Date: Friday, Jul 15th, 2011
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Stuart’s Opera House
The story of the Woody Pines folk band has all the right elements and all the right sounds to be heartfelt and real.
Consider those elements:
There’s the story of the band’s evolution and education on the streets of New Orleans and the sacrifices the musicians have made to get there — “I spent my last dollar on a hamburger in Texas,” band frontman Woody Pines says of the trip from his home in Oregon to the Big Easy. Hard-knock lives make for great folk lyrics.
There’s the magical patchwork of styles and influences that knit together to form a unique musical experience — rhythm and blues, ragtime, old time folk, ’50s rockabilly and backwoods twang. Some call it “new folk” but for Woody Pines, it’s all natural whether it’s the sound off a stand-up bass or the echo off the mouth of an old clay jug.
And, finally, there’s the down-to-earth nature of the three-man band with their earthiness, hillbilly swagger and retro fedoras that just oozes authenticity.
Pines says the guys — the core band is completed by Skip Frontz Jr. on upright bass and and Brad Tucker on vintage electric guitar — were playing in a jug band in Oregon when another street musician suggested they head south for the winter and learn the craft straight from a washboard player named Ragtime in New Orleans.
“She would show us the ropes so we could busk during the winter. It was too rainy in Oregon to make any money!” Pines says.
The temporary relocation proved a wise choice, he adds.
“New Orleans has music seeping out of the bricks in the old French Quarter,” he says. “We went down there to learn [the music] not just note for note, but also through the food and lifestyle that make New Orleans so special.”
The band’s sound was already eclectic as a result of Pines’ habit of mining old 78s and culling musical inspiration from a wide range of artists for a stream of music focused on love, fast cars and hard luck. Add a dose of Preservation Hall from deep in the French Quarter and vestiges of long road trips crammed in with the band, and the sound just steeps even more vintage.
“Our sound is not pre-designed,” says Pines. “It’s what you get when you put three people in a van, all of whom have warmed themselves by the churning flames of American music, and go out and play the bars, honky tonks, dives, streets, music halls, barbecue joints and music festivals across the country.”
In the band’s short existence, there have been comparisons to legends such as Bob Dylan, which at once flatter and befuddle Pines.
“I’m not really sure where the Bob Dylan associations come from, but I love Dylan and I’m honored to be alive when he is so I take it as a compliment,” he says.
After signing with Muddy Roots Records in Nashville, Woody Pines has been preparing to release its self-titled album at the end of this month. Pines hopes the reviews will be as positive as they’ve received in the past.
Maverick magazine called the band’s last album “an intoxicating blend of rural and urban string band, country blues, ragtime and jug band music.”
Whatever the label, Pines says there is always a feeling or a belief behind the band’s songs, the majority of which he writes himself. “Reefer Man,” for example, conjures a “Halloween hootenanny that could have come straight out of vaudeville.”
Another, “Nashville,” is knee-deep in the blues.
Indeed, when asked for musical influences, Pines lists authors like Mark Twain or vaudevillians like Emmett Miller along with musicians both famous and obscure such as Ma Rainey, Cab Calloway, Hank Williams Jr. and Leon Redbone.
“Everything from swing to old country blues goes into our music, along with life’s experiences,” Pines says.
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