Folk, with a fiddle
Grammy-winning musician returns to a favorite venue for duo concert
Bluegrass artist Laurie Lewis began her longtime love of music by picking on the guitar, but it was the fiddle that became her true love. She spent her teenage years learning to play and falling in love with folk music during the folk revival that was happening in the 1960s. She drifted away from music after high school until she rediscovered it in her early 20s in the bluegrass scene burgeoning in Northern California. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s been almost five years since Lewis and her music partner Tom Rozum have graced the stage at DelRossi’s Trattoria in Dublin, but it’s still a venue she remembers well, she said in a phone interview Friday. In fact, she noted, DelRossi’s is one of their favorite places to play when touring the Northeast. This year, while most of their tour dates in the area are in Connecticut, Lewis and Rozum will be making one stop in New Hampshire, to return to the 100-seat Italian restaurant for a show.
It’s a small venue, said Lewis, but perfectly fits with the way she and Rozum like to play their shows — with a good mood and atmosphere, with an easy, freewheeling audience and intimate setting.
“We play venues of all sizes, but I do rather like the smaller places better,” admitted Lewis with a laugh. “Maybe it’s not the best for business as a musician, but I really appreciate the one-on-one interaction that you just don’t get in a larger place.”
There have been big changes for Lewis and Rozum since the last time they appeared at DelRossi’s, said Lewis. The duo released an album in 2011 called “Skippin’ and Flyin’” and is set to release another live album next month featuring guitarist Nina Gerber. “Skippin’ and Flyin’” is a tribute to Bill Monroe, one of the creators of Bluegrass, a genre named after his band, “Blue Grass Boys.” It’s not the first time Lewis has honored Monroe. She netted a Grammy for her contribution to the 1997 album “True Lwife Blues: The Songs of Bill Monroe.”
Lewis, who writes most of the songs on the albums she produces with Rozum, said that most of the songs she writes are rooted in things she’s lived, even if it’s just a journey through emotions like love, loss or joy. But every once in awhile, a song comes along that’s just a story. One such song is “Barstow,” a piece Lewis was inspired to write while traveling through the Mohave Desert and passing through the town of Barstow, Calif.
“It’s literally just a place where two highways cross,” she said. “As I was passing through there, I was wondering why people end up in a place like that, so I made up a story about one woman and why she might have stayed there. It’s sort of a fantasy about another person’s life, a life that just occurred to me. To me, it’s a little like writing a little novel. But I wouldn’t have the stamina to write a novel. Eight verses is about enough,” she laughed.
She also tends to come up with a number of songs with fiddle references, she added, because of her own long relationship with the instrument. One song that is a favorite of Elaina DelRossi’s, co-owner of the Trattoria , is such a song. “The Bear Song” is another story song Lewis said; it’s a fiddle song about a trapper stumbling upon a troupe of bears that play fiddles.
“Every so often a song comes along that’s just a story, tales that come through me rather than from me, and that’s one of them,” she said .
Also new for Lewis since the last time she visited the Monadnock region in 2008, is the way she produces her music. Five years ago she made the decision to leave behind her record label in order to produce her own, called “Spruce and Maple Music.” She never was interested in her own label, she said. “I thought it would be a pain in the neck,” she admitted ruefully. “But with the music business changing so quickly and the advent of the Internet, the labels weren’t able to do much better for me than I was able to do for myself. And it has been a juggle. Whatever I’m involved in, I tend to get completely involved in.”
In fact, she said, having taken on producing the music of other artists — such as roots musician Alice Gerrard and a collaboration album of songs inspired by historic stories of the golden age of the steam locomotive — as well as her own albums is probably the reason her latest album has yet to be released.
“It’s a balancing act,” she said. “I just have to take it one thing at a time. In one particular day, there’s always lots to do.”
Lewis and Rozum will perform at DelRossis on Sunday at 7 p.m. For more information about Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, see www.laurielewis.com or www.tomrozum.com. Show tickets are $20 and may be purchased at the door or in advance by check in the mail at DelRossi’s Trattoria, PO Box 337, Dublin, or credit card payment by contacting DelRossi’s at 563-7195.