed to do what I love to do.

FOLKMAMA: What should people expect to hear when they come to see you in concert at Fort Hunter?

JIM HURST: I play both finger style guitar and flat pick guitar. I will perform songs that I’ve written and I’ll do songs that I think are really wonderful songs that other people have written. They’ll be songs from the CDs that I have recorded as well as songs that I haven’t recorded.

I sing some series songs that will allow you to think about what could have been, what might be, where am I heading in the world kind of thing. And there also will be some tongue in cheek things. I’ll play some instrumentals. Maybe get the audience to sing along on one or two.

I hope to get people inside that Fort Hunter Barn and just kind of drift away from reality for a couple of hours with some music and some singing.

FOLKMAMA: You’ll be doing a free harmony singing workshop at 5 PM What do you hope to cover?

JIM HURST: We’ll spend some time talking about what harmony is and how it works alongside a melody line. We’ll listen for chord structure and practice finding notes in the chord that can be used to add a harmony line. Then we’ll sing some simple choruses that everyone knows and practice adding harmony. And then, depending on the attendees and how versed they are at singing, we would just progress from there until our time is up. The workshop will be fun for everyone, no matter their singing or musical abilities.

 

Corn Potato String Band, Oct 15th, 2017. Hbg, PA

The Corn Potato String Band will make their first appearance on the Susquehanna Folk Music Society stage when they appear at on Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 N. Front Street in Harrisburg, PA. Tickets are $24 General Admission, $10 Students, and $20 Susquehanna Folk Music Society members. For tickets and information visit http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/CornPotatoStringBand.html.

The band has delighted audiences with their driving fiddle tunes and harmonious singing across the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and India. In addition to being champion fiddlers they play banjo, guitar, bass and mandolin and deftly handle many different old-time styles including ballads, “ho-downs,” country “rags” and southern gospel, specializing in twin fiddling and double banjo tunes.

Onstage they are infectious, fun, and VERY ententertaining! Aside from humorous songs and stellar musicianship, we’ll also get a chance to see a “crankie” (scrolling picture show) and some flatfoot dancing!

 

We had the chance to learn more about the band during a chat with band member Aaron Jonah Lewis.

_______________________________________

FOLKMAMA: What can people expect to hear when they come to a Corn Potato Soup concert?

AARON: We play old time music in a broad sense.  You will hear old time Appalachian tunes, Country Rags, Mexican Polkas, Early Country and some Western Swing.  We like to dig up beautiful and unique songs and instrumentals from the 1920s and 1930s.  You will definitely hear something you haven’t heard before, and if you have heard it before, we might do it different.  We recently have been featuring “Classic Banjo” which is a style of music that comes from the 1890’s-1900’s.  The banjo music of this era has a ragtime feel and reminds you of silent movie music, which is why we have our own scrolling picture show to accompany a couple of the banjo pieces.  We also can’t get through a show without letting Lindsay do some flatfooting.

FOLKMAMA: How did all the members in the band meet?

AARON: We all met for the first time at a Spaghetti Dinner in Richmond, VA, where our mutual friend was hosting a variety show.  None of us remember it, so the second time we all met was at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, WV.  Lindsay and some friends recruited Aaron and Ben to play Klezmer music for a latke party.

FOLKMAMA: How did the band get its unusual name?

AARON: The Corn Potato String Band got its name in the tradition of band names that evoke a bucolic setting with a suggestion of gaiety.  We have since realized that it gives us the tag line:  “The Ears and Eyes of America” which is kind of fun and weird at the same time.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me a little bit about the band members—specifically what they bring to the band.

AARON: Aaron is the Brains, Ben is the Face and Lindsay is the intestines.  Aaron and Ben played in a bluegrass band in Richmond for a long time.  They love to play fast and have great chops on fiddles and banjos.  Lindsay is a puppeteer but when she met up with Aaron, who is her household companion, she always wanted to be in a band.  She has managed to sneak some cranky shows and the occasional novelty song into the Corn Potato repertoire.

