My formal musical training began as a little girl, walking down the alley once a week to the home of my piano teacher. In junior high school, when the piano no longer seemed cool, I got my first guitar. I learned basic folk guitar from lessons on the local PBS television station and dabbled in classical and flamenco guitar during high school. Throughout college, veterinary school, marriage and babies the guitar gathered dust in the closet until my pastor, also a guitarist, got wind that I played and invited me to play during worship. This return to playing marked the beginning of my appreciation of music as the language of the human spirit. When another church friend let me play her new Taylor guitar, I fell in love with it (my pitch for Taylors). After listening to me lust after her guitar, my dear husband bought me one for Christmas and with it came the desire to improve and broaden my playing. I began lessons with John Blasquez, a multi-instrumentalist who plays old time, bluegrass, and Celtic music. It was the latter that attracted me as I was interested in the traditions of my mostly Irish / British Isles ancestors. As I listened and played I found music evoking the spectrum of human emotions, from wild foot-stomping dance tunes to achingly beautiful crying-in-your-beer airs, and I have been hooked ever since. Stricken two years ago by an inexplicable desire to play a new instrument (a.k.a. musician mid-life crisis), I now play the button box accordion in addition to the guitar, inspired by the playing of friend Ann McChesney-Young.
Making music with friends at church and retreats had always been great fun, so when I met Vic and Gerry at an Irish music session about eight years ago and we started talking about playing together on a regular basis, it was “Yeah, we can use my kitchen!” Other musicians have played with us over the years with Jim becoming our newest addition when we found ourselves in need of a new fiddler several years ago. In addition to the craic (an Irish Gaelic word loosely translated as a good time with good friends, often associated with music and Guinness), being able to share this music with others has been like icing on the cake. Whether in a concert setting or as background music at an event, I really look forward to performing together. So come check us out!
Jim Underwood (fiddle, guitar, vocals) is a refugee from classical violin, having begun the instrument at a tender age. A few years ago he discovered the instrument called fiddle and has not looked back. In between he has done a number of musical odd jobs, such as singing Gilbert and Sullivan, playing bass in a Dixieland band, and playing flamenco guitar.
As a child I used to listen to Myron Floren (the accordionist for Lawrence Welk) playing accordion folk music, so much so that my dear grandmother used to hide the album from me in all sorts of creative spots. I however, always found it. It was a truly seminal moment for me in my love affair with folk music.
I have always felt that Blackthorne was far more than just a trad band. Both Gerry and I played in garage bands in our miss-pent youth playing rock and roll (Led Zepplin for me) but both have evolved musically over the years. For me a pivotal moment in my musical transition was listening to Sandy Denny sing a song with Led Zep. I remember getting chills as I heard her voice and I knew then that my real musical love would be returning to folk music. I also learned from that experience that it was possible to blend two styles of music together.
My next big influence was Englishman Nic Jones, who blended English songs with melodies from all over the world, but mostly celtic. He often played with an electric bass and other non trad instruments.
From there it was straight into the likes of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span and many other folk rock acts. I did eventually end up going completely traditional, but I find that what excites me the most is a blended style of music.
I'm proud of our music and I think that one of the best new sets we've come up with is the Crooked Spire set and I really like the folk/rock under-tones. The other thing I like is that we have really made it one of our signature tunes.
St. Patrick’s Day
We’ll be out busking, maybe in a neighborhood near yours. Contact us if you want us to stop by.
March 18, 5:30pm
St. Patrick’s Day Dinner
Grace Episcopal Church, 130 Muir Station Rd., Martinez
We’ll be providing music for the dinner and for The Reel Sisters step dancers. Tickets are $14 adults, $4 kids under 12, and usually sell out early; if you are interested,
March 25th, 6pm
(The Wee Bit Late) St. Patrick’s Day Dinner
Martinez United Methodist Church, 100 Church St., Martinez
Come join us for good music, good food, and good fun. Cost: Freewill donation.