Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: The Horse Flies “Cluck Old Chicken”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

The band once known as the Tompkins County Horseflies, formed in the late 1970s by husband and wife Jeff Claus and Judy Hyman, along with Richie Stearns and John Hayward, evolved from the emerging old-time music revivalist genre, to the one-of-a-kind niche in which they were firmly planted by the early 1990s, and which continues to evolve today. Their roots are firmly planted in the mountain tradition, and their branches in alt-rock and world music are all over the place.

They were deeply affected by the tragic death of bass player Hayward, who lost his battle with cancer in 1998. I met up with Claus and Stearns at a bar in Cincinnati a few years later. They were still shaken by the loss, and uncertain about the band's future. But thanks be to God, they eventually rallied and regrouped. In this clip, they perform their own variation of the traditional “Cluck Old Hen” at the Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg, New York, in 2008. Listen to the combination of Stearns on banjo and Hyman on fiddle, supported by the underlying rhythm of Claus on banjo-uke, and Taki Masuko providing the Afro-Celt vibe, with bassist Jay Olsa and accordionist Rick Hansen chiming in, and you'll know why they remain an all-time favorite of yours truly.

You'll find out why for yourself, soon enough.

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