Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The WALKING WILLOWS bio, with photos and links

The WALKING WILLOWS are acoustic guitarist, singer/songwriter, composer, and 
cigar box guitar player Stephen Cohen and double bass player, pianist, and vocalist 
Rich Hinrichsen. They perform “emotionally gripping”, creative acoustic music. 
The two started playing together in 2007, when Rich joined Stephen's legendary ensemble,
 the Tree People. 

The Tree People were a creative acoustic music ensemble originally formed in the late 
1970’s in Eugene, Oregon. Founding members were Stephen Cohen on acoustic guitar 
and voice, and Jeff Stier on recorders, flute and percussion. They performed, at times 
with third and fourth band members, at concerts and festivals in the Eugene area for 7 years. 
They recorded two albums, "The Tree People", in 1979, (which was recorded at 
Rocking A Ranch, a studio in the woods near Eugene), and "Human Voices" in 1984. 

Cover drawing (by Stephen Cohen) of the 1979 vinyl album, The Tree People 
The Tree People, 1979, with James Thornberry, Jeff Stier, Rachel Laderman and Stephen Cohen 
Photo by Dina Harmon
Cover drawing (by Stephen Cohen) of the 1984 Tree People album Human Voices
Listen to Grandfather, and 
Dance from Human Voices 



After the Tree People disbanded in the mid 1980’s,  Stephen continued his music career,
moving to Portland, Oregon in the mid 1990’s, composing music, writing songs, creating 
visual art and original sculptural percussion instruments using used guitar strings and 
other found objects, along with woods and metals,and performingat concerts and festivals 
across the United States, including the Philadelphia Folk Festival and the Kerrville Folk Festival 
in Texas (where he was an award winner for songwriting in 2000). He recorded three albums 
during that period, including Stephen and the Talk Talk Band  in 2004,and his nationally acclaimed 
2006 album Here Comes the Band, a children's album, which includes a 20 page illustrated booklet 
with paintings and drawings by Christopher Shotola-Hardt  and lyrics and activities, and which 
features songs that Stephen performs in his interactive performances for children. Stephen has 
done children and family performances at the Long Island Children's Museum, the Bay Area Discovery 
Museum in Sausalito, California, the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, the Providence (R.I.) 
Children's Museum and the Kids Discovery Museum in Bainbridge Island, Washington. He has done 
countless concerts, performances, workshops and residencies in his home state of Oregon, including 
a series of artist residencies in which he assists students and making instruments, composing music, 
writing songs, and producing albums and videos of the results. One such residency, at
 Wilsonville High School, was featured in a story on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Art Beat show in 2002. 
One of the songs created at that residency was You Need to Get to Know Me.
Stephen with guest singer at the Long Island Children's Museum

Meanwhile, the first Tree People album, originally released in vinyl and sold only in Eugene, Oregon, 
somehow appeared across the ocean, and was discovered worldwide by record collectors twenty five
years after it was first recorded. Stephen was contacted by several record companies, leading to 
CD and vinyl reissues of the first two Tree People albums by record companies in Japan, Tiliqua,
and Spain, Guerssen Records, and Stephen’s solo acoustic guitar piece from the first album, 
 The Tree People, "No More School", was included in an acoustic guitar collection,  
Wayfaring Strangers, Guitar Soli, by the Chicago record company The Numero Group
The Tree People, whose original music was hard to classify the first time around, were now being 
called “Fathers of Freak Folk” and “Psych Folk Pioneers”.
And then the second life of the Tree People began. Stephen and Jeff, with new member, Seattle double bass player Rich Hinrichsen, began rehearsing, making new arrangements old material, creating and recording new music, and performing in concerts and festivals throughout the Pacific Northwest, including performances at the Mississippi Studios, the White Eagle and Performance Works Northwest in Portland, the Matrix in Chehalis, Washington, the Upstage in Port Townsend, Washington, and the Arts in Nature Festival and Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle. 

The Tree People at the White Eagle in 2007: Jeff, Rich, and Stephen

Guerssen Records, of Spain released CD and vinyl editions of a 3rd, new and last Tree People album, It's My Story. Jeff Stier retired from the group after playing on the new album and taking part in his last Tree People performance at the It's My Story release concert at the Old Church in Portland on November of 2010. 

