The mighty Mississippi, the nature of life on a farmland, the trials and tribulations of traveling and the rural music that has outlived generations intertwine to influence the soulful sounds of artists performing at Rose Music Hall’s Great American Foxtrot.
These four folk and blues musicians are set to give Columbia a night of musical history straight from America’s heartland. Grab a blanket, roundup some friends and get ready to enjoy this year’s first Summerfest show.
William Elliott Whitmore
“I believe music is powerful influence to get people thinking.”
William Elliott Whitmore reads as much as possible. “I don’t always have time, but if it helps my writing and helps me get ideas, I try to read as many different things as I can,” he says.
For example, it was books about women factory workers dying of radium poisoning during World War II that inspired Whitmore’s latest album, Radium Death. “It was empowering for women,” he says. “They stood up to power. I liked that they did that.”
Although the Iowa native is known for his banjo and stripped-down sets, he branched out on Radium Death, which was released in March. The new album incorporates an electric guitar to create a more distorted sound. “I like mixing country influences with something with a different edge to it,” he says.
Also inspired by his family’s farm, Whitmore says he tends to write about the land around him, small farmers and food sustainability. “I want people to feel empowered,” he says. “I want them to feel good about their place in the world. I want them to maybe think of a few things they haven’t thought before. I believe music is a powerful influence to get people thinking.”
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Todd Day Wait’s Pigpen
“When you travel around, you see the best of people and the worst of people.”
Instead of souvenirs, Todd Day Wait collects musical knowledge and influences from his travels. Wait left his home in Columbia and headed out west in 2009, and he collaborated with many musicians along the way.
In 2012, Wait grounded himself in New Orleans and formed the Pigpen with Matt Dethrow and George Aschmann. He says hillbilly tunes of the ‘20s and ‘60s and the trials and tribulations of traveling inspire the group. “When you travel around, you see the best of people and the worst of people,” he says. “There’s a lot of little pockets in America. There’s little niches of music all around.”
The group regularly plays with different musicians on the streets of New Orleans, so it’s no surprise that Wait’s adding a few more musicians to perform with the band on its spring tour.
The three-man band will become a six-piece set, and with these players, Wait says the group can play more genres, incorporate old rag tunes and achieve a more upbeat sound to contrast and add to their typically small acoustic set.
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The Flood Brothers
"It's the stompin', core of the Earth blues..."
“We call it boogie,” says Gabe Meyer, guitarist for The Flood Brothers. “It’s the stompin’, core of the Earth blues, particularly a North Mississippi country sound that came from R.L. Burnside and the lesser known blues captured by the Fat Possum Label.”
Since early 2000, The Flood Brothers has been mixing ‘90s rock with old river tunes, both of which influenced the duo growing up in the Mississippi River town of Hannibal, Missouri. “It’s a really cool experience for us to admire all of these folks and then kind of get to live that history ourselves and help contribute in what small way we can to preserve that style of music,” Meyer says.
"I believe that our experience is the only truth we can honestly claim."
Esmé Patterson has a sweet, soft and sometimes sassy sound. Building a name for herself as a solo artist, Patterson recently made the rounds on late-night talk shows including “The Late Show with David Letterman” and “Conan.”
On her debut solo album, Woman to Woman, Patterson immortalizes women from popular songs such as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Elvis Costello’s “Alison.” Each track was recorded live and offers a female perspective for that character. “I believe that our experience is the only truth we can honestly claim,” Patterson writes for the Guardian. “To create this album, I had to reach deeper than my own life and into the stories of these fictional women, into what makes each of these women human.”
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