Echo Location: Fernwood’s Americana World Chamber Music

A progressive rock guitar warrior unplugs when Djam Karet’s Gayle Ellett journeys to Fernwood.

(You can hear an audio version of this blog with music.)

In an era of computer generated music where even the most folky, downhome pop song is electronically manipulated, a band called Fernwood wants to get back to nature. 

Fernwood's Almeria


Gayle Ellett: It’s a reaction to modern music and where modern music is going and it’s going so computer driven and played by machines and all the music you hear, a lot of the vocals you hear on pop radio are pitch corrected on popular radio and it’s a deliberate statement saying that’s bad. It’s wrong. We should avoid that.

Fernwood's Gayle Ellett in Echoes Concert


You might surmise from that statement that Gayle is an anti-technology Luddite, but consider that for the last 25 years, he’s been playing electric guitar in the ultra-progressive rock group, Djam Karet. Djam Karet revels in complex compositions and dynamic musicianship, but with Fernwood, Gayle Ellett was looking for something simpler. Along with his partner, Todd Montgomery, they’ve arrived at an Americana world chamber music based mostly on stringed instruments. Those strings include irish and greek bouzoukis, mandolins and sitars, banjo and oud. Todd Montgomery, who mainly plays sitar, doesn’t want to go to far.

Todd Montgomery: I want to play where, if my teacher were to hear it he wouldn’t be offended. It has to be enough Indian where he’s not going to be angry, you know.

For people of a certain age, Fernwood immediately calls to mind the 1970s Martin Mull comedy series,

Todd Montgomer of Fernwood at Echoes Concert

Todd Montgomer of Fernwood at Echoes Concert

Fernwood 2 Night. But that’s not what the band had in mind. Fernwood is the Topanga, California neighborhood where Gayle Ellett lives, and aside from the unintended TV show reference, it seems to conjure up the folky style of the group. But this is folk music with resonant overtones and exotic touches.

The debut album from Fernwood is called Almeria, named for a Spanish port city. Their music travels there and into other foreign destinations, discovering the sound of instruments combined, played by hand. You can hear a full interview with Fernwood on Echoes this Monday, September 13, and it will be our podcast that week. You can also hear an audio version of this blog with music. This has been an Echo Location, Soundings for New Music.

John Diliberto ((( Echoes )))

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