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

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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

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!

Irish Music w/ Mick Moloney, Billy McComiskey + Athena Tergis March 13, Hbg, PA

Three icons of Irish-American music—MICK MOLONEY (guitar/banjo/vocals), BILLY McCOMISKEY (accordion), and ATHENA TERGIS (fiddle)—come to Harrisburg on Sunday, March 13, 2016, for a lecture, potluck dinner, and concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. The concert is at 7:30.

The evening opens with a 5 p.m. with what is sure to be a fascinating illustrated talk on “Irish and African Roots of American Music.” Mick Moloney, who will be giving the talk along with Harrisburg’s own LENWOOD SLOAN, says that they will focus specifically on Appalachian music and the music of the minstrels. “Throughout history there has been a close association between Afro-Americans and the Irish, “Mick told me. “Both groups lived on the margins of society.”

“It might be a startling fact, but 38% of African Americans have Irish DNA,” he said. “Both BARAK AND MICHELLE OBAMA have Irish ancestry.”

Moloney has taught ethnomusicology, folklore, and Irish studies courses at several universities. Lenwood Sloan is a choreographer and scholar of dance history with a special interest in minstrel dance. Additionally Lenwood has served as director of PA’s Culture and Heritage Tourism Program and PA’s Film Commission and is active with the arts in Harrisburg.

Mick Moloney has recorded and produced over 40 albums of traditional music and has been an advisor for scores of festivals and concerts all over America. In 1999 he was awarded the NATIONAL HERITAGE AWARD from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest official honor a traditional arti

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st can receive in the U.S. Billy McComiskey is a highly regarded player and composer of Irish traditional music. He has won FOUR ALL IRELAND CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES. Athena Turgis has toured extensively with the Sharon Shannon Band and has appeared in the Las Vegas production of Lord of the Dance. She has also been principal fiddler for the Broadway production of RIVERDANCE.

All are welcome to a free potluck dinner before the concert. Bring a covered dish to share. Drinks and place settings will be provided.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $21 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. The lecture is included with concert admission. 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

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Following are a few more details from my conversation with Mick:

FOLKMAMA: Susquehanna Folk has been lucky enough to have Billy McComisky on our stage twice; once with Pride of New York (which features Cherish the Ladies’ JOANIE MADDEN) and Trian (which features fiddler LIZ CARROL). We haven’t had Athena play for us yet, but she sure has an impressive bio! What’s it like playing with these two powerhouses?

MICK: There is not too much more to say then they are the best of the best. They are just fantastic musicians and I love playing with them. They’re masters of their craft.

FOLKMAMA: How long have you been playing together?

MICK: About 10 years now. But we play in different configuration and sometimes with other musicians.

FOLKMAMA: What’s the music like that you play?

MICK: Well it’s all traditional Irish music, but between us we have such a huge repertoire that we can adjust to any situation. We don’t have to spend hours rehearsing. We just have so much stuff under the belt as it were.

FOLKMAMA: You might know that Susquehanna Folk has been doing a little bit of a focus on the banjo this season. You play the tenor banjo. I’m curious to know a little bit about the history of the banjo in Ireland.

MICK: Well, the banjo found its way formally to Ireland with The Virginia Minstrels in 1844, and it’s been a part of Irish music ever since. The banjo that we play, though, is the Irish banjo. It’s tuned an octave below a standard banjo. The tenor banjo is tuned like a fiddle, and the music fall on it fairly naturally.

FOLKMAMA: Anything else that you want to add?

MICK: We expect the concert to be fresh and lively because we’ll figure out what we’ll play a half an hour before! And we’ll enjoy ourselves immensely and hopefully everyone will too!

 

Yves Lambert Trio to appear in Harrisburg, PA January 10, 2016. An interview with band member Olivier Rondeau.

The Yves Lambert Trio

Hailed by some Quebec music critics as a beacon in the aesthetics of Quebec’s cultural heritage, Yves Lambert is a powerful singer and musician whose 36-year career has been full of risks and adventures. He and his trio brings the energy, multicultural ambiance, and colorful sounds of Quebecois music (a wonderful mix of Irish and French styles) to Harrisburg for a January 10, 2016, Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Often seen as a veritable patriarch of the revival of Quebec’s musical roots, Lambert founded the legendary group La Bottine Souriante in 1976. In his 26 years with that group, Lambert was the link between its various incarnations and was its heart and soul.

In the summer of 2010 he joined with multi-instrumentalists Yves Lambert Trio and Tommy Gauthier in a trio that brilliantly demonstrates how traditional local music continually reinvents itself within a modern context.

Concert tickets are $20 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at http://www.sfmsfolk.org

I caught up with band member Olivier Rondeau and had a chat with him about the roots of Quebecoise music as well as the innovations that the Yves Lambert Trio brings to the genre.

FOLKMAMA: I know that Quebecoise music was heavily influenced by two groups that settled in Quebec; the French and the Irish, but how did the style first become popular?

