The Rapidian

Red Tail Ring nominated for six Jammie Awards

Folk revivalist duo makes its Jammies debut.
Underwriting support from:

2012 WYCE Jammie Awards

February 14, at 5:00 pm

The Intersection

133 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

Free event: for a complete lineup, visit the WYCE website

/Red Tail Ring

Earthworks Music Collective boasts a host of artists nominated for 2012 WYCE Jammie Awards; among them a stand-out addition to its musical family, Red Tail Ring. The young-gun duo of Laurel Premo and Michael Beauchamp joined their considerable talents after meeting in 2009 at Blissfest, the long-running summer music festival in northern Michigan. Each brought to their collaboration both personal experience and dedicated study of traditional music, mixing Appalachian bluegrass and other American folk forms with modern sensibilities. 

Premo's Upper Peninsula heritage was an important influence on her art. Raised in the Iron County village of Amasa, she absorbed the fiddle-and-percussion-rich strains of Finnish-American folk styles passed on by her elders. Going on to study traditional Finnish music at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, she later graduated from U-M with a degree in Performing Arts Technology. She's contributed to over a dozen recordings, highlighting her gifts on two of her own albums, Intertwine(2008), and Nettle(2009). Beauchamp in turn pursued English Literature and Ethnomusicology at the same alma mater, immersing himself in disciplines that found expression on his 2008 solo album, My Northern Voices. Like his partner, Michael has lent his talents to numerous musicians' projects in recent years, including Earthwork's Breathe Owl Breathe, among others. 

Beyond their impressive credentials, the minstrels bring to the stage a lively and commanding fusion of string and vocal harmonies.The pair deliver both established ballads and original compositions with a clear, authentic ease that manages to transcend traditional form while honoring its legacy. Mastering the technical demands of a variety of stringed instruments is one achievement of their art. Melding that craft into a seamless sound, at turns feverish and ethereal, is another. Accompanied by banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and jaw harp, Red Tail Ring strike bells of cultural memory that resonate deeply, evoking rivers of American song flowing from sources older than the nation. It's a sincere and respectful approach, infused with a passionate desire to creatively evolve the genre. Their focused and flowing performances have brought them acclaim from audiences and critics, as well as attention from public radio. Illuminating their take on old ballads, Beauchamp says, "We see the value in a variety of interpretations over one 'definitive' version. It's an inclusive approach to music; I never assume I'm playing the 'one true' style."

Premo and Beauchamp released the five-song EP August Roads in early 2010, followed by the dual release of the albums Mountain Shout and Middlewest Chant in April of 2011. The full-length albums have earned Jammie nominations for Best Album by a New Artist, with Mountain Shout focusing on traditional Appalachian and folk songs, and Middlewest Chant showcasing the partnership's orginals. Of the former album's traditionals, Beauchamp explains, "We were more appreciative of layered arrangements. We wanted to step outside of the box of the person who wrote them." The latter offering promises a more current perspective, woven with social commentary drawn from both personal and collective history. In addition to Best Album by a New Artist, the pair's work has been nominated in the Jammie categories of Best Traditional Album, Song of the Year, Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Male Artist, and Best Production/Engineering. 

That in itself is quite an accomplishment for a band new to Grand Rapids' regional music awards. Though Red Tail Ring has performed in venues across the state and region as well as Europe, the 2012 ceremony marks the duo's first appearance at the Jammies. They're excited about the opportunity, and enthused by the ferment of activity and collaboration rising in the West Michigan music scene. "We have a genuine hope that art and music in the region will continue to be interesting and of high quality. It's very encouraging." Equally encouraging is the arc of their journey as musical artists. Based on the foundation they've laid as thoughtful and imaginative explorers of folk legacy, it's easy to imagine Red Tail Ring making a larger mark on a new era of roots music. Look for them on the national scene in times to come. 

 

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