VIDEO: East Pointers, We Banjo 3 Coming to Four Corners Folk Festival
The 22nd Annual Four Corners Folk Festival is just a month away, happening here in Pagosa Springs on Reservoir Hill Park September 1, 2 and 3. The event will bring thousands of people from the Four Corners region and beyond to enjoy 3 days of live musical performers from internationally touring musicians. This year’s lineup includes today’s featured artists: The East Pointers and We Banjo 3.
I’ve chosen to group these bands together because of their similarities: they’re both from another country (East Pointers from Canada and We Banjo 3 from Ireland); both bands play Celtic- and roots-infused and both are made up of virtuosic musicians. But for all their commonalities, the two groups each bring an undeniably unique influence and modern interpretation to their respective musical genre.
Here’s a fun fact about traditional music: it’s not always old even when it sounds like something lifted straight from a vintage ceilidh. For proof, witness The East Pointers – or more specifically, Secret Victory, their exhilarating debut full-length album.
Secret Victory could easily stand beside any recording from any era in the illustrious Celtic/folk musical canon. Yet it features ten brand new original tracks written by guitarist Jake Charron, fiddler Tim Chaisson and his cousin, banjoist Koady Chaisson, vocalists all and, in the case of the Chaissons, members of Prince Edward Island’s reigning musical dynasty.
“That’s something The East Pointers are trying to accomplish – breathe some new, original life into traditional music,” confirms Tim Chaisson, whose solo career as a singer/songwriter (see 2015’s acclaimed Lost in Light) is thoroughly established. “A lot of times, people think of it as music for an older generation but we’re hoping to introduce a whole new generation of listeners.”
“Traditional music is equivalent to soul music in my mind. It can take you to another place even if you haven’t heard it before,” Tim Chaisson says.
“We just really wanted to record original stuff. We all love composing and putting our own little style on something that goes back generations,” explains Koady Chaisson, when asked if the idea of cutting tunes from the traditional songbook was ever floated as a possibility.
He continues: “We are literally the seventh generation of musicians in our family, and what we do is a little different than what our uncles might do, for example, which would be more Scottish influenced. We embrace the Scottish influence… but also Irish and French and so on.”
“This is dance music that’s been around for hundreds of years,” Charron adds. “It can be tough to replicate that in the studio but that’s partly why we were all playing in the same room when we recorded – to try and capture that live vibe.”
The East Pointers won over a new group of fans of all ages at last year’s Four Corners Folk Festival, so much so that we had to bring them back again. They’ll have a set on the festival main stage on Saturday, September 2 at 4:00pm.
For all the innovation and invention that goes into modern music these days, it’s the inspiration derived from one’s roots that proves the most enduring. So credit Galway, Ireland’s We Banjo 3 for finding common ground between old world tradition and authentic Americana by plying their banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin in an innovation fusion of styles that they dub “Celtgrass.”
Four albums in — their latest, String Theory, was released in July of 2016 — the band’s rousing revelry, sheer virtuosity, power, passion and purpose have made them one of the music world’s most celebrated ensembles. Variously described as “astonishing,” “the Gold Standard of Irish and American Roots music,” and “the Irish Punch Brothers,” they can claim the # 1 position in Billboard’s World Music charts, top honors from IMRO (the Irish Music Rights Organization), top sales numbers and the distinction of entertaining an American president, an Irish Prime Minister and members of the U.S. Congress at the annual “Friends of Ireland” luncheon on Capitol Hill. Little wonder then that We Banjo 3 is literally taking both sides of the Atlantic by storm, carving a reputation as one of the world’s most imaginative ensembles.
Of course, all results are generally due to the sum of the parts, and the individuals involved here all contribute to the common cause. Made up of two sets of siblings — brothers Enda Scahill (tenor banjo, vocals) and Fergal Scahill (fiddle, viola, dobro, percussion, guitar, mandolin, vocals) and brothers Martin Howley (tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals) and David Howley (lead vocals, guitar) – We Banjo 3 finds a natural symmetry as well as a cohesive chemistry that’s been imbued in the band ever since they were initially drawn to one another by their common creative interests. Inspired by the traditional Irish and Americana music they heard growing up, they placed three banjo players in the mix in the beginning, eventually diversifying their sound while broadening their boundaries as well.
Their new album, String Theory, appears to be a change in their tack, but only slightly. Half traditional covers, half original material, it finds the band’s reverence for their roots given a contemporary twist, further solidifying the common bonds between the two styles. The various jigs and reels underscore the band’s celebratory stance, but on a tender ballad like the 17th century soliloquy “Two Sisters,” the mix of love, jealousy and evil intent sound tailor made for modern times. While the instrumental interplay is in evidence as always, each individual musician adds his own distinctive style, further affirming their collective cause.
We Banjo 3 promises to deliver a set not to be missed on the main stage on Sunday, September 3 at 3:30pm.
The Four Corners Folk Festival is produced by FolkWest, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and is funded in part with a grant from Colorado Creative Industries.