OLIVER: The traditional music from Quebec just starts from the kitchen party. There were people down there that were playing fiddle during the night, just to entertain the people and there were singers too. And people go with foot tapping on the floor, just to keep the beat and all the dancers going crazy!

Mainly all the music influence is from Ireland and stuff like that. When people come, when there is a deportation, they come with traditional music.

Quebec music is a big ear training tradition and there are many different versions of songs just because they were interpreted differently. So extra beats, a lot of extra beats here and there [Known as “crooked tunes”]

FOLKMAMA: How does Yves Lambert fit into all this?

OLIVER Back in the 70s there was a folk revival in Quebec and he became really impressed with accordion playing. He’s totally self-taught. Yves helped to keep the music alive. He was an original member of La Bottine Souriante, one of the most famous bands in Quebec.

And now for over 40 years now he keeps going the tradition. He keeps on looking for new airs and new reels on the accordion. Yves role in the band is to keep it alive and to always bring new traditional music to the band.

FOLKMAMA: And what’s the instrumentation of the trio?

OLIVER: Yves Lambert is the lead singer and plays accordion: diatonic accordions and he has a chromatic one too. I play the guitar and kind of bass on my guitar and the response [Quebecoise music is characterized by call-and-response singing) , and we have Tommy Gauthier on the fiddle and mandolin, and he’s the [foot] tapper of the band. And he’s on the response too.

FOLKMAMA: I understand that the Cajun accordion and the Quebecoise accordion are the same.

OLIVER: Yes, actually Yves has two Cajun accordions that were built in Louisiana by Mark Savoy.[a famous Cajun accordion builder] Old ones. One is back to 1976 and the other one may be in the beginnings of 80s. So he is playing with those two beautiful instruments, both diatonic One in “C” and one in “D”.

FOLKMAMA: Does the band play straight Quebecoise music, or are you influenced by other styles?

OLIVER: For me, and for my generation , every music that I hear that has a good groove is an influence. So that’s the way it works. If it’s good music and we hear it, it could influence our sound.

And I could say since we’ve played more in the United States we hear other bands and we’re intrigued by their style. We love it so much that we put some in the last recording. When you listen to us you can hear a hint of old time, bluegrass, and the kind of rhythmic phrasing that you hear in Appalachian music

FOLKMAMA: Your guitar has a pretty distinctive sound and the times that I’ve seen you I’ve noticed a lot of electronics at you feet. What’s the purpose?

OLIVER : Mainly it’s so that the two lower strings on my guitar can be processed with an “octaver” to give an extra lower octave to the notes. The two lower strings have two functions; they are guitar and they are a bass as well. This creates a powerful sound.

When we all play together Tommy is doing the rhythm with his feet and playing the fiddle at the same time, Yves singing and. playing the accordion and I got the guitar and the bass going on so as a trio one thing that we love is to make the sound way bigger than it looks.

FOLKMAMA: What else would you like people to know?

OLIVER : One thing we love to do, Tommy and I, is to arrange music. We love the texture and we put a lot of work in the arrangement. We try to make each song distinctive; make it grow. So we work pretty hard on this.

When you listen to the song you can hear the roots of it, but there are a lot of influences that come to the music. There are a lot of surprises!

The Western Flyers perform Western Swing music on February 7th in Harrisburg

The Western FlyersOne of the most exciting new bands to hit the music scene in years, the Western Flyers, comes to central Pennsylvania on Saturday, February 7, 2015, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $16 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at www.brownpapertickets.com or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society Web site at www.sfmsfolk.org

I had a chance to speak to guitarist Joey McKenzie recently. Joey is recognized as one of the foremost practitioners of this style of music. He is a two time Texas Guitar Champion and is considered to be a state treasure.

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FOLKMAMA: I’m really excited about your upcoming concert with the Western Flyers! The three of you are all such great musicians. I’m wondering if you can tell me a little bit about yourself and your band mates.

JOEY: I live in Burleson, Texas which is a suburb of Fort Worth, and I’ve been playing music my whole life, basically since I was about 11 years old. I play guitar and fiddle and mandolin and tenor banjo, and have really been enamored with Western Swing especially, and a lot of music that is played in the state of Texas

I grew up in Oregon and I moved to Texas 25 years ago to be close to the music and learn from the great Western Swing musicians.   I got to know a lot of those people and become friends with many of the Western Swing musicians and Texas style fiddle players.

So I’ve been teaching also for all those years. I taught the Quebe sisters and eventually we started a band and did that for 10 years. We made the mutual decision to go our separate ways. We wanted to slow down a little bit; we wanted to keep playing but not constantly gone. So we started The Western Flyers with Gavin Kelso and Katie Glassman.

Gavin left the Quebe band the same time that I did. We were on the same page with what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it so we started the Western Flyers. Katie is an old friend—I’ve known her since she was a kid, for 20 years, and we’ve always loved playing together and feel musically very compatible. So we had the opportunity to form The Western Flyers and Katie was as fired up about it as we all were.

