The Bee Eaters
“Boston’s fast-evolving progressive acoustic music scene has produced another strange and wondrous new species, The Bee Eaters. The trio combines chamber music’s finely
calibrated arrangements with bluegrass’s playful virtuosity and pop music’s melodic resourcefulness.”
-The Boston Globe
“It is a joy to hear both the exploration of this music and the grounding of it simultaneously. Also, I love the emphasis on the simple beauty of the acoustic instruments.”
(3 time Grammy-winning composer/MacArthur Fellow)
"...here come the Bee Eaters. ...so tastefully arranged and so well played. They rescue the hammer dulcimer from all cliches, and bring the music forward to right here and now.”
“The Bee Eaters are the instrumental cream of the brand new string nation.”
“I believe every sound you listen to informs your ears, and therefore your musical perspective. We grew up listening to the sounds of nature, rather than the sounds of cities,” says Bee Eaters co-founder Tristan Clarridge. Perhaps it was their unusual lifestyle growing up in a tipi on the side of a mountain in a remote part of Northern California that influenced their musically explorative sound. Or the fact that Tristan and fellow co-founder and sister, Tashina, never went to a day of traditional school, sometimes driving thousands of miles for music camps and lessons and spent much of their time exploring and learning on three week backpacking trips.
Though their family did not have much money, Tristan will be the first one to tell you he feels lucky. And these experiences deeply influenced their approach to music. OddFellows Road seems an apt title for a band breaking new ground with their own tightly woven approach that banjo great Tony Trischka called “bodaciously brilliant!”
This eleven-song set of group collaboration takes a focused view of those things in life that resonate with you through the years but perhaps don’t come into focus right away. The joys of traveling and contemplative nature of a visit to Alaska come out beautifully in “Petersburg Interlude” with a recollection of time spent in the harbor in Alaska, where they stayed (according to the liner notes) among the fishing boats, looking out through the fog and rain towards the mountains across the water. Or the rhythms and twisting melodies of “Gyrosmoke,” a tune written by one of their musical mentors, fellow explorative musician and fiddle guru, Darol Anger. The tune that is the namesake for the album, Oddfellows Road, as the band says, “incubated for years, unnamed and unyielding to our efforts to arrange and play it.” It was eventually named after the street that band principle Simon Chrisman grew up on, at the south end of Bainbridge Island.
Venerable string masters Mike Marshall and Bruce Molsky lend their talents to the album with Marshall playing mandolin and Molsky adding his voice to a song. Notably, revered engineer Dave Sinko added his magical touch, bringing a pure and organic touch to the Bee Eaters sound that matches their musical approach.
The Bee Eaters trace their roots back to musical traditions as diverse as bluegrass, Celtic, jazz and old-time. While today’s new breed often produces an amalgamation of sounds and styles based on a distant view, the Bee Eaters were raised embedded in these traditions… raised to mold, meld, shape them and carry them forward, leaving their own indelible marks in the process.
Brother-sister duo Tristan and Tashina Clarridge, long known and lauded by those steeped in the American fiddle tradition, are joined by hammer dulcimer wizard Simon Chrisman.Tashina Clarridge, the 2005 Grand National Fiddle Champion, has toured with Mark O’Connor, Tony Trischka and Laurie Lewis and has performed at Carnegie Hall as a part of MacArthur Fellow/Grammy-winning bassist Edgar Meyer’s Young Artists program. Multi-instrumentalist brother Tristan is an innovative cellist and 5-time Grand National Fiddle Champion. Also a member of the bluegrass/folk sensation Crooked Still, his talents have been sought by Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Bruce Molsky and Cape Breton fiddle phenomenon Natalie MacMaster. Hammer dulcimer virtuoso Simon Chrisman brings an unusual style to an instrument that has previously been thought to have limited range and technique. His inventive virtuosic touch and sophisticated rhythmic sensibilities are redefining the instrument and earning the attention of musicians from all over the world. He has performed with Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, opened for Bill Frisell and, at the tender age of 16, was a scholarship guest artist at the prestigious Augusta Heritage Festival.
Since their formation in 2008, the Bee Eaters have been on a trajectory of growth, both personal and musical. Their ensemble work has taken on mature, textured and nuanced tones, as their compositions have become more thoughtful and intricate. With Tashina’s delicate fiddle and Tristan’s grounding cello wrapped around Simon’s ethereal dulcimer, they have created a never-before-heard sound in American music. No tricks. No pyrotechnics. Three instrumental voices, united in their musical exploration.
Listening to the Bee Eaters is like eavesdropping on a spirited, private conversation. As wonderful as their recorded music is, watching the Bee Eaters in live performance is an exercise in safe danger. They parry and thrust, challenging each other at every moment. Their focus on their music and on each other is tight and complete. Their melodic lines and rhythmic phrases dance (and sometimes roil) over, under and around each other. There is sometimes dissonance but always an ultimate harmony.
With the release of OddFellows Road in fall 2011, the Bee Eaters continue to travel the country performing in clubs, concert halls and festivals, evangelists for their new American acoustic sound.
Perhaps Tony Trischka said it best: “Their impressive ensemble work… leaves me breathless. Their music excites, heals and enriches. Listen often.”
Yes, listen often.