This Friday, April 12th, we are thrilled to bring back local favorites The Tallboys (who also hold a Royal Room residency the second Sunday of each month) alongside Louisiana super group The Revelers for a night of Cajun and country music! See what Tallboy Charmaine Slaven (rhythm guitar, vocals, flatfooting, square dance calling) has to say about both bands:
(The Tallboys live at the Redmond, WA performing arts center)
RR: Can you tell us a bit about the band – how The Tallboys come to be, and what the group is up to currently?
CS: The Tallboys started up as more of a bluegrass band in 2003. The original members – Charlie Beck (banjo), John Hurd (bass), Paul McGowen (mandolin), & Rob Adesso (guitar) – would play bluegrass tunes and songs together for fun, and some of Charlie’s original material. They soon found Joe Fulton playing fiddle at the Pike Place Market and added him to the band. After a few months of playing bluegrass-type material, they discovered the Foghorn Stringband (http://foghornstringband.com/) out of Portland, OR – a group of young guys playing old-time tunes, which have a distinctly different feel to bluegrass. The Tallboys delved into the old-time material, researching old fiddlers from the 20’s and earlier, discovering a community of local old-time music in the process. In 2005, they invited myself, Charmaine Slaven, to perform as a clog dancer. I also took on promotions, and helped with booking. As the band grew busier, Rob Adesso quit to focus on his day job, and Paul McGowen moved back to his home state of Arkansas. I started playing guitar. Later, in 2010, Joe Fulton moved to the midwest, and could only have part time involvement with the band, so we recruited WB Reid to fill in on fiddle. Joe is now moving back to Seattle, and we’re excited to have both WB and Joe on the fiddling. WB is also a talented mandolin players, so will switch from time to time. We also recently started a Honky-Tonk version of our band, as we’ve all become more and more interested in learning old country songs, so we are now occasionally performing with Charlie on lap steel, WB on electric guitar, John on electric bass, myself on rhythm guitar, Joe on fiddle, and Cahalen Morrison on drums.
Besides concerts, The Tallboys play in a lot of more lively/social settings like square dances. Why are get-togethers such a big part of what The Tallboys do?
We like to think of performances as a chance for everyone to get involved. I personally remember when I moved to Seattle from Montana, I was very surprised that there was so little dancing at shows. People seemed uncomfortable with anyone even dancing near them, everyone was so serious, and the music was so loud that nobody could even have a conversation. I think it made it difficult as a new person to Seattle to meet people.
I think that for a music community to really thrive, everyone needs to be an active part of the process, so involving the crowd as dancers is a tried and true way of inclusivity! Square dancing & social dancing very successfully overcome some of these hurdles. When dancing is actively encouraged, people find themselves moving just because somebody gave them permission to – it’s amazing to see all the smiles when folks get out on the floor. We also try to foster a socially active climate at our dances, meaning that the music is at a volume level where folks can still have a conversation and get to know one another. Also we often say on the mic to please ask others to dance and fill up the dance floor. I think it really makes it fun for everyone, and we get a lot more out of the performance watching our listeners physically enjoy the music!
You’ll be sharing the stage with Louisiana band The Revelers. Have you played with them before? What are they all about?
The Revelers are actually a new project, but we’ve been friends with many of the band members when they were in the Red Stick Ramblers. They visited the PNW a few years ago as guests at the Festival of American Fiddletunes and there they talked me into coming to visit them down in LaFayette for the Black Pot Festival which they founded and organize every year. They are amazing musicians, and true bearers of the cajun music tradition, a vein of American music that was almost lost due to the lack of young folks learning the music about a decade ago. Thanks to the efforts of the Balfa Brothers and many others, the music is once again thriving, and we’re so pleased that these guys enjoy visiting the NW and bringing their wonderful music and culture with them. They live in a true dance culture, where folks just aren’t shy about dancing at all, and the band really plays with such a groove, it’s impossible to sit still!
The Tallboys Country Band & The Revelers will play at the Royal Room on Friday, April 12th,at 8:30 PM. No cover – donations suggested & appreciated.