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.