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By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW
The 19th annual Four Corners Folk Festival, taking place Aug. 29-31, will bring thousands of music lovers from all over the country to Pagosa Springs to enjoy three days of camping, pickin’ and listening to live sets from some of today’s top folk, Americana and bluegrass musicians. The event was recently listed as one of AAA Colorado’s top five events in the state of Colorado for the month of August.
This year’s lineup includes Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, Elephant Revival, Sarah Jarosz, The Oh Hellos, Baskery, Sunliner, Shook Twins, Paper Bird, Haas Kowert Tice, Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, Marley’s Ghost, Beth Wood, Steep Ravine and this week’s featured bands: Caravan of Thieves and Heather Maloney/Darlingside.
Like many families, the Caravan of Thieves family started with a married couple — Fuzz and Carrie Sangiovanni (guitar, vocals, various percussive “instruments”) — writing and performing as a duo.
“It started as a romantic, bohemian vision of a couple making music, performing on the road, in parks, venues, traveling around and avoiding responsibility as much as possible,” says Fuzz. “The first thing we discovered was we loved singing together, harmonizing our voices. Just seemed to click right away.”
In the spring of 2008, Fuzz and Carrie extended their family to include fiery violinist Ben Dean and double bass madman Brian Anderson, completing their colorful vision. Since then, the four of them ran away from home and never looked back. Within that first year, the Caravan of Thieves began to win immediate praise for their unique blend of gypsy swing and popular music, inspiring them to record and release the debut full- length album “Bouquet” (2009).
To accompany this collection of dramatic and satirical tales, they built an interactive stage set of percussive junk and the ragtag quartet took their newly animated show on the road, sharing stages with world renowned artists such as Emmylou Harris, Dan Hicks, Glen Campbell, Nanci Griffith, The Decemberists, Keb Mo, Tom Tom Club, Iron and Wine, Punch Brothers, Tony Trischka, John Hammond, John Jorgenson and many others. The Caravan successfully connected with audiences on each of these diverse bills, proving their act to be understood and appreciated by folk, pop, rock and jazz audiences of all ages.
“The years spent making music as an acoustic duo, alongside street performers, forced us to create a style of music we can present anywhere, anyhow, plugged in or not, a little wild and raw,” says Carrie, addressing the palpable troubadorian nature of Caravan Of Thieves, “And this seemed to be a characteristic of popular artists and performers who have developed their persona and style that continue to span generations.”
Driving gypsy jazz rhythms, acoustic guitars, upright bass and violin lay the foundation for mesmerizing vocal harmonies and fantastic stories. It’s theatrical and humorous. It’s musical and intense. It entertains, dazzles and defies classification while welcoming the spectator to join the band throughout the performance in momentary fits of claps, snaps and sing-alongs. If Django Reinhardt, the cast of Stomp and the Beatles all had a party at Tim Burton’s house, Caravan of Thieves would be the band they hired.
“This idea of bringing the street performance to the stage led us to gypsy music and the 1930s swing era as these are free-feeling, charismatic performances by real entertainers. With this as the musical backdrop, combined with our fascination with macabre images and sharp-witted sarcasm, we began writing happy sounding pop songs with pretty harmonies, dark thoughts and creepy characters. This all seemed to be a suitable combination. And banging on buckets, frying pans and hubcaps were just crazy and human enough to fit too.”
Caravan of Thieves will perform their raucous, rowdy and rousing music twice on the festival’s main stage: Friday, Aug. 29, at 5 p.m. and again on Sunday, Aug. 31, at 2 p.m.
“I always said that if I didn’t write songs, I’d be covered in tattoos, because every song I write is something I want to remember really badly,” says Heather Maloney.
She has no ink so far. Instead, the Northampton, Mass., singer and songwriter is marking life lessons with music on her new self-titled album, penning tuneful reminders to herself about the little triumphs of love on “Flutter,” the solace of redemption on “Turn Yourself Around” and her firm belief that nothing’s colder than trying too hard to be cool, an idea that inspired “Fire for You.”