FOLKMAMA: Are you all full time with the band, or do you have other projects?

AARON: We are not a full time band right now.  We do have other projects.  Ben Belcher plays with the Hot Seats, based in Richmond when he can. Lindsay and Aaron play and tour with Roochie Toochie and the Ragtime Shepherd Kings.  Aaron also performs solo and plays with several other bands in and around Detroit and some Chicago and New York based projects when he can.  Lindsay continues to make puppet shows and works with puppet companies in Minneapolis and Vermont.

FOLKMAMA: Tell us about any CDs which you have recently made. (Which concert goers may want to purchase!)

AARON: Our latest CD is called: “Good Job Everybody” and features a little of everything we do.  Highlights include a double fiddle polka, an old country song about UFOs, an original double-banjo “stomp,” and one of our favorite novelty songs about drinking too much from 1928.

Our three previous CDs are currently out of print but they are available on our website http://www.cornpotato.com. We will also have a couple of Aaron’s CDs from other projects available: Square Peg Rounders’ “Galax, NYC,” an all-instrumental album of traditional fiddle tunes played with fiddle, banjo and guitar, and lots of flair, and “Wild Hog,” an experimental/traditional album of classic old time songs and tunes played with fiddles, banjo, guitar and bass, in the style of old time musicians who also love free improvisation.

 

Nordic Fiddlers Bloc on September 21 in Harrisburg–a MUST GO EVENT!

Three of the finest young fiddle players working in the international folk scene, each with a stellar career with a number of bands, collectively are finding themselves increasingly in demand across the world due to their unique collaboration, onstage sense of humor, and inter-band banter. Known as The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, they make their Susquehanna Folk Music Society debut appearance on Thursday, September 21, 2015, at 7:30 p.m., at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 N Front Street in Harrisburg.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Information and advance tickets at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/NordicFiddlersBloc.html

Below is an interview by SFMS Board member Peter Winter with band member Kevin Henderson first published in April 2015 and revised September, 2017.

________________________________________________

“Keeping The Tradition Alive” An Interview with Nordic Fiddlers Bloc’s Kevin Henderson

Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, comprised of Olav Luksengård Mjelva from Norway, Anders Hall from Sweden and Kevin Henderson from the Shetland Isles, is a super group in the truest sense.  Since 2010 the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc has been performing together around the globe, melding their similar yet highly distinctive musical traditions just as seamlessly as they combine the spirits of tradition and innovation in their playing.

This tour sees a slight change to the normal lineup as Olav Luksengård Mjelva is due to become a father in the middle of the tour! But Olav will be ably covered by Erlend Viken, who is widely regarded as one of the top players in Norway on both fiddle and hardanger fiddle.

I was able to catch up to Kevin Henderson prior to September 21st concert at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn in Harrisburg. We discussed the common roots of the music of Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, their creative process as a band, and what is unique about Shetland fiddling in particular, seeing that he’s rather an expert on the topic.

 

PETER: First off, there are three styles of Fiddle playing represented in the group: Erlend from Norway, Anders from Sweden and you with your Shetland style.  What is the common link tying these traditions together? What is the thread that unites it all?

KEVIN: All three places have very strong documented historical links going back hundreds of years.  Shetland belonged to Norway until the mid 1400s when it was loaned to Scotland, and the culture there is more closely linked to Norway than Scotland.  Some of the old traditional music from Shetland is closely linked to the old hardanger music from Norway in the styles of tunes and also traditions like ceremonial music, such as wedding tunes, that are found a lot in Scandinavia.

 

In Shetland it was very common to find tunes that were played on the fiddle tuned to AEAE rather than the standard GDAE and this was to generate more volume with droning on the open strings, which is very much like the sound of the hardanger fiddle in Norway. The extra volume was required as it was a solo fiddler that played for the dancing very much like Norway with the hardanger fiddle.  Sweden and Norway have some closely linked tune types also. The Polska in Sweden for example is very much like the Pols found in Norway.

