Clockwise from left: Stephany, Sequoia, EZ, Cleatus, Banjo Larry, Slim, The Kid and Jonny B are Hamfist. - Photo by Louise McCullom

Hamfist at Tease

No song is sacred with Hamfist, an Ashland-based band that plays a range of music from the early part of the 20th century to today. "We play Americana, old folk tunes, Woody Guthrie songs, jug band music, cowboy songs and contemporary covers," says Stephany Smith-Pearson, the only woman in the nine-piece, string-driven group.

"Some of the stuff we do is from the public domain, and that lets us do anything that we want with it," Smith-Pearson says. "One of the covers that we do is Billy Idol's 'White Wedding'."

Members of Hamfist go by their stage names, except Smith-Pearson, who sings and plays mandolin and accordion.

"We all sing in the band," Smith-Pearson says. "I think it's one of our strong points."

There's Sequoia on guitar, EZ on ukulele, harmonica and guitar, Cleatus on mandolin and fiddle, Banjo Larry on, well, you know, Slim on stand-up bass and guitar, The Kid on everything, and Jonny B on guitar.

Some of the music Hamfist plays is so old that the songs' authors are unknown.

"Like Cleatus' songs," Smith-Pearson says. "His songs are hilarious. There's one called 'When Exactly Did We Become White Trash?' and another called 'Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me.' He's also written a couple of originals. One is about the Southern Oregon Roller Derby and another is about moonshine.

"I like to do songs by Ethel Waters," Smith-Pearson says. "She was a pioneer of early jazz, and she's one of my heroes."

Smith-Pearson is a grant writer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"Everyone in the band is a current or former employee of OSF," Smith-Pearson says. "Except Larry. He's the only one that hasn't done a stint at the festival."

Hamfist began about seven years ago as a group of musicians playing in their friends' living rooms.

"We called it the Tuesday Night Music Club," Smith-Pearson says. "It was Larry who got us off of our duffs to form a band. We started playing publicly in late 2006.

"We're all locals and our friends are incredibly supportive," Smith-Pearson says. "Our music is often familiar to people, and it tends to get them up on the dance floor. We have a lot of fun. People can relate to that."

Hamfist will present softer melodies for its show at Tease, a restaurant venue and listening room. A show coming up in October at Stillwater will feature some of the band's more raucous numbers.

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