By Meghan Poisson-DeWitt

 

Perhaps Folk Music isn’t something most of our readers associate with the city of Pittsburgh. The very words seem to conjure images of late night camp fires in mountainous regions and men with banjos humming softly into the darkness. But actually, if you take a few minutes to search, you’ll find that our fair city is brimming with many talented musicians creating and experimenting with this slice of Americana.

 

Squirrel Hill locals are likely to be familiar with native duo, The Squirrel Hillbillies, who’ve been making music here and abroad for many years. At the first Squirrel Hill Night Market of year on June 18th, they will be followed up by the newly formed folk quartet, Buffalo Rose.

 

I had the good fortune of meeting the group yesterday morning for a casual interview around steaming cups of coffee at a local coffee shop (so as not to play favorites, I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide where we were).

 

13432329_878676408898631_2069938125395625289_nLet me introduce you:

 

Shane McLaughlin is the leader of the group, though he’s very unlikely to take credit for the position. To him, this is a solid collaboration between equally talented artists. He is both the lead vocalist and lead guitarist for the group, which plays all his original songs. His musical experiences began with piano, morphing into brief stints with violin, baritone and alto sax, before discovering a passion for guitar and song.

 

Lucy Clabby is one of two female vocalists. With her history in musical theater, Lucy brings not just her amazing voice to the group but her great sense of humor and inventiveness. She is also lead vocalist for Memphis Hill, a Pittsburgh based rock ‘n roll group (you might remember them from our benefit event with The Relics in March).

 

Mariko Reid rounds out the vocal trio. A self described ‘vocal harmony nerd’, her love affair with music has been ongoing and ever changing. A classically trained opera singer, she realized she wanted more flexibility and artistically creative opportunities than an opera career typically offers. Her adaptability really lends itself to more traditional forms of American music, such a jazz and folk, her two current passions.

 

Mac Inglis, who couldn’t make it to our interview, plays dobro for the group. He’s also part of Memphis Hill alongside Lucy. If his amazing musical skills didn’t set him apart, his mass of raucous curls make him hard to miss on stage or in a crowd. Mac is also their in-house tech wizard, hooking them up with live streaming and anything else the group might need.

 

When I say the group is new, I really mean NEW. They held their first concert last week with another local folk duo, Scott and Rosanna. They live-streamed the event on YouTube, something they hope to continue whenever the venue allows for it. While none of the members are new to the Pittsburgh music scene, having played in various groups at events across the city, the creation of Buffalo Rose as a formal collaboration happened very recently.

 

The members met through the very friendly and supportive music community here, having crossed paths on numerous occasions. “People here are super supportive,” Lucy told me. “I mean that’s how we all know each other. Being like ‘you’re really talented, do want to hang out and make music at each other? Or with each other?’”

 

Shane and Mariko agreed wholeheartedly about the nature of the community and the city. “Everyone’s super kind,” said Mariko. “It’s not like New York where I don’t think the musical community is always as friendly… As much opportunity as there is, there’s way more people competing for all these opportunities. The Jazz community here is super…. anyone I’ve met has just been yeah, you should go here. You should sing here. Let me introduce you at XYZ. Go Pittsburgh!”

 

Shane explained his own change of heart- “I always thought that four years was a long time to live in one spot so I’ll definitely leave Pittsburgh once I graduate, but now I just really want to stay here. It’s such an incredibly cool city. and like they’ve been saying, the musical community is really awesome.”

 

Though the members come from all different backgrounds featuring an incredibly varied collection of musical expertise, they seamlessly blend their skills together to create a beautiful and cohesive sound. Though is it perhaps their collaboration in spite of their differences that makes them a real tribute to America’s cultural heritage. I asked them one final, but very important question.

 

Why Folk?

Mariko: All of my passions lately have been going towards real American music, if that makes sense. I think it’s really important to preserve these different art forms that are genuinely ours and were born from like our culture, whether it’s Jazz or Folk. Also, folk is really beautiful. There’s a lot of attention paid to lyrics. The craftsmanship that you find is amazing. We’re all vocal harmony nerds so that’s another. You don’t find good vocal harmony in other genres unless you’re looking at choral music.

 

Lucy: For me it’s restful almost to play this kind of music for me, because I play in a rock n roll band. (which is great and I love). The world and everything in it is just so exhausting and there’s something about folk music that’s just so gentle and calming. It’s so nice to just be quiet and give that back to other people too. There’s actually a lyric in one of Shane’s songs that’s like “world out there is cold, they’ll steal your clothes and take your money” I’m like, that’s why folk music for me. It’s so chill to come back to this with my friends and give that to other people.

 

Shane: There are a lot of different reasons. I think too, it’s very recharging. I think it helps you connect with the softer side of yourself. In listening to a lot of other music, there’s so much expectation to be super high energy and happy all the time but it’s important to have that other side of your person as well. For me, folk really calms me down and allows me to process a lot of things. In addition to that, I’m a huge vocal harmony nerd. I love really awesome lyrics, I pay a lot of attention to lyrics in the music that I listen to. And folk music, those are really the two central aspects of it so its really awesome to have that. It’s about the story you’re telling and the sonic voice stack.”

 

Make sure you don’t miss their set during the Squirrel Hill Night Market, from 9-10. They’ll also be a playing at the Southside Art Crawl from 6-7pm. Saturday will be a busy day!

 

For more info on Buffalo Rose and to listen to their song “Mama Have Mercy” (which I might haven’t listen to about 7 times today) visit their facebook page at Facebook.com/buffaloroseband

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