Bandit’s Roost members spoke recently about their individual passions, motivations and influences and how those factors intertwine within the tapestry of their songs to portray and convey messages.
They said they like to inform with their music while inviting a response from the audience, whether by listening or dancing.
The group said it consciously pursues the work of preserving history, themes and what the individual musician brings to the mix. The result resonates with a synchronicity that retains individual musical characteristics and weaves music and tales through methods of oral tradition and story-telling.
Bandit’s Roost uses its skill to capture the mood of its songs’ stories to capture its listeners’ attention and can move audiences to great emotion, with sad and happy tales emphasized by its composition and chords.
Fiddle player, David Blackmon, said to do such musical work, it is first important knowing what the song is all about. Knowing that and knowing the chord structure remain basics, he said.
In the band’s recent practice, Blackmon illustrated how he uses “harmonics” and/or a “B” chord to complement the song and the meaning of its words. Meanwhile, pulling from classical fiddle playing tradition.
Blackmon started playing music at around 8 years of age to get out of physical education class and stuck with it, though he was the only fiddler around in Athens, Georgia, at the time, he said.
In his twenties, he toured with Jerry Reed.
Blackmon played in the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention in 1971 and his First Fiddlers Grove in 1973. He said main influences were Sam Bush, Darol Anger, Kenny Baker, Bill Monroe and Bill Jenkins, and Reed.
Julian Charles said Bandit’s Roost music for him, is about the environment.
He had a vision and later composed the maritime ballad called “Beaches.” The song was about the Annie Jane steamship wreck of 1853, off the coast of Scotland where all perished on board. Charles’ vision was in 2000 while he was sleeping on the burial ground of those lost, 348 on board.
In the vision, Charles heard children playing and parents talking and when he woke from sleep, he said that he fully expected to see them on the beach.
Caroline Blackmon said she loves the folk song tradition of Bandit’s Roost and enjoys searching for songs in old books and trying to bring them back to life.
“Trying to preserve and recycle what there is in music,” is a big part of what Bandit’s Roost is about for Caroline, she said.
In addition, she spoke about part of her role as providing a background for a song like a “base paint” while holding on to the notes or words in a distinctive way to maintain harmony and evoke mood, such as the ethereal quality found in the maritime ballad, “Beaches.”
R.G. Absher on guitar and banjo often composes instrumental tunes about what has taken place.
He said he enjoys pushing the envelope with the music to make it real in present day.
Band members said some of their work is like a hard study of bluegrass in the mix that is refreshing outside of the standard fare of banjo, guitar an fiddle.
Evoking emotion with lyrics, composition and sound is part of the design, they said.
In addition, the group members said they are not afraid to take chances and will push emotion up to the forefront with their music, lyrics and sound. Compositions often include historical text in the lyrics, composition and harmony.
Some recent practice songs included “Cleveland’s Revenge” written in Irish guitar style and about the war between the Patriots and Loyalists during the Revolutionary War, where battles took place along the Yadkin River of North Carolina. “Coleman’s March at Stony Point” (a true story about a man on his way to the gallows), “Beeches,” and “O Coyote,” telling a personal story of Caroline about a coyote who jumped over her friend’s shoulder while in her apartment.
One of their personal goals is to play at Merlefest and find venues for their music and its message.
Bandit’s Roost will be recording a demo in the upcoming weeks. Those interested can find more information on its Facebook page, Bandit’s Roost.
The group is scheduled to play at Brushy Mountain Winery on Aug. 23.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.