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Taarka at Stillwater

Taarka at Stillwater

Taarka's new album, "Seed Gathering for a Winter Garden," shows Taarka's signature and energetic blend of Western and Eastern folk music, bluegrass, jazz and rock interpreted through the hands of four classically trained forerunners of acoustic music.

The new project of husband and wife duo David Tiller (mandolin, guitar) and Enion Pelta-Tiller (violin) includes Daniel Plane (cello) and Troy Robey (stand-up bass).

Taarka will perform at 9 p.m. Thursday, April 2, at Stillwater, 1951 Highway 66, Ashland.

While Taarka's sound springs from the long tradition of stringed troubadours — think of David Grisman jamming with Django Reinhardt — "Seed Gathering for a Winter Garden" marks a new era for tunesmiths Tiller and Pelta-Tiller.

"Singing is more recent for us," says Tiller. "We started adding vocals to our arrangements in just the last couple of years."

The Tillers' vocals showed up on the 2007 "The Martian Picture Soundtrack." Plucked and bowed instrumentation was featured on earlier recordings, including "Even Odd Bird" in 2004 and "Man Chasing Woman Around Table" in 2003.

Two songs with vocal parts that stand out on "Seed Gathering" are "My Angeline" and "Dark Eye'd Lover." Tiller adapted the lyric for "Angeline" from a humorous verse written by Harry B. Smith from "The Wizard of the Nile," a comic opera composed by Victor Herbert and published in 1895.

"I saw it in a book of light verse and thought it would made a good song," Tiller says. "So we worked to put music to it."

Tiller and the rest of the group bring a beautiful melody to the light story of a naive young man who weds a circus freak, The Human Snake.

Pelta-Tiller's violin and vocals ring clear in "Dark Eye'd Lover." The lyric is from "Deserted Gypsy's Song," found in "India's Love Lyrics," a collection of poetry and songs by Laurence Hope. Hope was the pen name of Adela Florence Nicolson (1865-1904), born in England and married to a British officer and linguist in India, who introduced her to native customs.

Vocals aside, "Seed Gathering" is full of forceful newgrass and folk that will catch the ear of any fan of solid musicianship.

"There are stories that go with our instrumentals as well as our vocal songs," Pelta-Tiller says. "The songs on the new album are inspired by old folk songs, but we wanted the way that the stories unfold to have a modern, Freudian turn."

Other songs on "Seed Gathering" with vocals are "The Swallow," written by Tiller: "Michael's Raindrop," by cellist Plane; and the "Vestal Flame" by Pelta-Tiller.

Collectively, the members of Taarka have a long list of classical training. Pelta-Tiller studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Tiller trained at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts and the Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia. Plane studied at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and Longy School of Music and Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts, and Robey at DePaul University in Chicago.

Taarka is based in Lyons, Colo., but spends a lot of time on the West coast.

"It's sort of where we began," Pelta-Tiller says. "David and I lived in Portland in 2002. That's where we started the group, and we still consider it a home base."

During visits to Portland, Taarka plays music with singer and songwriter Tony Furtado (The Tillers used to share a house with Furtado), The Everyone Orchestra jam band, and fiddler Daryl Anger.

Copies of Taarka's new CD will be available at the Stillwater show. Cover is $10. Call 482-6113.

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