 

You can find tunes in many parts of the world that are obviously a version of the same tune, which is very interesting.  I guess that comes from when people went to sea and met people from different countries and learned music from each other.  Our three styles are very different but we have a lot of fun blending the different styles and playing each other’s music.

 

PETER: You’re all so busy with other projects, how did Nordic Fiddlers Bloc come about? Whose idea was it? How long did the idea bounce around before you all decided to give it a try?

 

KEVIN: I live in Norway now and it was there I met Anders at various festivals and music events and we had a lot of fun socializing and playing music for fun at jam sessions.

Anders and Olav play in another group called Sver so they knew each another’s music from that project and it was through Anders I met Olav. We just had a lot of fun playing music together, and decided we would like to make it a bit more serious so we organized a tour in Norway and it was very well received so we decided we should do more with it.

 

PETER: Describe some characteristics of Shetland Fiddle.  What sets it apart and makes it unique from other traditions?

 

KEVIN: The Shetland tunes are very unique in my opinion. The style of them has influences from Scandinavia as well as Scotland and Ireland for example so they have their own sound.  We use a lot of droning on open strings, a characteristic of hardanger music in Norway.  We have specific bowing patterns like 1 down 3 up found alot in the reel playing which help give it the unique sound I suppose.  We have an ornament called “shivers” which I haven’t come across in any other place. It’s like a backward triplet! Hard to explain 🙂

 

Like I mentioned earlier, we have a lot of ceremonial music like Scandinavia such as wedding tunes and tunes that would have been only played at specific times which is not so common in Scottish fiddle music for example.  The reel is the most common type of tune in the Shetland fiddle tradition and a strong characteristic of many of the reels is key changes within the tune, for example if the tune is in D you would often find C sharps as well as C naturals within the tune which makes it very interesting to listen to.

PETER: I’m so impressed with groups like Nordic Fiddlers Bloc and RANT from Scotland.  You keep the tunes so varied and rhythmically exciting despite the fact that you are all essentially playing the same instrument. Are there any arranging challenges you run into with Nordic Fiddlers Bloc to make sure the three instruments are not stepping on each other’s toes and the tunes have a solid accompaniment?

 

KEVIN: That’s what makes the arranging process fun. It is hard to find the correct balance when as you say you are using essentially the same instrument.  It’s that reason why I think it’s important to not do the same thing throughout the tune and thoroughly the whole set. You need to look for different soundscapes to keep the interest for the listener. Anders and Olav are extremely talented at coming with fantastic harmony lines. It’s a big part of the Swedish fiddle tradition that 2 fiddlers play together and use close harmonies. It’s very beautiful.  The setting we enjoy most is Hardanger fiddle, fiddle and viola together. It covers a big range of sound.  As far as I’m aware I do not think there’s another group using that setting that’s playing the different styles we do.

 

PETER: What is the creative process like with the three of you? Will one of you come in with a tune and fleshed out idea of what he would like from the other two, or is everyone responsible for their own parts?

 

KEVIN: We all come with tunes that we think would work well for the group. Sometimes it doesn’t sit well so we just ditch it, but generally we all know what tune would work well for our sound.  We basically just come with a tune and play it for a while and see what happens and if there’s something we like, we record it down and build the arrangement up like that.  Sometimes the process goes very quick and other times it can take a while before we are satisfied.  We just throw ideas around and see what happens!

 

PETER: How do you determine what tunes will work well for the group?  I believe you play some American tunes in addition to music from your native traditions.

 

KEVIN: We have a good idea what tunes will work well in the different settings we use. We also like to play tunes we like from other places. The two American tunes are actually two of our favorite tunes to play.  The setting with Hardanger, fiddle, and viola only works together in certain keys with how the hardanger is tuned, so we know what will be good or not key wise beforehand.  But as I mentioned, sometimes a tune just doesn’t feel right so we just move on from it.

