Folk-pop artist Sean Oshima will open for Sassafras Stomp when they perform in Moab on Sunday, Feb. 5. [Courtesy photo]

When winter comes, Johanna Davis and her partner Adam Nordell shut down their small organic farm in Unity, Maine, and take to the road, playing as much music as they can before planting season rolls around again.

The folk duo known as Sassafras Stomp will perform on Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North. Fellow Maine musician, singer-guitarist Sean Oshima, will open the show.

With Davis on fiddle, and Nordell playing guitar or five-string banjo, the couple sing and perform both traditional and original songs drawing from the cultures of Appalachia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Scotland and Ireland, as well as the French-Canadian music of Quebec near their home state of Maine.

Since Thanksgiving Day, Sassafras Stomp has been touring the country in support of their new CD “Walk These Fields” – original songs “informed by the rhythms and experiences of working on a farm,” Nordell said. “The birth and death cycles; the scenery of being outside all day – we bring it into our songwriting.”

The CD is a “celebration of small farms and connection to place through original song,” according to the group’s website. The couple’s Songbird Farm is a certified organic farm on the banks of the Sandy River in west-central Maine.

“The farm is an incredible palette to draw from – it’s so beautiful,” Nordell said.

Their band often plays Celtic and old-time music for contra dances in Maine and around the country, including cities like Boston, Seattle and Montreal, as well as tiny towns in Montana and Maine.

Davis grew up in Round Pond, Maine, surrounded by fiddle players and homesteaders. She began performing at contra dances at age 14. Nordell was raised in Helena, Montana, where he used to play bass in ska and reggae bands. Nine years ago, they began playing music together, and in 2012, the couple was invited to perform at Catapult! The National Contra Dance Showcase in Atlanta.

Nordell spoke with the Moab Sun News from Bynum, Montana, where he and Davis were participating in the Artists in Schools program at a two-room schoolhouse where students begin the day with social and square dancing while a record player spins tunes in the school’s gym – an old Methodist Church. It’s the fifth year Sassafras Stomp has led workshops at the school.

Oshima is also promoting his new CD “The Oshima Brothers,” a collection of original songs recorded with his brother Jamie. The duo often perform their style of “folk pop” around New England.

“I do most of the songwriting and Jamie does most of the instrumentation,” Oshima said. “On the recording, we’re able to track many different layers. I’ll do more simplified versions (at the Moab concert) and hopefully get Adam and Johanna to play along on some of the songs.”

Oshima grew up in Whitefield, Maine, and frequently visits Songbird Farm, where lively concerts are often hosted.

“I do a lot of traveling,” Oshima said. “I love all the people I get to meet along the way. I feel like my songwriting reflects that.”

The Moab Community Dance Band is sponsoring the concert at the MARC.

“We’re helping them because it’s important to support acoustic music,” said Miriam Graham, who plays concertina and pennywhistle for the community dance band.

Earlier that day, Davis and Nordell will conduct music workshops for the community dance band, which performs monthly at contra dances in Moab. The next community contra dance is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18.

The band is always open to additional musicians joining in, Graham said. Anyone interested in playing in the band is welcome to attend the workshop, she said.

Maine duo and special guest to perform on Feb. 5

“I do a lot of traveling … I love all the people I get to meet along the way. I feel like my songwriting reflects that.”

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

When: Sunday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m.

Cost: $10 suggested donation


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