The history of American roots music in the early 20th century could never fit into an encyclopedia. it’s too ramshackle, too rambunctious, too radical. Fiddlers, guitarists, banjo players, and all kinds of folks rambled those early roads, learning from each other, inspiring each other, and pushing the music in new directions. Music constantly switched back and forth across the racial divide, beholden only to the beat and the dance. It’s this fevered period of musical exchange that inspires Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons.
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Rather than thinking of their music as blues, it’s best to situate Ben and Joe as American songsters. A songster traditionally refers to an artist whose repertoire is much broader than the old blues, and spans many of the genres that Ben and Joe Inhabit. Uncle Dave Macon and Robert Johnson are classic examples of songsters. Ben & Joe’s music taps into everything from Jug Band blues to the work songs of Southern prisons to early jazz compositions to Appalachain fiddle tunes. All of these traditions are tied together in the swirling musical whirlpool of pre-war American music. Whatever you want to call it, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons make American music. They make music that hews to the rough-and-tumble collisions of musical inspirations from the early 20th century; music that paved the way for everything we enjoy today.
Ben and Joe have been playing together for 5 years. Last year, they launched an ongoing documentary film project to explore modern day music along the Mississippi River. In January Ben and Joe attended the 26th annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. There, they were awarded 1st place out of nearly 100 acts representing 16 countries for their unique blend of pre-blues a cappella field hollers, fiddle & banjo breakdowns, and duet distillations of early jazz.
BEN HUNTER was born in Lesotho, a tiny nation in South Africa, but was largely raised in Phoenix. Ben also spent a portion of his youth in Zimbabwe. There, at the age of seven, his love of rhythm began to blossom as he learned to play the marimbaand perform traditional Shona music, while also continuing to pursue better grasp on the violin. Ben had begun studying classical violin at age 5 and eventually majored in violin performance. Ben moved to Seattle, WA soon after college and founded Community Arts Create to break down social barriers through community arts activities. At the Pt. Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, living legends of traditional blues and ragtime showed Ben a new musical direction. After founding a duo act with Joe to pursue this direction, Ben suggested that they expand their work as educators by developing a new music project. The Rhapsody Project was thus established, with the goal to strengthen communities through song and spread the gospel of folk and blues music. Rhapsody is the integration of performance and teaching through public events and school workshops designed to facilitate cross-generational, cross-cultural interactions through the medium of music. In 2013, Ben co-founded The Hillman City Collaboratory, the mission of which is to be an instrument of transformation that provides a built environment and programming specifically designed to create community and equip change-makers.
JOE SEAMONS was raised in the backwoods of Northwestern Oregon in a house built by his parents. There, he was exposed to local folk music of sawmill workers, loggers and fishermen whose music reflected the character of the region. As he heard these songs in living rooms, around campfires, and at cider presses, Joe also attended public school in the small nearby town of Rainier, Oregon. Consequently, he was exposed to both the artistry and fierce environmentalist passion of his parent’s and their friends as well as the quiet conservatism of a small town of mill workers and longshoremen. Joe also studied music in college, during which time he spent four months in London pursuing a study of British folk song and its influence on American balladry. Joe later received a Woody Guthrie Fellowship from the BMI Foundation, studying lyrics and letters written by Guthrie during his time in Portland in 1941. This intensive study of Guthrie’s Columbia River songs greatly enhanced his appreciation of the power and value of the more obscure music he had heard growing up. To properly perform and interpret this music, Joe soon took up the banjo, taking instruction from the brilliant Northwest folklorist Hobe Kytr. Joe’s passion for Northwest folk culture soon took shape in a new musical endeavor called Timberbound, an acoustic quartet that performs Northwest ballads. Joe deepened his commitment to American folk and blues traditions in 2012, when he began performing as an duo with his Ben Hunter.
Doors open at 7pm, Show starts at 730pm.
***Please Note that all events at 58 Main are supported by donation. Your generosity is greatly appreciated and is what allows us to continue bringing awesome musicians to Bangor.
For those that may have difficulty navigating stairs… this event will be held on our second floor and our bathroom is in the basement. We do not have a lift or elevator. We apologize for any inconvenience.