PETER: What are some important artists and albums you would recommend to people who want to delve into the world of Shetland Fiddle?

 

KEVIN: Shetland has many fiddle players as you probably know.  There are a great variety of fiddle albums from Shetland from very traditional to more contemporary.  Willie Hunter, who was my teacher, was arguably the finest fiddler ever to come from Shetland. He has made a few great recordings.  Also there is a great album released on Greentrax recordings of older players playing in the true Shetland style with a great variety of players from different areas of Shetland. Even though Shetland is a small place there were many different styles within Shetland.  Then there’s Aly Bain who is a massive inspiration for young players through his work as a professional fiddle player touring all over the world and making TV programs and things like that. He was a big inspiration for me.  I also play in a band called Fiddlers Bid and we play a mix of the old traditional Shetland tunes as well as more contemporary music and we have been lucky enough to take our music all over the world.

 

The solo album I released a few years back was an album of purely traditional Shetland tunes. I wanted to do that, as the music I keep coming back to is the traditional Shetland music. It’s the music I love playing more and more.  I also felt no one was making an album of purely Shetland tunes, unlike a lot of albums being released in Scandinavia and Ireland for example.

 

Chris Stout is a fantastic fiddler and a very dynamic musician who has made some great recordings.  There also players such as Bryan Gear and Jenna Reid who are amazing players and they have made great albums.  There are many great Shetland fiddle players and albums out which is great for keeping the tradition alive!

 

Nordic Fiddle Bloc will be performing Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 7:30 at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 N Front St in Harrisburg.  Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at http://www.sfmsfolk.org/concerts/NordicFiddlersBloc.html. Visit their website at http://thenordicfiddlersbloc.com/

 

Peter Winter is a musician and writer based in Harrisburg.  Follow him on twitter @peterwinter38 and check out his band: http://www.seasonsmusic.com

 

August 20, 2017 Laura Cortese and the Dance cards in Harrisburg, PA

Fresh from an appearance at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards come to Harrisburg on Sunday, August 20, for a 7:30 p.m. Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

The band features cellist Valerie Thompson, fiddler Jenna Moynihan, bassist Natalie Bohrn and band leader Laura Cortese. During the course of a live performance the band switches up their sound—first sounding like a string band and then morphing into a string quartet, female a cappella group, or indie band, while still remaining true to their identity as folk instrumentalists.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at www.sfmsfolk.org.

Recently we had an opportunity to speak to band leader Laura Cortese about the band’s involvement with “American Music Abroad,” how they got their name, and their exciting new signing with Compass Records!

______________________________________________________

FOLKMAMA: I know that you spend a lot of time abroad abroad and Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards has done a lot of overseas touring. Tell me a little bit about some of the band’s travels.

LAURA: As touring musicians, we like to take our music to other parts of the world where we can share all the genres that we do and also meet musicians who are doing similar things. With this band specifically, we’ve done work with the State Department with a program called “American Music Abroad.” The program is all about cultural diplomacy. We’ve had the opportunity to share American culture while at the same time learning about the culture of the country that we were visiting.

With “American Music Abroad,” we have been to India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Greece, Montenegro, Ukraine, and Estonia. But we also have toured to Sweden, Denmark, the UK, Canada, Italy, and Sicily. We’re always trying to connect with people who love acoustic music and are interested in breaking down any barriers that might exist between the stage and the listener.

FOLKMAMA: As a group that is so vocal heavy, do you have trouble getting your message across to people who speak a different language?

LAURA: When we visit a country, we learn a few phrases of the native language and will often translate the chorus of a song into that language, too. That’s been fun to do but, in general, I think the spirit of the music, the grooves, the melodies, and the emotion of each song is conveyed even without specific understanding of the words.

