It’s the 22th anniversary of the founding of the Raisin Pickers, the Manchester-based string band that's cultivated a loyal following in the Ann Arbor area with its deft mix of rustic Appalachian music, swingy jazz, bluegrass, and, lately, some Louisiana sounds.
"The Raisin Pickers are three musicians who understand completely where traditional music comes from, and what their role is in carrying it forward."
Just as traditional music in America finds its roots in Celtic and Scottish rhythms, folds in the passion of African-American songs, and embraces the souls of those who pass it on, so the Raisin Pickers of Michigan, have learned from the past, assimilated their strengths and arrived at a sound all their own. A distinguished string band that draws on that vast array of traditional musical influences, the Raisin Pickers feature:
Carol Wells Palms, (string bass, fiddle, vocals) a classically trained string player who captures the heart of traditional music without letting go of high musical standards. Pulling into a campground at a West Virginia music festival and watching fiddlers reach for their instruments even before staking their tents opened a whole new world for Carol, whose experience in music up to that point involved music stands, conductors and strict rehearsal schedules. "What struck me at the festival was that nobody was concerned with how well they were playing or how much training they had," she recalls. "They were more intrigued with, "Oh, there's a tune I haven't learned yet. I'm going to go sit in on that one. Fifty times through the tune, sitting around the campfire, they had that tune learned." While Carol's family had fun playing popular music together for community events and even on TV, she and her brothers were also trained in classical music from their earliest years. Both of her parents taught music professionally, and Carol studied viola, earning spots in the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestras while still in her teens.
Mark Palms, (banjo, fiddle, guitar, vocals) a self-taught musician who chases the heritage of mountain music by studying banjo knee-to-knee with old-time legends and sharing what he's learned with audiences and students. When Mark performs it's always with a sense of where the music comes from and his role in passing it along. An interest in musical heritage led Mark to music early on. He'd always known that his grandfather played and sang old songs, but seeing his dad pull out a banjo at a party once and strum Sweet Georgia Brown left him in awe. "I was impressionable", he says, "And that spurred my interest in banjo playing." Mark taught himself to play guitar as a teenager and after several years learned to read music. He joined Western Michigan University's School of Music's education department on a dare. "I felt like I was sinking rather than swimming, and the only thing I really found any connection to was the guitar," Mark says. "I strolled in with my guitar and told them I just wanted to sing. I didn't have much previous training, and I'm not so sure I had any talent," he says. "But I had a lot of desire and they must have seen that written all over my face." Today Mark teaches music and he's still a student himself, studying knee-to-knee with old-school fiddlers whenever heï¿½s able. For several years, he attended workshops in West Virginia and learning to play the banjo in true mountain music fashion. "I really became an old-time music player," Mark says. It might be this diversity that drives the Raisin Pickers. "We believe that if we put a different spin on something, it will stand out because it's being heard in a different way. It also gives us the chance to share the legacy of traditional music with new generations. We have a strong sense of the music we do. We have an original drive and a traditional focus."
David Mosher, (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, vocals), one of southeast Michigan's most in-demand side men who carries a half-dozen instruments and follows his sense of aural aesthetics where they lead, be it writing songs, producing recordings or finding a bird in the woods by its call. As David Mosher sets down his guitar after one song and reaches for his fiddle to play the next, the fluidity of motion represents years of practice mastering change. As a child, Mosher did everything from musical theater to doo-op on stage, and today he makes his living as a musician playing in a variety of venues and alongside a wide range of top Michigan performers. "I usually walk into a situation with a guitar, mandolin or fiddle. It suits my nature to be diverse. I'm a try-everything kind of person." With the Raisin Pickers as his home band, David applies his skills as a musician, vocalist, songwriter and producer. Playing with the three-person string band is a comfortable fit, as it marries his diversity with the styles of classically trained Carol Wells Palms and traditional music devotee Mark Palms. David was named "Country Instrumentalist of the Year" at the Detroit Music Awards in 2004. And today he is settled into a busy performance schedule and a new home. "After 16 years of moving every year, I finally bought a house," he says. The home, on a lake in Michigan, is set in place that allows him to enjoy the outdoors every day, honing his ear even further by listening to bird calls and expanding his knowledge of the stars.
According to the Ann Abor News "Fans of traditional American music who appreciate aces fiddling, boffo banjo work, and harmonies as sweet as sugar can't go wrong with the Raisin Pickers latest CD."
Carol Palms, upright bass, fiddle, and vocals. Mark Palms, clawhammer banjo, guitar, fiddle, and vocals. David Mosher, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and vocals.
Drivin' (cd) 2002 Flying Raven Records
Handed Down (cd) 2000 Flying Raven Records
Michigan Wind (cd) 1998 Flying Raven Records
Palm Trees (cd) 1996 Flying Raven Records
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