The New Reeltime Travelers are coming to Moab.
“We come to Moab because we are Moab fans,” said Thomas Sneed, a mandolin player in the stringband.
The supergroup of old-time music performers will be playing a benefit concert for the KZMU 7 p.m., Thursday at Star Hall.
The string band is a new incarnation of the original Reeltime Travelers. Musicians Roy Andrade and Thomas Sneeds, original members of the Reeltime Travelers are now joined by Betse Ellis, Caroline Elizabeth Jones, Ben Winship and Eric Thorin.
“We’ve spent a lifetime studying old music,” Sneed said. “We’ve specialized in finding obscure songs. We’ve done field work All but one of us have lived in Appalachia and sought out people to learn from, particularly people from these periods.”
Old-time music is different than blue-grass, Sneed said. It is an older art form that was popular between the 1870s and 1930.
“It was what all of America was listening to east of the Mississippi,” Sneed said.
Old-time music found a new following after the release of “O Brother Where Art Thou”, a Coen Brother’s movie released in 2000 starring George Clooney that featured the song “A Man of Constant Sorrow.”
It features a variety of stringed instruments, including the banjo, which originated in Africa.
“It came to America through the slave trade,” Sneed said. The instrument is played differently with old-time music, “with a downward strum.”
Sneed said that playing the banjo became more of a fancy art in the 1940s “to show off how fast you can play.”
However, playing the banjo in an old-time music style could be very “therapeutic.”
“If you were working in a coal mine, you could come home and play the banjo until you were in a trance,” Sneed said.
Andrade plays the claw hammer banjo. He also runs the music program at East Tennessee State University that is known for researching and preserving old-time music.
Andrade worked with traditional American music expert Doc Watson, who recently passed away.
“He is now releasing Doc Watson’s family music,” Sneed said.
Betse Ellis of the honkytonk band The Wilders is a fiddler.
“She still spends time with a woman in her 90s in Arkansas,” Sneed said. “She’s now adding to the tradition by writing her own music.”
Carol Elizabeth Jones, who has her own nice long Appalachian name, is coming from Virginia for the show.
“She’s a famous ballad singer who has sung with Garrison Keillor on ‘Prairie Home Companion’. She was making old-time music in the ’70s and ‘80s before people knew the difference and were interested,” Sneed said.
Ben Winship is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays the octave mandolin, bass and banjo. Winship is also a songwriter and record producer.
Eric Thorin, a bass player, is flying in from England to join the band.
“When we get together we can share our collective experiences together,” Sneed said. “We’ve worked for years on how to present old-time music. There is some storytelling involved with the music.”