But we are also sort of lucky with speaking English in that English is the current spoken language which people around the world use to communicate with each other when they don’t have the same native language. So we run into a lot of people who understand our lyrics no matter what country we are in.

FOLKMAMA: When did state department tours actually occur?

LAURA: We did one in 2014 and one in 2016. Most often we were part of an International Women’s Day, at least in one of the countries. That has given us a chance to meet female artists in many countries.

In Ukraine, for example, we met the mothers and the wives of a lot of the men who lost their lives in their revolution which happened in 2014. Actually we were on our first cultural diplomacy tour when the Euromaidan Revolution began to unfold, and two years later we were there in Kiev witnessing the three year anniversary. And we got to meet the mother of Nadiya Savchenko, she’s the helicopter pilot who went down in Crimea and was a prisoner of war for two years. And we got a chance to meet the woman who led the medical station during the Euromaidan Revolution in the Ukraine.

FOLKMAMA: When you started the group, was it your intention to form an all women group?

LAURA: That came about really by chance. When formed the band in 2010, I had decided to do an all-string project that showcased the unique sound that came out of pairing my songs with the music of some friends of mine who I grew up with at fiddle camps. It was a much different style than other singer-songwriter friends of mine, and certainly my Indie-rock friends, but it felt true to my journey and my experience.

The first generation of this sound included fellow campmates Hanneke Cassel and Natalie and Brittany Haas, but it felt so comfortable to me that I began to shore up the concept and widen the circle of string players. By chance,  most of the professional players from my fiddle camp days happen to be women.

FOLKMAMA: Where did the band’s name come from?

LAURA: We wanted to come up with something that reflected the feeling of the band so we held a Facebook Contest. At the end of the contest, we put out every name that had been suggested and the name “The Dance Cards” came up on all of our lists.

It has really felt likes it’s a good fit. All of us that are in the band are drawn to some form of dance, either as a player or a dancer. Also, the name is reminiscent of all the dances in the past when the women had dance cards that partners could sign to reserve a dance. My mom had a dance card; it was part of youth. It’s an older tradition but so much of our music is so influenced by older dance forms so it fits.

FOLKMAMA: What will people hear when they come to your concerts?

LAURA: We’ll play a couple of traditional tunes but we play mostly original songs composed by me and arranged by the band. Our music is influenced by Appalachian traditional music, modern music, and indie rock. But it’s all within this acoustic string concept–so groves, as well as texture. It’s not just a listening show. We consistently ask the audience to engage in some way.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that you just signed with Compass Record. That’s a great label!

LAURA: Yes, we just signed with Compass Record for our new album which comes out October 6th. We’ve released one song and video so far and more to come soon. We are just so pleased to be on a label that has a curated group of artists who are making music that is truly unique and not just cookie cutter. When we look at the musicians on the roster, we see that they are not only all excellent but they are also adventurous and all authentic to themselves. Our new album is called California Calling.

May 13th, Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, live in Harrisburg, PA!

Grammy-nominated fiddler Bruce Molsky, who has been acclaimed as “one of America’s premier fiddling talents,” brings his newest musical group, Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, to Harrisburg on Saturday, May 13, 2017, for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society old-time mountain music workshop at 5 p.m., potluck dinner at 6 p.m., and concert at 7:30 p.m., all at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. Joining Molsky in the Mountain Drifters are Allison de Groot and Stash Wyslouch.

“I was looking for a new voice,” Molsky says about the trio, “a new avenue of expression using old time mountain music as the jumping off point, but not being constrained by hard core traditionalism. Allison and Stash are showing me the way just where the music is headed, in directions I never would have imagined when I started my own journey into the mountains a long time ago.”

Participants in the free 5 p.m. Old-Time Mountain Music Workshop will learn about the fiddle tunes and songs that come from the rural south. Bring an instrument and your singing voice. There will be some whacky instruments to try such as kazoos, slide whistles, nose flutes, and spoons. For the free 6 p.m. potluck supper, bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 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 www.sfmsfolk.org.