Katie Glassman is incredibly talented. She’s been a two time National Fiddle Champion and a 7 time Colorado State Fiddle Champion and a wonderful singer and songwriter—truly one of the most talented people that I have ever known. She’s just a fun person to be in a band with.

You know the time that you play on the stage is only a fraction of the time that you spend together. Katie, Galvin and I get along great. You know you have lots of hours traveling together, staying at hotels, and eating together. It’s really fun to spend time with Katie and Galvin.

And Galvin Kelso and originally from Neosho, Missouri and he moved to Texas to go to school in Denton at the University of North Texas which has a world class upright bass program. Probably one of the largest program of its kind in the world. He has a degree in classical bass performance, but he really comes primarily from a jazz background.

You know, Western is just country jazz. I always say that we’re just playing jazz with cowboy hats on.

FOLKMAMA: It interests me that you would move to Texas to learn about Western Swing. Is Texas the hotbed for this style of music?

JOEY: Yeah, it was born here. That’s where it all started. You’ve probably heard of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Well, Bob Wills was known as the king of Western Swing. So he started it all in Texas and then he went to Oklahoma in Tulsa and was based there for awhile and then went to California. In those years Bob Wills was a huge star. He was making records and he was a radio star and he was in a lot of movies. He was a huge star back in the 30s and 40s and 50s and the Western Swing became a really popular music. So being in Texas where I’ve gotten a chance to play with a lot of the original Texas Playboys—although there are not many of them left—I’ve been really fortunate to be friends with those guys and learn a lot from them.

The Western Flyers are really trying to carry on the rich tradition that Bob Wills began. We love Western Swing and think it’s important to get it out there and bring it to the folks that aren’t as familiar with it. I really try to do the music authentically, as does Katie and Gavin. So on our individual instruments we really try to capture the style—but do it with our own kind of twist.

FOLKMAMA: So, what has happened to Western Swing music since the time of Bob Wills? Has it evolved? Is it still as popular?

JOEY: Bob originated the style in the 40s, and although it was really popular, by the late 50s and early 60s it became tougher to earn a living because of the advent of television. A lot of this is dance music and people started staying home and watching TV and staying away from the dance halls. The advent of television really changed music in a huge way. So the times got pretty lean and rock and roll came in and a lot of the young people that were listening to Western Swing started listening to rock and roll. So towards the end of the 50s there was a gradual decline in Western Swing music and it made it harder for bands to be able to make a living. It was always around, but you had to look music harder for it.

But in Texas and Oklahoma it still stayed, even in the years when it was not popular everywhere else, it still happened here. And then you know bands like Asleep at the Wheel came to be and they helped keep Western Swing alive and we really try to do our part with traveling and we do workshops. It’s really something that we love and we want to promote and help to perpetuate the music. It’s the sort of music, that when most people hear it, even if they are not familiar with it, they can’t help but like it.

Its fun music and I think a lot of the songs that are associated with Western Swing music are pretty timeless. You know you wonder about some of the music that is being played now, there are some big bands that are playing nowadays, but will their music be able to stand the test of time?

Bob Wills music is still very popular, in fact my wife Sherry and I and our production company, Twin Fiddle Productions, along with the city of Greenville Texas, started in 2014 the Bob Wills Fiddle Festival and Contest. And Bob Wills daughter Carolyn is a friend of ours and she got the Bob Wills Heritage Foundation on board so we started this huge festival.

We had the Time Jumpers with Vince Gill, a wonderful Western Swing band from Nashville and we had other Texas bands, Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys played plus Bobby Flores and the Yellow Rose Band—they’re a great Western Swing band from San Antonio. And then we had a world class fiddle contest. We had competitors that came from 10 different states.  We also had a Bob Wills division where people had to play a song associated with Bob Wills. And that was very popular, and they also played the traditional Texas Breakdown style of fiddling. That was a first year event and people came from everywhere. The shows were sold out—it’s an indication that Western Swing music is really having a resurgence. There are so many young kids that are starting to learn to play Western Swing so I think the future is pretty bright.

FOLKMAMA: So, how would you describe a Western Flyers concert?

JOEY: We always have fun when we play. The main reason that we play is because we love it. And we love to travel.

So we play music that we love and it’s not entirely Western Swing. We’ll throw in an old swing jazz tune like you may hear some Benny Goodman, we throw in a Texas Style Fiddle tune every once in awhile, like you may hear from Benny Thomasson or Howdy Forrester. Or we might throw in a classic country song like you may hear from Ray Price or Connie Smith. And we try to play music that is not all just the same, but also has a connection.

So Ray Price loved Bob Wills and Bob Wills love Ray Price and the fiddle players loved Bob Wills and Bob Wills loved the fiddle players (of course he was a fiddle player). They were all listening to one another—Benny Goodman listened to Bob Wills and Bob Mills listened to Benny Goodman. It’s all related, so we try to do a little bit of all that and we have some fun and we talk a little bit about the music as we move through the show.

It’s just a real passion for all three of us, and a pleasure and an honor to go out and be able to share this music with the rest of the country.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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