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Michael Daves Sunday Residency w/ Bruce Molsky
Michael Daves Sunday Residency w/ Bruce Molsky

Sunday, August 26th, 2018


Bruce Molsky is one of the most revered “multi-hyphenated career” ambassadors for America’s old-time mountain music. For decades, he’s been a globetrotting performer and educator, a recording artist with an expansive discography including seven solo albums, well over a dozen collaborations and two Grammy-nominations. He’s also the classic “musician’s musician” – a man who’s received high praise from diverse fans and collaborators like Linda Ronstadt, Mark Knopfler, Celtic giants Donal Lunny and Andy Irvine, jazzer Bill Frisell and dobro master Jerry Douglas, a true country gentleman by way of the Big Apple aptly dubbed “the Rembrandt of Appalachian fiddlers” by virtuoso violinist and sometimes bandmate Darol Anger.

Molsky digs deep to transport audiences to another time and place, with his authentic feel for and the unearthing of almost-forgotten rarities from the Southern Appalachian songbook. His foils are not only his well-regarded fiddle work, but banjo, guitar and his distinctly resonant vocals. From tiny folk taverns in the British Isles to huge festival stages to his ongoing workshops at the renowned Berklee College of Music, Molsky seduces audiences with a combination of rhythmic and melodic virtuosity and relaxed conversational wit – a uniquely humanistic, downhome approach that can make Carnegie Hall feel like a front porch or parlor jam session.

As 2016 unfolds, the ever-busy Molsky continues to pioneer new ground on several fronts. Summer will bring the debut disc by Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, the first band the legendary fiddler has fronted. In Bruce’s words, this release will “point to the future of traditional, rural music” powered by the far-ranging musical palates of his two youthful bandmates. Banjo virtuoso Allison de Groot of “The Goodbye Girls” and “Oh My Darling” met Molsky at one of his workshops at Berklee, where his interest was piqued when “she played Lester Young solos on claw hammer banjo.” The band’s third member, guitarist Stash Wyslouch, is one of bluegrass music’s true genre benders, a high-energy performer who cut his teeth in punk and metal bands before immersing himself in roots music with “The Deadly Gentlemen.”

The new “Can’t Stay Here This a-Way” is a unique CD/DVD collection recorded in Los Angeles for Dave Bragger’s Tiki Parlour series. Not a recording session in the traditional sense, Bruce just showed up, sat on a couch while the camera and recording device rolled – capturing all the spontaneity as he casually reeled off and provided insightful comments on traditional favorites and some new offerings. Also on the slate is, “Rauland Rambles” from Molsky and his Norwegian collaborators, Arto Järvelä and Anon Egeland. This distinctive recording, which fuses traditional American roots with Scandinavian folk, comes from an impromptu session set after Bruce performed at this year’s Rauland International Winter Festival in Norway.

In addition to his many live performances as a solo and with Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, Bruce will be kept away from his home in Beacon, New York, by his work as a Visiting Scholar at the old American Roots Music Program at the Boston’s Berklee College of Music, and through fiddling workshops and summer music camps he conducts for devotees here and abroad.

So how does a street kid from the Bronx with plans for a career in architecture and a passion for Jimi Hendrix become a pre-eminent performer and preservationist for a homespun musical idiom forged a world away?

“I grew up in the Bronx in the 1960s, and was glued to AM pop radio,” says Molsky. “I started playing guitar when I was ten, when Dr. Billy Taylor and his Jazzmobile program visited my school. I already loved the Beatles, Motown, and Bob Dylan, but Dr. Taylor did something to me that day, he made ME want to play. And that was the day I went home and asked my mom for guitar lessons. And like a lot of kids at that time, I tried to be Jimi Hendrix and played in a string of pretty awful rock bands. But I also became very serious about finger style guitar, and that has stayed with me all along.”

“Traditional music came into my life when I was 12, when my sister bought me the first Doc Watson LP and I was blown away by ‘Black Mountain Rag,’” continues Molsky. “I came up at the tail end of the folk revival in New York, catching concerts by people like Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley and Curly Ray Cline as they came through for the Newport Folk Fests. I picked up the fiddle at 17, six months after I had started playing banjo.”

Through his teenage years, Molsky honed his skills at nurturing folk gatherings in New York and the Northeast, including the annual Fiddlers’ Convention at South Street Seaport. Hoping to please his engineer father, Molsky began studying architect and engineering at Cornell. A blow to these designs was the folk scene at and around Cornell, which only served to deepen his interest in, and ultimate pilgrimage to, the roots of early rural music.

“I left Cornell after two years and decided to follow the music,” adds Molsky. “I eventually moved to Virginia and got a job working in a carpet mill. But my main focus was weekly road trips to the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia, to learn from old masters like Tommy Jarrell.”

“As a teenager I loved the idea of living in the country, the notion of a simpler life, the romance that’s what the music represented to me and had a lot to do with my moving south," continues Molsky. “There are many regional styles of fiddling, but what I like is where the melodies are rhythm based, where the rhythm of bow is totally locked in with the melody,” he continues. “It’s a style that goes all the way from Virginia down to North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.”