“Heather Maloney”, out in March 2013 on Signature Sounds, is the album for a songwriter hailed by The Huffington Post for “lyrics that cut to the chase.”
DigBoston wrote that she “deserves the type of cult following that has allowed the likes of Aimee Mann and Ani DiFranco that long-standing success and influence they have had.”
Although Maloney’s influences are largely rooted in what she calls “adventurous folk,” she pushes outward on these 11 songs, digging deeper and roaming wider than she has before on songs populated by vivid characters that ultimately trace their way back to her.
If there’s a typical path to becoming a songwriter, Maloney didn’t follow it. Although she went to school for music and had done plenty of singing, she only began writing tunes a few years ago after living and working for three years in a silent-retreat meditation center in central Massachusetts.
“The biggest motivating factor in writing was probably the experiences that I was having here in my meditation practice,” she says. “There was the difficulty of it, the suffering of it, and wanting to channel that into something creative, and on the positive side, the insights that came out of my experiences.”
Those experiences proved especially inspirational on “Dirt and Stardust,” the folky centerpiece of the album. On one level, it’s a song about a rambling woman, an idea whose origins were simple enough: “Who doesn’t love songs about ramblers?” Maloney says. “It’s adventurous, and heartbreaking, but beautiful.”
On a deeper level, though, it’s a song about embracing impermanence.
“I don’t want these walls to wall me in forever,” Maloney begins, singing with the hint of a quaver in her sweet voice tinged with earthy grit. “Don’t want to make my home on fenced-in land. We can buy our lot, we can mark our spot but we’re travelers whether we like it or not, so please make my castle out of sand.”
“It led me back to the meditation practice,” she explains. “A large part of what this practice is aiming to get you to recognize is that everything is impermanent, and not only to recognize that, but to be OK with that, and maybe even celebrate that. So in this song I’m trying to express this woman’s complicated relationship with impermanence.”
Maloney has recently teamed up to tour with her fellow New Englanders of Darlingside, who will be sharing the stage with Maloney at Four Corners this year.
With four distinct voices clustered around a single microphone, Darlingside effortlessly draw audiences into their lush musical world. David Fricke of Rolling Stone describes them as “a quartet with a rich line in acoustic textures and chamber-rock dynamics.” The band’s sound — characterized by classical strings, tight vocal arrangements, bluegrass and rock instrumentation, and smart lyricism — is the product of complete collaboration among the four close friends. The group has no frontman; instead, lead vocals are traded from moment to moment, and each song features a new combination of instruments and textures, pulling heavily from folk, retro-pop, barbershop and chamber music.
Dave (bassist and former street musician), Don (guitarist, banjoist, and former boy alto), Auyon (classical violinist who studied mandolin in Ireland and Brazil) and Harris (classical cellist and guitarist) met and sang together as students at Williams College. Together, they are “a powerhouse of vocal, instrumental, and performing talent,” and their expansive sound is “aston-ish-ingly more con-gru-ent than the sum of its parts.”
Darlingside’s collaborative work with fellow Massachusetts-native Maloney, which culminated in the 2014 Signature Sounds release “Woodstock,” garnered attention from both The New York Times and The Boston Globe. This summer, the band will step onto the national stage with appearances at High Sierra in Quincy, Calif.; Sisters Folk Festival in Sisters, Ore.; and here at the Four Corners Folk Festival.
Heather Maloney/Darlingside will play on the main stage on Saturday, Aug. 30, at 3:30 p.m. and again later on the late night stage.
FolkWest is currently seeking a few more volunteers to help with this year’s events in exchange for free admission. Interested parties should call Dan at 731-5582 or email email@example.com. Tickets and information about this year’s Four Corners Folk Festival can be found online at www.folkwest.com or by calling (877) 472-4672.
(Band bio information provided by Heather Maloney, Darlingside and Caravan of Thieves.)