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Paper Bird, Haas Kowert Tice, and Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys join the Folk Fest lineup

By Crista Munro
Special to The PREVIEW

The main stage performance schedule for the 19th annual Four Corners Folk Festival, taking place Aug. 29-31 on Reservoir Hill, has been finalized and published on the FolkWest website, www.folkwest.com. The festival brings thousands of music lovers 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.

This year’s lineup includes Sam Bush, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, Elephant Revival, Sarah Jarosz, The Oh Hellos, Baskery, Caravan of Thieves, Sunliner, Heather Maloney/Darlingside, Shook Twins, Marley’s Ghost, Beth Wood, Steep Ravine and this week’s featured bands, Paper Bird, Haas Kowert Tice, and Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys.

Paper Bird

Paper Bird

Since the band’s formation in 2007, Paper Bird has been playing its joyful blend of indie folk, roots, and Americana to delighted audiences nationwide. Paper Bird has released four albums: “Anything Nameless,” “Joymaking,” “When the River Took Flight” and “Carry On,” which was the score to a collaboration with Ballet Nouveau Colorado of the same name. Their unique sound is a combination of a dynamic and energetic rhythm section intertwined with effortless and flowing harmonies. The group’s backbone is its songwriting, musicianship and a general allergy to all limitations and trends.

With seven members and no designated leader, the possibilities for Paper Bird are constantly unfolding, with fluctuations in style and mood akin to weather patterns. Their rare and beautiful approach to music led them to be featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and the band was voted in the Top 10 Best Underground Bands by The Denver Post three years in a row, as well as being named 5280’s Top of the Town: Top Local Band. Most recently, Paper Bird was featured in February 2013 in The New York Times in a story about up-and-coming Denver bands.

Paper Bird’s latest album, “Rooms,” pushes musical boundaries even further than anything the group has done. Building on a unique signature sound with dynamic rhythms and effortless, flowing harmonies, Paper Bird wanted to make an album that was coherent and truly represented where they are as a band and as people. So they made a hard left turn by enlisting good friend and accomplished film composer Ryan Fritch to produce “Rooms.”

“Ryan sees music differently than all of us had before this recording process,” said drummer Mark Anderson. “His input on our music opened our eyes to new ways of writing and experiencing sound, helping to create an atmosphere within the album that did not exist before.”

Paper Bird will bring its joyful brand of music to the festival’s main stage on Saturday, Aug. 30, at 2 p.m.

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Brittany Haas (center), Jordan Tice and Paul Kowert

The trio of Brittany Haas, Jordan Tice and Paul Kowert is a confluence of three of the most exciting young voices in acoustic music today. While each member carries an impressive resume of professional experience, it is the devotion to collaboration and the pursuit of a unique group sound that sets them apart.

California-born Brittany Haas is widely regarded as one of the most influential fiddlers of her generation. She grew up honing her craft in fiddle camps nationwide and came to her unique sound through the old-time fiddling of Bruce Molsky and the innovative stylings of Darol Anger. A prodigious youth, she began touring with Darol’s Republic of Strings at the age of 14. She simultaneously studied baboons in the evolutionary biology department of Princeton University and joined seminal chamber-grass band Crooked Still. She has toured with them since, and also performed with Yonder Mountain String Band, Tony Trischka, Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas (her cellist sister), Abigail Washburn and The Waybacks. She played her fiddle on Steve Martin’s Grammy Award-winning CD, “The Crow,” and performed in his band on Letterman and SNL. She released her debut, self-titled solo album at 17, produced by Darol Anger and featuring Bruce Molsky, Mike Marshall, Alison Brown and others. Currently residing in Boston, she is the co-leader of the Brittany Haas/Dan Trueman band, which released its debut record, “Criss Cross,” in 2011. She also plays in a duo with Swedish fiddler Lena Jonsson and the avant-garde fiddle/dance ensemble 4tet.

