Originally Published: June 9, 2011 6:32 p.m.
Folk Sessions will strike up the bands for its eighth anniversary Saturday, again bringing to town folk musicians who are among the finest in Arizona for a celebration of their art form at the Highlands Center for Natural History.
This ongoing parade of virtuosos started with Tom Agostino's inspiration when he arrived in Prescott eight years ago from Los Angeles where "playing music was very competitive," he said.
The first month he was here, he attended the folk fest at Sharlot Hall Museum and was "really impressed with the music here," he said. "It's vital and strong."
Agostino's appreciation for Prescott-area talent led to his Saturday night concerts on KJAZZ radio and to a series of six summer performances at the Highlands Center.
"I've played all my life," Agostino said. "I love to write music," and he combines this passion with his dexterity for plucking his guitar, mandolin and base guitar. Several years ago, he formed his own band, Soul Creek, featuring Meg Bohrman on accordion.
Saturday's bill features Soul Creek, along with The O'Henry Band, Three-Legged Dog, Chuck Cheesman and Andy Hurlbut.
Three-Legged Dog and O'Henry play traditional Americana, Agostino said. When Three-Legged Dog comes on stage, it will be "three of them and 12 instruments. Every song is a different combination of instruments and genre."
Dog is comprised of Aunt Bee, Odie Piker and Jim Sallis, all from the Valley. Sallis describes the ensemble's music as dating back to the era of string bands that played parlor music from the previous century, blues, early jazz, all on string instruments.
Three-Legged Dog's music is "older than blue grass," Sallis said. It's a blend of "mountain music, such as 'O, Brother Where Art Thou,' early jazz, early country, blues, gospel and devotional."
"It's a real mix," he said. "We change instruments between songs. We all sing. We all put out a lot of noise. It's hard to believe that just three people are in this band, because it sounds like a lot more. It's intricate and interweaving, almost orchestral at times."
When Sallis isn't performing with Three-Legged Dog in coffee houses around the Valley, he uses another instrument - a computer - to write highly successful crime novels. One in particular, "Drive," a stand-alone rather than one of a series, Sallis "wrote quickly one summer" after kicking the idea around for quite a while.
At the center of the story is a young man, a stunt driver for Hollywood, who moonlights as a driver for criminals. He gets double-crossed and spends the rest of the novel tracking down who hoodwinked him.
"It's very simple - a double-cross, revenge plot," Sallis said. Nonetheless, the book was made into a movie, and in its debut at the Cannes Film Festival this year, the film won an award for best director.
As for the music of Three-Legged Dog, performing is an "outlet" for the trio, getting them away from computers and day jobs.
"We do it because we love it," Sallis said.
The six-member indie-Americana O'Henry Band also hails from the Valley and intrigued Agostino because they are in their 20s and 30s, he said. "Most folk artists are older and pretty set in that genre. The O'Henry Band, while featuring banjo, fiddle, mandolin and double bass, also adds an electric guitar and a full kit drummer. They also incorporate more sonic textures like reverb and echo than you would find in a traditional Americana group.
"I thought teaming them with Three-Legged Dog, who are masterful musically but an older, more traditional group, would make for an interesting and different show for our audience."
Rounding out the musical fare for Saturday's concert are Chuck Cheesman, "a really good singer and songwriter" from Flagstaff, Agostino said, and Andy Hurlbut of Phoenix who is part of the Artichoke Sisters.
The concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 in advance or $12 at the door. For more information, call 776-9550 or log onto folksessions.com. Before the evening is over, Jody Drake and Andrew Johnson-Schmit will become 2011 Golden Capo inductees in honor of their contributions to Prescott's cultural scene.
The Highlands Center for Natural History is located at 1375 S. Walker Road in Prescott.
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