Gavin Bellows
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October 18, 2012
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Modern musicians present timeless sounds

St. Joesph’s Cultural Center and Haven Underground present an evening of fine contemporary folk and alt-country, showcasing five talented young singer/songwriters from Nevada County to New York City.

The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley.

Folk music has gone through more changes and permutations than almost any other musical form. What started as an amalgamation of traditional ballads, field hollers, 12-bar blues and indigenous music has grown to embrace and perpetuate genres like country, Celtic, Western swing and even rock.

In the ’30s and ’40s, folk music became a rallying point for laborers who fought for workers’ rights. In the ’60s, these same songs inspired a new generation to get politically active, and the sensitive ’70s established stars like James Taylor and Carole King. While the glam-rock ’80s were not kind to the quiet, introspective folkies, the ’90s brought a fresh infusion of talent with artists like Jeff Buckley and Elliot Smith broadening the horizons of the genre. In the new millennium, the boundaries of folk music were stretched again by the ecstatic, mystical “free folk” of artists like Devendra Banhart and Nevada City’s own Joanna Newsom.

It’s a testament to the lasting power of the genre that folk fans can name artists as varied as Bob Dylan, the Clancy Brothers, the Carter Family and the nomadic Bauls of India as favorites.

Friday a diverse and inspiring group of regional folk artists will take the stage at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center for a night of unforgettable music. Garrett Pierce, Matt Bauer, Little Wings (aka Kyle Field) and local stars Aaron Ross and the Moore Brothers will each showcase their own, unique vision of what folk music is and how it sounds.

In the world of indie folk, Little Wings leader Kyle Field has established himself as an influential and uncompromising artist. Both in his collaborations with such artists as Feist and The Microphones and his extensive solo career, Field’s unique whispered vocal style and loose rhythms conjure up images of informal gospel music played by friends.

Local hero and folk-savant Aaron Ross promises to be a highlight of the night with his mesmerizing songs. This Nevada County native has released eight albums of incandescent music ranging from the Americana-influenced “On The Hallelujah Side” (2003) to the electronic-based “Idle Worship” (2012). While his production styles vary wildly, his distinctive melodies and dense lyrical images always shine through. His 2008 release “Shapeshifter” marked a change for Ross who, in his mid-20s, felt a personal shift toward more positive messages. Whether he’s performing solo, with his backing group, the Heirs of Mystery, or collaborating with multi-instrumentalist Spencer Seim in the group SOLOS, Ross has certainly earned his place as one of Nevada County’s most gifted musicians and songwriters.

Garrett Pierce has established himself as a sensitive and astute songwriter. His two albums, “Like A Moth” and “All Masks,” were released on the Davis-based label Crossbill Records. His sparse, confessional tunes explore the nuances of both personal and universal relationships. With a new album in the works, Pierce is poised to become a major voice in the burgeoning Bay Area folk scene.

Pierce’s label-mate Matt Bauer brings a mysterious, Appalachian sensibility to his music. The Kentucky native plays banjo in a hypnotic, intricate style that redefines the instrument, utilizing contrapuntal melodies and a percussive attack similar to Balinese gamelan music.

Nevada City locals the Moore Brothers carry the tradition of singing siblings into the future with their harmonious blend of cheeky humor and poignant observations.

Brothers Thom and Greg Moore share the vocal heritage of the great family groups like The Dillards, the Everley Brothers and even the perpetually warring Gallagher brothers of Oasis. Their “2 voices, 1 guitar” ethos allows them to display their shimmering harmonies and whimsical lyrics with a minimum of distraction while their easy-going stage banter keeps the crowd engaged and entertained. Releasing five albums under their own name with a sixth in the works, they’ve also worked with alt-folk stars like Nedelle, Joanna Newsom and Lois Maffeo.

Matt Bauer’s unique muse extends to his lyrical content as well. His debut album (2008’s “The Island Moved in the Storm”) was a concept album based on the unsolved murder of a young girl in his home town while the follow-up, “The Jessamine County Book of the Living” mixes southern Gothic with South American magic realism.

Celebrating the release of his latest EP, “No Shape Can Hold Me Now” (fall 2012), is a moving meditation on the power of travel and the elusive pleasures of home and features a guest performances by Jolie Holland.


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The Union Updated Oct 18, 2012 01:19PM Published Oct 18, 2012 01:19PM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.