Paul Kowert grew up in Madison, Wisc. Upon graduating from The Curtis Institute of Music (where he studied with Hal Robinson and Edgar Meyer) in 2009, he joined the band Punch Brothers and moved to Brooklyn. Since then, the band has made two albums and toured extensively throughout the U.S., U.K. and Europe, contributed music to “The Hunger Games,” “This is Forty” and “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and appeared on Conan, Leno, Letterman, Jools Holland, “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Austin City Limits.” In addition to playing with the Punch Brothers, Paul has toured with Mike Marshall’s Big Trio, Dave Rawlings Machine and Haas Kowert Tice. Drawing from his extensive experience in classical music, endless pursuit of adapting traditional fiddle styles to bass and formidable chops, he is truly one of the most original bassists working today.

Hailing from Annapolis, Md., Jordan Tice is an innovative flatpicker and prolific composer of acoustic music. The son of two bluegrass musicians, he grew up playing with various bluegrass bands and singer/songwriters around Maryland until 2005, when he enrolled at Towson University to study music composition on full scholarship.

He released his debut recording of original music, at the age of 17 on Patuxent Records and has since released two more recordings of his music to rave reviews. He has performed and/or recorded with Mark Schatz and friends, Frank Wakefield, Darol Anger and Tony Trischka. He has been featured on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, and played the music of Steve Martin commissioned for New York City’s esteemed “Shakespeare in the Park” series in Central Park in summer 2012. His album, “The Secret History” (2012) features Paul Kowert on bass and Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer. He also performs with Tony Trischka, The Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, The Depue Brothers Band, Lily Henley and Mariel Vandersteel.

Together, Haas, Kowert and Tice have produced a body of work containing flights of improvisation and interesting compositional turns, all grounded by memorable melodies and driving rhythms. The group’s adventurous spirit and desire to show the audience something new is never at the expense of the most intrinsically rewarding elements of music, such as the beauty of a well-crafted melody or the dance-inspiring energy of a great groove.

These three virtuoso musicians will team up for an unforgettable main stage set on Sunday, Aug. 30, at 11 a.m.

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Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys

With a slight bend of his knee, Gordie MacKeeman launches into a song. Guided by the sharp cuts of his fiddle, his famous crazy legs shake and twist with a laughing regard for physics. The whole time, His Rhythm Boys deliver a surefooted roots instrumentation to accompany the spectacle. It’s a joyful sight that divides the line between the band and the audience. It is with this pomp and spirit that Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys set out to capture on their new album, “Pickin’ N Clickin’.”

Hailing from Prince Edward Island, Canada, the Rhythm Boys’ exhilarating live show has drawn international attention. The group was awarded the Roots/Traditional Group Recording of the Year at the 2014 East Coast Music Awards. They were given the Galaxie Supernova Award at the 2012 Ottawa Folk Festival for their outstanding performance. Tom Power, host of CBC Radio’s “Deep Roots,” called them his “Best Discovery Band” at the 2012 East Coast Music Awards. The group toured the United Kingdom three times last year, including performing on one of the main stages at the Glastonbury Festival. They also toured Australia and Belgium in early 2014.

Produced by award-winning artist Nathan Wiley and mixed by renowned musician Dale Murray, “Pickin’ N Clickin’” features numerous guest appearances from legendary Canadian musicians. Over the course of 15 tracks, the album offers up rockabilly-inspired rhythms and, of course, MacKeeman’s perfectly executed fiddle work. There’s upbeat reels and weighted laments. Somehow, the band still makes each new tone and style sound like an expression made in the same voice.

The band adeptly delivers original compositions (“Gonna Get Out,” “Jim’s Lament,” “Hay Boys,” “Scrape the Paint,” “Working Title”), as well as covers such as Lawrence Welk’s “Champagne Polka” and Two Hours Traffics’ “Heroes of the Sidewalk.” But it’s roots music that sets the band’s goals much higher than simple reproductions of the past. MacKeeman oversees the alchemistic mixture of stringed acrobatics like a modern day Bob Wills.

Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys will take the stage on Friday, Aug. 29, at 3:30 p.m. to get this year’s festival off to a rollicking start.

FolkWest is currently seeking a few volunteers to help with this year’s events in exchange for free admission. Interested parties should call Dan at 731-5582 or email dan@folkwest.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.

This story was posted on July 31, 2014.