Wednesday Folk Traditions Presents: The Sky Blue Boys

*Please note: this concert will be held SUNDAY, September 7th at 3:00 p.m. 

HADLEY – The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum wraps up its 33rd season of Wednesday Folk Traditions on Sunday, September 7th, with a performance by The Sky Blue Boys. Reviving the tradition of “brothers’ duets,” popular in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, the Sky Blue Boys perform a body of repertoire including old ballads, parlor songs, heart songs and sacred numbers infused with their clean, evocative sound and their flying fingers. This performance will be held Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. in the Sunken Garden at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, 130 River Drive, Route 47, Hadley, MA 01035. General Admission is $10, or $2 for children 16 and under. Please note that the Museum and grounds are a smoke-free site.

The Sky Blue Boys are real life brothers Willy and Dan Lindner. Growing up in Baltimore, they started playing music together at an early age. The Sky Blue Boys isn’t their first collaboration: prior to forming the group, the brothers played together for forty years in the popular Bluegrass group ‘Banjo Dan and the Mid-Nite Plowboys,’ now retired as of 2012. A popular act all around the Northeast, the group’s disbandment was the natural conclusion to forty years of collaboration and led to the brothers’ new team-up. “Willy and I had been doing our duo for about twenty years when [the Plowboys] retired,” Dan Lindner recalls. Rather than forming just another bluegrass duo, the brothers’ focus turned to “brothers’ duets,” a tradition popular in the 1920’s, ‘30’s, and ‘40’s in America – a tradition that predated Bluegrass. “Baltimore was a hotbed for Bluegrass music when we were growing up,” recalls Dan Lindner, so it’s no surprise that the two brothers fell in love with the tradition that preceded it, as well as traditions of old-time country and rural music that came from English, Scottish, and Irish settlers in the Appalachians – what we might today recognize as fiddle songs and ballads.

Heavily influenced by these styles, the two settled into brothers’ duets, generally characterized by two stringed instruments - either two guitars, or a guitar and a mandolin - and two voices harmonizing in thirds or fifths. The brothers Lindner have expanded their instrumentation to include a variety of acoustic instruments - banjo, dobro or resonator guitar, and 12-string guitar - as well as the autoharp. While they’ve modified their sound to suit their own taste, their style still evokes the original feel of brothers’ duets with their clean and precise sound. Not only do they perform original songs in the spirit of older songs, but they also perform some solo pieces and instrumentals. “We’re a little more into flashy instrumental style,” says the elder Lindner of the brothers’ technique: “Neither of us sings a real high tenor, but we find ways of setting up the harmonies. We emphasize variety.”

In paying homage to an earlier generation of brothers and musicians that helped pave the way for what we now recognize as country and bluegrass music, the Lindner brothers have actually taken their stage name from an earlier generation of brother-musicians: The Blue Sky Boys, brothers Bill and Earl Bolick from North Carolina. Lindner says the pair riffed on the name because they admired the Bolicks’ style – “authentic and unpretentious,” remarks Lindner. While the Lindners have both been in the music business for decades, now, the brothers currently work without an agent, self-employed and flexible. Willy Lindner is an independent writer. The two remarkably still manage to perpetuate the musical traditions they know and love and continue to play around New England as The Sky Blue Boys. “We don’t take ourselves super seriously,” Dan Lindner jokes, “We try to show the audience a good time. We want to leave them with the sense that they’re glad they came out.”

This performance is funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.