Read below for an exclusive interview with Bruce Molsky

____________________________

FOLKMAMA: I’ve followed your career for a long time and you’ve performed for us a number of times and one of the things that I think about you is that you’re incredibly versatile as a musician. You know in terms of who you play with, all the different instruments you’ve mastered and the different styles that you play. You’ve played for Susquehanna Folk as a solo musician and then you performed with Darol Anger and some years back for a magical concert with Ale Möller. I’d like to hear a little more about the collaborations that you’ve done.

 

BRUCE: I think the first time I was asked to collaborate outside the genre that I’m most associated with, (old-time music) was with Mick Maloney–you know the Irish- American expert. Maloney used to run these big shows every year in Philadelphia and Washington for St Patrick’s Day. He’d always have these amazing Irish American musicians and he always wanted to have me too! You know he knows so much about the music and there is such a strong link between Irish music and Scottish music and so much of the American stuff. At this experience is what really put the idea of doing collaborations in my head.

 

The first time I ever toured professionally as a collaboration was 1994. That was with a tour that really changed my life. It was with a group called Fiddles on Fire and it was in England and Scotland. That was my first introduction to all these other kind of fiddle styles because there were musicians from Sweden and South India, England, Scotland, Ireland and France. That was when I first met Alasdair Fraser, who was on the tour with Kevin Burke, Chris Wood and Ellika Frisell. And it was Alasdair who first started twisting my arm about becoming a professional musician because I was the only one on the tour that had a day job. And one thing led to another.

Since then I’ve done all kinds of crazy stuff. Mosaic was the first serious international band that I was in with Andy Irvine and Dónal Lunny and we’re actually working on putting out a third CD, which has been a long process but now it’s done. And Fiddlers Four with Michael Doucet, Darol Anger and Rashad Eggleston, that was really fun!

I started teaching around 2000 at Mark O’Conner’s fiddle camps. Mark of course would feature a whole bunch of different styles, the camp was meant to be all the different styles that had an influence on him. So there was old-time and Texas Swing, and Celtic music, and classical. And my association with Ale Möller led to the Transatlantic Sessions, which of course are a series live performances by various musicians from both sides of the North Atlantic. I did those concerts for about 10 years; both live and on BBC television in Scotland.

FOLKMAMA: I think one of my favorite You Tube videos of you from the Transatlantic Sessions is a lovely one that shows you performing with Scottish singer Julie Fowlis.

BRUCE: Yes, it’s really beautiful. That gets more views than anything else that I’ve put up on You Tube!

FOLKMAMA: Which brings us to your current group. How did you meet the two other musicians in your trio?

BRUCE: Well here’s how I met Allison de Groot. She was my student at Berkley School of Music. I was the only one that was qualified to teach clawhammer banjo as a main instrument. I ended up with her and she studied with me for three years. About a year and a half in we realized that we needed t be playing together. She’d come to her lessons and we’d study for ten minutes and we’d spend the rest of the time playing. Tony Trishka actually tapped me on the shoulder one day because he is an artist in residence at Berkley and he said, “You really need to be in a band with her.”

So we started thinking about it. Stash was also a Berkley graduate; he had graduated a few years before I got there. But Allison and I had decided that we wanted a guitar player that had deeper musical skills than the average folk musician, and we had Stash in and we played together a few times and the chemistry was there. It’s been a really education for me because I wanted artistically for everyone to be full members in this thing. They both have good ideas and they are brilliant players. Allison is writing some great tunes and Stash is a great singer.

FOLKMAMA: What sound can people expect when they come to your concert?

BRUCE: They are going to hear instrumental and vocal music; fiddle, banjo and guitar. It’s primarily Southern mountain music through all our individual filters with some very nice arrangements. So musical storytelling and dance music; some old, some new.

To learn more about the band visit http://www.brucemolsky.com/molsky-s-mountain-drifters

Previous Older Entries