Mike Duncan will feel right at home when songwriters Moors and McCumber return to Moab this week.
It’s partly because he’s seen them wow Moab Folk Festival audiences twice before, and he knows what to expect from the folk and bluegrass duo’s show on Friday, July 24 at 8 p.m.
“They’re terrific musicians,” he said.
But his sense of ease has just as much to do with the fact that he’s intimately familiar with their choice of a concert venue at 579 Rosetree Lane: It’s his house, after all.
The pair are touring in support of their rootsy new album “Pandemonium,” and co-songwriter Kort McCumber said they hoped to return to the place that gave them such a friendly reception during the last two Moab Folk Festival events.
“We wanted to get back down to Moab and make sure that people have the opportunity to see us,” McCumber said.
As they plotted out their tour this year, they reached out to Moab Folk Festival Assistant Director Cassie Paup for her help in finding a local performance venue, and Duncan’s name came up right away.
“Cassie knew we had a big living room, so here we are,” Duncan said.
Musicians and storytellers have been performing at house concerts for hundreds of years, from the Renaissance and Baroque periods to the underground folk movement of the 1960s, and the punk rock scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s. McCumber said that he and Moors are happy to continue that tradition in the 21st Century.
Although they often play at much bigger venues, McCumber said he feels a deeper bond with the crowds at house concerts, where there is no disconnection between the stage and the audience.
“They get to experience not just our music, but our personalities, and get to know us,” he said. “There are no barriers between us.”
For one thing, they get to mingle with the crowd during their breaks and before their sets.
“It’s as close to rubbing shoulders with them as you’re going to get,” Duncan said.
Moors and McCumber were already accomplished solo musicians when they met at the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival in Lyons, Colorado. But McCumber said they just clicked together and created something special that was missing from their solo sets.
The two songwriters and multi-instrumentalists share vocal duties; Moors alternates between guitars, ukulele, mandolin, and Irish bouzouki, while the classically trained McCumber trades off between many of the same instruments, as well as the cello, fiddle, accordion and Irish tenor banjo.
At their live shows, McCumber said they’ll mix everything up to keep things interesting to themselves and audiences; notably, the songs they’ll perform at this week’s acoustic concert will sound quite a bit different from those that appear on their new record.
McCumber called “Pandemonium” the most produced album they’ve recorded to date. In a departure from their past folk-oriented songs, bass guitar and drums show up on four or five tracks.
They worked on the 12-song album in Minneapolis with songwriter and producer Gary Louris of alternative country/ Americana legends The Jayhawks at the helm.
Louris also handled many of the arrangements on the album, giving some of the songs a poppier feel that wouldn’t sound out of place on the string of classic Jayhawks albums from the 1990s.
Moors — a huge Jayhawks fan — turned McCumber onto the band, and although neither one of them thought they’d have a chance to work with Louris, the opportunity arose when they met him in Dallas two years ago.
“He said, ‘give me a ring,'” McCumber said.
They did, and McCumber said they found that their subsequent time in the studio with him was strengthened by camaraderie, friendship and mutual respect for each other’s work.
“It was a nice balance of him helping us get a clear direction, and then stepping back and saying, ‘Go do what you’re good at, and I’ll make sure it’s done right,'” he said.
Modern Rock Review writer Karyn Albano wrote that the end results on songs like “You Take Me Somewhere” and “If Living Was Easy” stand out for their superb musicianship, compositional songcraft and beautifully synchronized vocal harmonies.
“The first time I listened to this album, I was stressed out and frustrated with the day,” she wrote. “But midway through the opening track those negative feelings instantly began to fade and by the end, they were completely gone. There is an organic joy in this music that leaves you feeling refreshed after listening to it.”
To learn more about Moors and McCumber, and to hear songs from “Pandemonium,” go to www.moorsandmccumber.com. For more information about this week’s house concert, call Mike Duncan at 435-259-0246.
Moors and McCumber’s July 24 show in support of new album
“It’s as close to rubbing shoulders with them as you’re going to get.”
When: Friday, July 24, at 8 p.m.
Where: 579 Rosetree Lane, near 400 East and Center Street
Cost: $15 per person at the door
For more information about this week’s house concert, call Mike Duncan at 435-259-0246.