After his style-forging Southern pilgrimage, Molsky performed regularly in the U.S., but didn’t make the total chord-cut with 9-to-5 life until his 40th birthday.

“I had a good career as a mechanical engineer, playing music in the off-hours – playing festivals and giving fiddle and banjo workshops,” adds Molsky. “But when my father passed, I decided to see if I could make a go of it as a full-time musician. The plan was to take a year off and see how it went; that was in 1997. I never went back!”

Molsky’s recording career has been plentiful since his debut session banjoist with Bob Carlin in 1990, with nearly two dozen releases available via Rounder and Compass Records and his own Tree Frog Music. His discography includes seven solo albums, from his debut of fiddlers’ classics, “Warring Cats,” to his most recent, “If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back,” an “aural autobiography” paying tribute to the musicians who have shaped his musical life and his travels from Appalachia to Australia. There’s also the Grammy-nominated “Fiddlers 4,” with Darol Anger, Michael Doucet and cellist Rushad Eggleston, the debut of the world fusion ensemble Mozaik with Andy Irvine, and contributions to legendary guitarist Mark Knopfler’s “Tracker” and the Billboard chart-topping Anonymous 4 release, “1865 – Songs of Hope and Home from the American Civil War.”

Bruce’s live and recorded work has not only drawn raves from his fellow musicians but the media. No Depression calls Molsky “an absolute master,” while Mother Jones calls him “easily one of the nation’s most talented fiddlers… he transports you, geographically, historically and most of all emotionally. NPR says “his playing is mesmerizing, transporting and best experienced live,”

The life of a full-time musician and educator at Berklee and music camps far and wide keeps Bruce away from his Beacon home for half the year. Much of Bruce’s recent sojourning has been overseas, to the British Isles, Italy, Scandinavia and a far afield as Australia.

Michael Daves was born in 1977 in the southern empire of Atlanta, Georgia. Soon after, he began to make loud noises, so his loving parents put music instruments in front of him. It was a good plan. He grew up in that grand tradition of staying up late & singing real loud. Although he's since moved north, the humid south remains in heart and sinus cavities. Heralded as “a leading light of the New York bluegrass scene” by the New York Times, Daves has garnered attention for his work with Chris Thile, Steve Martin, Tony Trischka, and Rosanne Cash in addition to his solo performances.

Daves' most recent project is a two-album set, Orchids and Violence, released February 2016 on Nonesuch Records. Both discs are self-produced and have identical track listing of mostly traditional bluegrass songs. The first features straightforward interpretations of them and was recorded live to tape in a 19th-century church by Daves and a band of roots-music innovators: bassist Mike Bub, violinist Brittany Haas, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and banjo player and Punch Brother Noam Pikelny. The second disc was recorded in Daves's home studio and includes bass, drums, and electric guitar, mostly played by Daves, and takes a raw, experimental rock approach to the same old-time material. "The identical track listing makes for a good comparison study," says the New York Times music critic Nate Chinen in his review, "and to his credit, it can be hard to pick which version of a tune is best."

Daves previously recorded bluegrass standards on Sleep with One Eye Open, his Nonesuch debut, a duo session with mandolinist Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) that earned the pair a 2011 Grammy nomination. The duo makes for "a rip-roaring partnership," writes the New York Times. "Bluegrass, in their hands, gets roughed up in the best possible way, with skill and fervor, and a touch of abandon."

Although he is best known as a roots musician, Daves gravitated toward experimental music and jazz while studying at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Relocating to Brooklyn more than a decade ago, he began to crave the social interaction and musical challenges of bluegrass: "In Western Massachusetts, I was mostly doing jazz. By the time I moved to New York, I was ready to leave that behind, get back to my personal roots in bluegrass music. There were good jam sessions in New York and I was excited to reenter a regular jamming culture in the city. And I was getting back into rock music, too. The Brooklyn scene in 2003 and 2004 was pretty fertile. There was a lot of great, kind of raw, experimental rock music happening at that time, drawing me in, scratching an itch."

Since 2006 Daves has maintained a weekly residency on Tuesday nights at The Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan where he continues to draw a devout following, and uses the informal setting to showcase special guest appearances with a who’s who of bluegrass musicians including Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan. Daves has also used the setting to develop his electric trio Wax Lion with experimental rock drummer John Colpitts (aka Kid Millions) and electric bassist (and visual artist) Jessi Carter, Daves' wife and collaborator on the electric side of Orchids and Violence.

Daves is also an in-demand teacher and noted booster of NYC’s thriving bluegrass music community. In addition to offering private instruction and group classes in Brooklyn (as well as the occasional festival or music camp workshop) Daves recently launched an online school in bluegrass vocals on ArtistWorks.com, the leading music learning website.

: $20.00

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Sunday, August 26th, 2018

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