JOE SEAMONS AND BEN HUNTER will perform at the Phippsburg Congregational Church on Friday at 7:30p.m.

JOE SEAMONS AND BEN HUNTER will perform at the Phippsburg Congregational Church on Friday at 7:30p.m.


Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons will perform in concert at the Phippsburg Congregational Church on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

The Seattle-based duo blends pre-blues a cappella field hollers, fiddle and banjo breakdowns, and duet distillations of early jazz. In January, they released their second album and were awarded first place at the 26th annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis in the solo/duo category, competing against 94 acts representing 16 countries.

Their new album, The North Wind & The Sun, includes songs that range from Memphis jug band blues, southern prison work songs, an 1861 song used to recruit black soldiers for the Civil War and an early jazz piece by Duke Ellington. They also recently launched a documentary project that explores modern day music along the Mississippi River.

Hunter, born in the African nation of Lesotho and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, is a classically trained violinist who studied music around the world. Living with his globe-trotting mother, he also spent two of his formative years in Zimbabwe. There, at the age of seven, his love of rhythm began to blossom as he learned to play the marimba and perform traditional Shona music.

Throughout his early travels, Hunter was introduced to a large variety of music, ranging from the folk traditions of the United States, down through Latin America, and across the seas to the continent of Africa. Adopting the Pacific Northwest as his new home, in 2011 he joined Renegade Stringband, a bluegrass band, after meeting its banjo player, Seamons, at Oregon’s String Summit festival.

Seamons traveled a very different road, geographically and musically, being 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 pressing parties, he also attended school in the small nearby town of Rainier. He credits living between two cultures as helping him to relate to the outsider perspective of the great early blues artists, whose music he discovered after taking up guitar at age 16 when he was exploring the influences of his local folk heroes.

College allowed Seamons to travel to London where, during the day, he spent four months pursuing an independent study of British folk song and its influences on American balladry and busking on train platforms at night. After graduating, he worked to deepen his knowledge of the history of Northwest folk songs by applying for and receiving a Woody Guthrie Fellowship from the BMI Foundation. In New York, he worked in the Woody Guthrie Archives uncovering manuscripts and letters written by Guthrie. This intensive study of Guthrie’s Columbia River songs greatly enhanced his appreciation of the power and value of the obscure music he had heard growing up. To properly perform and interpret this music, he soon took up the banjo.

After two years of national touring with Renegade Stringband, Hunter and Seamons attended the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, where living legends of traditional blues and ragtime showed them a new musical direction. It led to them setting out as a duo.

The show will be performed at the Phippsburg Congregational Church. Tickets at the door are $12 for adults and $8 for students. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, call (207) 389-1770.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: