The Cajun Country Revival. Have you heard of it? Well, it’s coming to The Opera House over in Shepherdstown tomorrow and it features the Foghorn Stringband. The fun kicks off at 8 p.m. and it promises to be a hell of a night of ruckus, fun, and more ruckus. We recently caught up with Caleb Klauder and Nadine Landry, who both play in the group, to talk about what “Ass kickin’ redneck stringband music” really means, who we should be keeping an eye out for in the future, and how these guys were way ahead of the curve when it comes to the mainstream’s recent Americana boon. Enjoy!
Your website describes you as “Ass kickin’ redneck stringband music.” Can you elaborate on what exactly that means?
Caleb Klauder (vocals, mandolin, guitar): First off, bio descriptions are funny and usually too short. This one is old and reflects an attitude that the band started with, which pretty much was and still is, no-frill-hard-driving fiddle music and songs from the southern Appalachian region. Redneck because most of our influences were probably considered that because of their lack of interaction with the modern city culture. We take a lot of influence from that and don’t pretty up our music for the sake of show biz. Ass-kickin cause we play it hard with drive even though it can sound sweet at times. Stringband, cause that’s what we are.
You guys started in the late 1990s and early 2000s, long before the recent boon in Americana/stringband/country music occurred with bluegrass entering the mainstream. What’s your take on the genre’s popularity these days? Do you guys feel like you were ahead of the curve?
Klauder: I definitely feel like we were ahead of the recent curve, yes. Many of us were playing this music in other bands before Foghorn started. I didn’t know anyone my age who played this music when I got interested in it. I was kind of an oddball among my friends when I started. I like the fact that it’s coming back stronger now. At its core, it’s folk music and that’s something this country needs way more of. There are so many new interpretations of it and Foghorn definitely has its own voice and sound as a band. I think we are still unique-sounding in the touring mainstream world. We keep it traditional.
What’s your impression of Shepherdstown and The Opera House? I think you’ve played there before, so do you have any memories of it? If you haven’t played there before, what do you look forward to the most about both the venue and the town?
Klauder: I can’t recall ever playing at the Opera House in Shepherdstown. I look forward to it like any other show. I’m interested in meeting new people, hearing their stories and visiting a new part of America. It’s a huge and diverse country; it’s nice to learn about it first hand.
Nadine Landry (guitar, upright bass): It is always nice to go to a new place and meet people who share a common appreciation of traditional music. Everytime we play a venue for the first time, we connect with people and it creates a bigger web across the planet, building a like-minded community.
What are some of your career’s favorite, most accomplished memories so far?
Klauder: Being the first American band to play at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia. We were told by the American ambassador there that we did more for American relations than he could ever hope to do. This wasn’t long after 9/11 and some positive American experiences were very important at that time. Also playing with the likes of Joel Savoy, Marc Savoy, Ann Savoy, Jesse Lége, Dirk Powell, Kevin Burke, Tim O’Brien and Garry Harrison. There are too many more to name. Learning and growing from amazing musicians as we travel has been a highlight.
Landry: We just got to play at the gigantic Roskilde festival in Denmark. A packed crowd was dancing and singing along to our music. At one point I looked up and a thousand people had their hands shaped like a heart — that was awesome! Sammy and I also got to play with Jesse Lege and Joel Savoy as the first Cajun band in Mainland China last year for an upcoming American Routes radio show with Nick Spitzer. Pretty unreal!
Who were some of your biggest influences and why?
Klauder: This list is way too long. Everyone along the way has been a huge influence. Each for their own take on music and life. Some you’ll know and some you won’t. Some are alive and some have passed on.
Landry: The list is huge! But I would have to say first the Carter Family, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, the Stanley Brothers, Wanda Jackson and The Balfa Brothers.
You guys get out on the road a bit. Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?
Klauder: Ireland, because they have the best musical attitude. Alaska and Louisiana, too, because they celebrate community and they understand the need for good music, food and friends.
Landry: Totally with Caleb on that one! I’ll add Australia to the list because it was unbelievable to go so far from home and feel so much love from Down Under! They sure showed us a good time!
Through all your travels so far, can you give us some names of some musicians/artists who we might not already know of, who we should keep an eye on?
Klauder: Brett Ratliff, Todd Grebe, Kelley Breiding, Andrew Marlin (Mandolin Orange). This list could be so long.
Landry: The Cactus Blossoms, The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, De Temps Antan, Anna and Elizabeth.
And finally, what can we expect from your set at the Opera House?
Klauder: Foghorn will be playing a variety of songs from all of our albums. We don’t use a setlist, as it just limits us and doesn’t let us respond to the vibe and energy of the moment. You’ll hear everyone in the band sing. You will hear some duets and some a-cappella singing. You’ll hear some vintage fiddle tunes and some antique ballads (as Carter Stanley would say). We will also collaborate with Joel Savoy and Jesse Lege for some traditional Cajun music. Jesse is a legendary Cajun accordion player and a powerful singer. We perform with them often and perform some of the songs in French and English.
Landry: Nothing makes us happier than hearing people shouting requests! We tailor each show to its audience, creating a unique experience everywhere we play. Each audience is different – why shouldn’t every show be?