The cover of the 2010 Tree People album
  Listen to the title song:
It's My Story 

Stephen and Rich did their last performance under the Tree People name on March 12th , 2011 at the
Musiques Disperses Festival in Spain. There they started a practice, which is now a tradition with the 
WALKING WILLOWS, of having local musicians sit in on a few songs. Here they are, the 2 of them, 
and with two wonderful Spanish musicians, Jordi Gallen on cello and Hector Beberide Farrus on mandolin: 


  After the performance in Spain, Stephen and Rich became the WALKING WILLOWS. They play in concerts up and down the Pacific Northwest. They have done three Creative Residencies at Centrum, an art organization in Port Townsend, Washington where Stephen composed, directed and produced the Cistern Symphony, a symphony created deep underground in the Dan Harpole Cistern in Fort Worden, where Centrum is located. They have done musical tours in New Mexico and the East Coast. Their new album, by hand, was released in 2102 and was on Delire Musical 2012 Eclectic Music Top 50 list. Their album release concert was in November 2012 at the Old Church in Portland.

The guitar string bracelet on the album cover was designed by Stephen Cohen and Kristin Shiga and made by Kristin Shiga
Listen to 6 songs from by hand 
Rich and Stephen at the by hand album release concert at the Old Church
Rich Hinrichsen: a happy musician with his double bass
Rich on piano at the album release concert. Rich is now working on an album of piano solos to be released in 2014

Stephen has added cigar box guitar to his musical repertoire, and it has been a big hit everywhere he and the WALKING WILLOWS play. His next album will be a solo album featuring cigar box guitar, with a working title of 3 String Stephen Plays Cigar Box Guitar. Link here to see and hear Stephen perform Yes, I'm Walking on cigar box guitar Link here to see and hear Stephen play Red-Tailed Hawk on cigar box guitar live at the Electric Bean.  Link here to see and hear Stephen play Ride the Train on cigar box guitar at Dead Aunt Thelma's Recording Studio.

photo by Julie Keefe

photo by Glenn Bledsoe

Stephen just built 2 new cigar boxes himself. Here he is on the porch with one of them.


      Stephen and Rich after a concert at the Electric Bean in Longview, Washington in May of 2013.        
      The WALKING WILLOWS now are on hiatus as Stephen works on a solo album of original music on the cigar box guitar which will be released in 2014, while Rich puts his double bass playing on hold while he concentrates on the piano and gets ready to release an album of original piano music in 2014. Stephen and Rich will continue to collaborate on projects in the future, on stage and in the studio. But will they surface yet again with an expanded roster as the WALKING WILLOWS? Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Our WALKING WILLOWS concert at the Electric Bean in Longview, Washington

Our concert at the Electric Bean went very well! It was well attended with a very nice listening audience and the sound was great. This concert had special meaning for Rich, as it was in his hometown, the place where he grew up and went to elementary, middle and high school. Special thanks go out to Rich's longtime friend, Longview piano teacher Martin Kauble, who acted as our agent in Longview, setting up the concert and getting the word out to the local media and concert attendees. You can see and hear Stephen and Rich perform Rain, Rain, Rain, Mathematics, and Crashing Waves on acoustic guitar, voice and double bass, and Stephen perform Red-Tailed Hawk on cigar box guitar and voice on the first video bar to your right.

Photo by Electric Bean sound person Bilko Gramps. Thank you Bilko!

It has become a WALKING WILLOWS custom to have local artists sit in whenever possible. In Longview, trumpet and flugelhorn player Micheal Paul was our guest musician, playing on 1 hit song, Morning Song, and Walking Willow Tree. This photo was taken by an audience member during our sound check.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nice article about the WALKING WILLOWS in the Longview Daily News


The Walking Willows to perform free folk concert

May 15, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

Longview native Rich Hinrichsen is one-half of a folk duo that will play in Longview on Friday.
Hinrichsen, who lives in Seattle, and Stephen Cohen of Portland make up The Walking Willows.
Cohen sings in a spare, laconic style and strums a guitar while Hinrichsen bows or plucks the double bass, or plays piano, and contributes backup vocals.
Hinrichsen describes the style as “creative folk music.” A reviewer for the Portland Mercury called the Willows “off-the-beaten-path folk” singers who indulge in “some good old-fashioned, rain-sodden Oregon weirdness.”
The group is coming here because of the enduring friendship of Hinrichsen and Martin Kauble, a Longview piano teacher. Both played together in a jazz band at Mark Morris High School, from which they graduated in 1980.
Hinrichsen played in a jazz group at Lower Columbia College and fondly remembers the group traveling to Disneyland to play. He ended up becoming a fisheries consultant, working on salmon issues for federal agencies.
The Walking Willows sprouted from The Tree People, which was formed in Eugene in the 1970s.
The Tree People disbanded in the mid-’80s, and Cohen moved to Portland and kept recording. The Tree People reformed in 2007, this time with Hinrichsen, after a resurgence of interest in the group’s old vinyl recordings.
The revived Tree People went to a folk festival in Spain, where Hinrichsen said there was more interest in them than back home. The group also played in New York City.
Two years ago, one of the Tree People left the group, so Cohen and Hinrichsen kept going as the Walking Willows. Aside from their gig here, the two also play regularly at Portland’s Old Church

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stephen's Kindiefest Industry Showcase Performance at Brooklyn Academy of Music

Last week I attended Kindiefest and performed at the industry showcase.

