The sound of the Portland, Oregon's Foghorn Stringband could have come barreling
through the grille-cloth of those big console radios in the living rooms of the
1950's, when the traditional sounds of rural America were still on the minds of
young musicians transferring the old-time music to a distinctively modern age.
Their tight intstrumental work and line-up - fiddle, banjo, mandolin, bass and
guitar - is reminiscent of early bluegrass, but their powerful approach is whole-heartedly
old-time, centered largely by the fiddle. Devoted to the interpretation and performance
of American stringband music, their style encompasses early country music, the
fiddle repertoire of the Southern Appalachians and the Midwest, and the stringband
sounds of the Piedmont region. They are highly regarded by traditional music lovers,
and have recently been tapped by one of the country's most renowned musicians
of the genre, Dirk Powell, to perform as the Dirk Powell Band. While they are
committed to playing authentic old-time music, the members of Foghorn Stringband
are not strict recreationists in costume; yet neither are they experimentalists
of the digital age. Whether it's on stage in a rock venue, a bluegrass festival,
or at a dance in the Grange Hall, they further this great tradition through a
profound belief that old-time music, played in a traditional way, is still relevent
and very much alive in the 21st century.
The heart of the Foghorn Stringband sound is made up of the unison melody line
of fiddler Stephen "Sammy" Lind and mandolinist Caleb Klauder. P.T.
Grover Jr.'s three-finger picking style and resonator banjo sets their sound
apart from other contemporary old-time bands. Kevin Sandri plays rhythm guitar
with the snap of a snare drum and bass player Brian Bagdonas delivers a relentless
driving beat that forms the underlying tone of Foghorn's sound. Caleb, Sammy,
and Kevin also deliver a seamless blend of richly unadorned vocals. Together
their music has an easy and natural honesty that comes from their stripped-down
approach to performing live. Owing their existence to a particularly inspiring
jam session on the campground of the National Fiddle Championships in Weiser,
Idaho, they seek to retain this refreshing and spontaneous feel on the stage.
They play seated, gathered around one microphone, and do not use monitors. This
gives all of their live performances a front porch feel that draws in and connects
with the audience like family.
Their recordings have the same quality. 2002's Rattlesnake Tidal Wave, and
Reap What You Sow, released in August of 2004, were made singing and playing
around one stereo microphone, without the use of overdubs or multi-tracking
methods. They are also featured on a track from Dirk Powell's latest album,
Time Again, captured live with Dirk and Riley Baugus.
Despite their extensive travelling schedule, Foghorn still plays every Sunday
night at a corner table of Portland's Moon and Sixpence pub; and they continue
to host, with caller Bill Martin, a free monthly square dance in town. Initially
gaining a reputation in the Pacific Northwest in this role, they have thrilled
dancers and concert audiences at festivals throughout the country. This foundation
in providing music for square dances - where the insistent sound of the dancer's
shoes slapping the hardwood floor provides a beat of it's own - still permeates
all of Foghorn's music, as evidenced by the people dancing in the aisles during
the band's performances. No matter what the venue, this is what old time music
is all about.