At the center of a stage full of people are two men with the kind of presence that comes from years of playing their songs. On the fiddle and occasionally a mouth bow he calls a “claw stick”, Uncle Mike Carr leans into the old songs he has played for as long as he’s been playing music. David Rhodes Brown is on the guitar, but will swap out for a banjo. When Brown is playing one of the two instruments, Mark Alexander is usually playing the other. They will all sing, but not like the “Hillbilly Harem” of Moriah Lawson, Carey Thompson, Amy Hines, and Jeanne Sheridan and their harmonies. Just to make sure sound people are on their toes, Thompson adds a viola while Moriah shreds on a mandolin, and there are four or five members of varying frequency who could show up ready to play.
Uncle Mike Carr likes to refer to Kentucky Timbre as an “Appalachian Orchestra”, and a quick look at their history clearly shows why. The band started as Carr and David Rhodes Brown playing “front porch music”. Carr has always sought out “old timey” songs that felt good to play on his fiddle, and Brown would add whatever sound felt right to him. Then Brown would play songs he wrote for Carr to follow, and the other musicians who later joined would feel their way through the songs in the same way.
Once songs are learned, they are often reworked and nudged into versions that allow the song to hear everyone’s musical voices. “The songs play as they play”, says Brown. Moriah Lawson added, “It can’t be too polished or you won’t get to hear us playing as we are”. As long as the theme is captured, the expression will find its way. In discussing the music influencing Kentucky Timbre, there was never a mention of the classic bluegrass artists, and there isn’t one fiddle tune in the set list. You will see a band with old-time string instruments, but you will be listening to layers of Bluegrass, Blues, Rockabilly, Roots, and plenty more. According to Carr, “It’s all folk.”
Lawson and Thompson are the newest additions as of the past spring, and with so many members raised in family bands it is easy to understand how quickly Timbre became its own family. Like a family band, there are multiple generations represented among the members. The Hillbilly Harem now enjoys the range of four singers of different ages, separated from each other by an even ten years. David Rhodes Brown is celebrating 50 years in music this year and going strong, playing Buckle Up twice this weekend with Kentucky Timbre and on the steel guitar with the stage-pounding country outlaws Lonesome Jared & the Heart Attacks.
Catch Kentucky Timbre at Buckle Up Music Festival Saturday July 19th at 3:30 on the Amphitheater Stage!