Bands spread folk music traditions

By Jessica Gardner

Sparrow Tree and Red Tail Ring will be showing Marquette their different interpretations of folk music at their performance in the University Center.

“The Peter White Lounge is the perfect spot to have this informal concert because you can sit and have some lemonade on the couches,” said Daniel Truckey, director and curator at the Beaumier Heritage Center. “It also provides the opportunity to interact with the artists.”

The Sparrow Tree and Red Tail Ring concert is featured by the Beaumier Coffee House Series and the Upper Peninsula Folklife Festival.

“This event, along with many others in the Beaumier Coffee House Series, is about spreading folk traditions and keeping them alive in the Upper Peninsula. It is very important to keep traditions alive,” said Truckey.

Sparrow Tree consists of four members: Troy Graham on guitar and lead vocals; Emily Durkin on fiddle, Sam Graves on mandolin and vocals and Gretchen McKenzie on double bass and vocals.

Sparrow Tree came to life in March of 2008. It originally consisted of two members, Troy Graham and Emily Durkin. In August 2010, the band accepted two more members and became the four-member band it is today.

“Sparrow Tree plays mostly original compositions,” Truckey said. “Today it is hard to find bands that write their own music and I believe that that is something very unique about Sparrow Tree.”

Sparrow Tree has more of an acoustic sound than most folk bands Truckey said.

Troy Graham, guitar and lead vocalist of Sparrow Tree, said they have a wide variety of sounds but they primarily has a sound of folk rock.

With a more modern sound, Sparrow Tree is capable of capturing the attention of both a younger and older generation.

“What makes our band unique is our 10-year gap in ages,” said Graham, “This gap extends from 16 to 26 years old. Most bluegrass bands are made up of players of 30 years and above; so, I would have to say we are a group of fairly young people.”

Both bands have connections to the Upper Peninsula.

Sparrow Tree lives in Marquette and Red Tail Ring has a member that grew up in the U.P.

Laurel Premo, one of the folk duettists in Red Tail Ring, grew up in Amasa, Mich.

During her childhood she played different kinds of folk music with her parents.

The types of folk that her parents played include Finnish, French, Canadian and American.

“We are very excited,” Premo said. “We like Marquette people and we would like to make more friends in the NMU area. Any excuse to visit the U.P. is a good reason. We love the U.P. and the natural wilderness of it.”

Michael Beauchamp is Premo’s partner. Together Premo and Beauchamp play a broad range of instruments.

Guitar, fiddle, banjo, octave mandolin, , jaw and vocals are some of the many assets that they incorporate into their songs.

With these instruments, Red Tail Ring creates not only original compositions, but also arrangements of older folk songs.

The members of Red Tail Ring met through the scene of Michigan’s music.

Premo and Beauchamp both wanted to form a band based on Americana tunes. Once realizing their common goal, they created Red Tail Ring in 2009.

“We love pushing the boundaries of what a traditional song can be,” Beauchamp said. “It affects how we write our original songs. There’s a real energy exchange between the old and the new.”

The Red Tail Ring is planning on playing a mixture of their original songs and arrangements of old American folk.

The performances will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 18 in the Peter White Lounge in the University Center.

For more information on the Sparrow Tree and Red Tail Ring concert and many other events that aim to further enrich knowledge of U.P.’s traditions visit