All in all, it was a good experience. My industry showcase performance went very well: a good room with a great sound and a nice audience of music professionals, musicians and the like. The audience participation in my songs Give Me That Toy and Baseball, Baseball was great. I played Ride the Train on cigar box guitar, and later that night and on the next day I received many enthusiastic comments about it from conference attendees. There is something going on with that cigar box guitar! I am already planning my next album, which has a working title of 3 string Stephen plays cigar box guitar. Here are the Kindiefest tailored lyrics of Ride the Train:
photo by Julie Keefe in Portland 

It's a dusty old train rolling down the line, it's a dusty old train making good timeride, ride, ride the train
I'm so happy to be at Kindiefest singing my song, thank you so much for singing along     
ride, ride, ride the train
Hear that train coming, coming round the track, hear that train coming to Brooklyn and back    ride, ride, ride the train
through a many toned forest behind an old stone wall, hear the voices in the forest after the fall
ride, ride, ride the train
I came here all the way from Portland, Oregon
Portland is a place where it rains, rains, rains, rains, rains
I didn't take a car that would be much too far,  I didn't take a bus that would be too much fuss, I didn't take a truck, I'd be out of luck, I didn't ride a bike on the turnpike 
I took a plane, then a train, then the 3 train, then I took a walk, but enough talk
                                                      let's take a ride with the slide  (and the piece ends with a slide solo)

It was a pleasure and an honor to attend and a perform at a conference at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which is a really a world class facility. I've had many musical trips to Manhatten and Long Island, but I never really spent time in Brooklyn until this conference. It is definitely dense, diverse, busy, and full of human life. Walking the streets in Brooklyn I could imagine living there as opposed to living in Portland, and I could see it, I could see the creative possibilities, I feel could see the increased opportunities. But I also could feel the crowding, the noise, the constant striving that goes on in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Back in Portland, with flowering trees in our yard and mountains in the distance, I am appreciating our life here in this western oasis even more.

I enjoyed hearing the other performers at Kindiefest. Kindifest is part of the Kindie music movement, a  movement that values music that can be enjoyed by parents as well as their children. I made my album Here Comes the Band in 2006 as a concept album for adults and children. That album is what brought me to Kindiefest, where it was nice to see a whole community that shares the idea of music for all. Every band and performer that I heard had something good to offer. I was especially impressed with the quirky good musicianship of Verad and the Babes from Brooklyn, the hip hop creativity of the Alphabet Rockers from California, and the gentle showmanship, music and all around good feeling of David Wax Museum. And dance bands like Father Goose, Josh and the Jamtones, and the Dirty Sock Funtime Band, all with excellent musicians, created compelling dance music for both adults and children.
Keynote speaker Ella Jenkins played some wonderful harmonica, repeated 2 songs, the Cuckoo and London Bridges Falling Down over and over (a sign of age?), serenaded a baby on stage with those two songs, repeatedly forgot that she was there to give a keynote speach, but when asked by one of the festival hosts to give us some advice, she won us over by simply saying, "Love everyone".

I've been involved in the so called music business most of my life, yet I was able to find some new ideas, and some good discussions of old ideas at the conference panels. I am at a point where I am rethinking, retooling and replanning my musical future, and attending the conference helped me in this process. Most of the talk at the panels was about how to manage the business of being a musician, and that was a timely subject for me, as the financial challenges facing a creative person in this world are always daunting. Questions were posed, such as, "Is a full CD really necessary now?" "Are you better off as doing it yourself, or using an agent and publicist?" "Are record label still relevant in these times?" All good questions, and all matters, that I (having been signed by 4 different record companies over the years, as well as having released many self produced projects) am always thinking about.. 

I found that Tyler Bickford, an ethnomusicologist at Columbia University had a very interesting world view of the Kindie movement and music in general. I was moved by Laurie Berkner's talk on her life in family music.
She was a very real person who talked about the luck, hard choices and hard work involved in trying to pay the bills while creating music. And it was good to see and hear Jim Packard, as a panalist on the presenters panel. I have enjoyed performing at the venue he manages, the theater at Long Island Children's Museum, many times, and I was able to appreciate things from the presenters point of view when listening to him and other presenters talk.

