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Beatrootband: Carrying on a Tradition of Folk Music (Northampton Blog)

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The Spirit of Folk Music is Alive and Well

Revitalizing Folk Music History: Beatrootband

Wesley James Curtis and Jake Martini of Beatrootband. Photo Courtesy of BeatrootbandTurn down the volume on the news. It is telling you that our country is at war and that the economy is down. Turn off the television completely, noticing that the flickers of light it emits are so unnatural. Open your window and listen as that train blasts by, its horn blasting, reminding you of bygone days, and at the same time reminding you of forward movement. You feel suddenly at ease with the uneasiness of inertia because it is the product of an American ideal, one which strives for freedom amidst the burden of stress. The resulting restlessness is at the heart of folk music, a tradition that encourages one to travel, and also represent where one is from. This versatility and a humility rooted in struggle encapsulate folk music. As long as there is a small gathering of people with patient ears there will be folk musicians willing to share their story. It was with this basic knowledge that Wesley James Curtis and Jake Martini left their hometown of Eugene, Oregon and travelled East, bringing their guitars and love for the American landscape along with them.

Now situated in Northampton, the two are are at the beginning of a new experience, trying on the East Coast for size, playing small clubs and promoting their new self titled EP. They are Beatrootband, currently an acoustic act who bring to life old folk classics by the likes of Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie, and also sport their own originals. By doing so, they are in earnest working from the ground up in terms of creating songs. Instead of insisting on committing to heady and mind-bending music, they rely on the bittersweet concoction of blues that needs no embellishment. They understand the value of drawing on folk’s history, and using its rich seeds to grow a new sound. It is folk music with a little more edge to it, a little more speed, but still possessing the saddened musings of their predecessors who had to struggle for work, and travel to find it. All seven tracks on their EP share this rough-edged sentiment as their guitars and voices rise and fall with the weary twang of lonely hearts spilling their guts at the bar. The character of their music is perfectly unvarnished, intentionally so, as the music’s intention is to be honest to its own fragility.

And yet there is joy in the music too as the two exchange finger-picking solos, and use folk music to share their version of the American experience. Also, their lyrics are humorous, and self-deprecating, Their sound is all inviting as their voices are pleasant and they harmonize very well, neither leading, nor the other following, but sharing the sound with grace, though Jake’s voice is usually a little more audible due to it being deeper. Up on stage and on record the two share the ability to create a thickness of sound without requiring much alteration of sound or extra musicians. What they represent is music stripped down its most noble core, and within their sound lies the noble desire to stir the heartstrings, instead of stir-fry your desire to listen to meaningful music with the convoluted syrup of the distracted American brain.

The two pals are both in their early twenties and despite their age bring a maturity to their music, one which respects the births of folk music which were rooted in early America’s hardships. Times have changed, but folk music remains relevant, powerful and yet subtle, ringing out across the ages, whistling with its hands in its pockets, and meeting us in the middle of our lives with a desire to keep it simple. At the heart of their lyrics is a push for awareness. That we should enjoy the things we have before they are gone, and never forget the things that came before us. Check out their EP at, composed of six originals and stay tuned to the Northampton Concert Scene for their upcoming shows.

Ezra Prior is a Contributor to The Free George. Photo Courtesy of Beatrootband.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.


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