The Kindiefest producers, Stephanie, Mona, Tor, and Bill deserve a lot of credit for hosting a wonderful conference while being super nice people as well.

Did any tangible, career changing things happen at Kindiefest for me? That remains to be seen, but I think some of the connections I made there can only lead to some good things down the road. I am already excited by the idea of some possible future collaborations with some of the musicians I met at Kindiefest.

There was a lot of talk on the panels on branding and finding out who you are. I came away from the conference realizing that I am not necessarily a folk artist, not necessarily a kindie artist, or whatever. I am a creative artist who creates music and art. I am project oriented, always thinking of the ongoing project and the next project, but keeping all the past projects alive as well. That is was led me to Kindiefest, and that is what will lead me to even newer adventures. I'll keep doing "grown-up" concerts with my current creative acoustic duo, the WALKING WILLOWS (which features me and Rich Hinrichen, a fantastic double bass player and pianist from Seattle). I'll continue to do family performances now and then, and residencies and workshops as well. Who knows what else the future will bring?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

the story of the "Rain Songs" concert

Rain by Christopher Shotola-Hardt     

This painting was used on the Rain Songs poster. Christopher is also a member of Bug Toast, one of the musical acts.

The Rain Songs concert, which took place on February 24th, 2013 at the Old Church in Portland, Oregon, was a great success.

I opened the concert with a piece on cigar box guitar, Ride the Train, which includes the words: valley of sickness, valley of pain, valley of cloud, valley of rain  ride, ride the train. On my next song,  a small concert hall, which was an introduction to the music that would follow (in a small concert hall, on a rainy Sunday night), I was joined by WALKING WILLOWS double bass player Rich Hinrichsen.

Kate Davis Cohen then did a strong, soulful  version of  I Can't Stand the Rain, with Rich accompanying her on double bass (just voice and double bass- an arresting arrangement, both full and spare!). She then did a memorable, melodic take of Purple Rain with Rich on piano and Nicole Campbell on backup vocals..

Richard Moore, accompanying himself on guitar, sang two musical, witty songs from his original musical, Rain the Musical, including  What's the Point of Portland? (Without the Rain), which includes so many great lines like: Obama had to have his John McCain...  What's the Point of Portland? (Without the Rain)...  put your Prius in the past, put your head out of your ass..  What's the Point of Portland? (Without the Rain).

Seth Kinzie told us a musical story and took us inside the rain with a beautiful, meditative piano composition called  A Rain Beyond the Bird Tornado. The Old Church grand piano was in good hands with Seth.

The GREATHOUSE of Music, is a one of kind Cabaret style duo featuring Helena Greathouse on vocals and Mark Greathouse on accordion. They closed the first set with one of Mark's original compositions, Oregon Dreaming. Helena opened a suitcase in the middle of the song and took out a raincoat. As she continued singing, she put the raincoat on, opened up an umbrella, and danced across the stage. Delightful!

The second set opened with singer songwriter guitarist  Jack McMahon doing When the Rain Came Down, a piece both catchy and poetic. The song was full of many lyrical gems such as:
down in the flower beds   the flowers washed their heads   when the rain came down 

Nicole Campbell did 3 original songs, all with a theme of rain in the lyrics, and her pitch perfect voice soared over her subtle guitar accompaniment. The Old Church is a concert hall with wonderful concert hall acoustics, perfect for Nicole's voice echoing through the room on her song Hopeful Heart:  
Rain soaked window panes blur the light of day
Clouded by tears of all the things you didn’t mean to say

Bug Toast took the stage with a 6 person ensemble doing 3 intricate instrumental rain related compositions, using bouzouki guitar, accordion, fret-less electric bass, violin, guitar and percussion (and computer generated rain and storm effects on one piece). Bouzouki player Christopher introduced each composition with a poetic and instructive explanation. Bug Toast played with precision, unity and style. Befitting the community aspect of the concert, Bug Toast is made up of 2 extended families, including a husband and wife, a father, daughter, and son, and two brothers. 

The WALKING WILLOWS closed the concert with our original piece, Rain, Rain, Rain, which featured me on acoustic guitar and voice and Rich on double bass and voice. We used audience volunteers on some of my original sculptural percussion instruments (such as a big sheet of metal, a rain stick and a nail rain instrument) during the storm sequence. 

It was a great experience for me to put this Rain Songs concert together and share the rain and love with a very talented and unique cast of Portland performers. This might turn into an annual event.