Be Good Tanyas – Traveling light
The history of country blues is rife with vagabonds and troubadours. From Robert Johnson to Jimmie Rodgers to Woody Guthrie, musical hobos have brought regional sounds to the world in a much more beautiful and eloquent way than the internet could ever imagine.
Following in this storied tradition are the Be Good Tanyas, whose debut album Blue Horse blends traditional fingerpicking with soaring harmonies strong enough to give even the most dedicated shut-ins a case of the wanderin’ blues.
When asked how the group took up “this kind of music,” guitarist, vocalist, and banjo picker Samantha Parton (who is related to Dolly “only in my childhood fantasies”) answers, “What kind of music? You mean punk rock?”
Is that what it is?
“I don’t know, maybe.”
Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older, but today folk music excites me in the same way that punk rock did when I was a teenager.
“Same here,” says Parton. “but I think we came to this music [the songs on Blue Horse] through traveling, having open ears, and looking for something beyond the mainstream.”
Parton has been traveling through the United States and parts of Asia since she finished high school. “My mom was always, ‘Don’t hitchhike! You’re gonna get killed, you’re a girl!’ But my brother hitchhiked and it wasn’t all right, but it was way more acceptable.”
It was in the Southern states, specifically Louisiana, that Parton got most of her musical education. “I was traveling with a guitar,” she says, “and I started meeting other people who were traveling with guitars, and the two [music and traveling] kind of came together.
“I started making these connections between different kinds of music and different places, different landscapes. I started exploring where the kinds of music I liked were coming from, started traveling to these places, and wound up in New Orleans….Now I realize that I didn’t necessarily need to be there to be playing that music or soaking it up, but in my mind I spend a lot of time there still.”
Returning to Vancouver, Parton discovered that the music she had left in search of was being made in her own backyard. She met fellow road-veterans Frazey Ford and Trish Klein planting trees in Nelson, B.C., and they began playing around town as the Be Good Tanyas.
“The whole thing was never really planned,” Parton says. “All of a sudden we had someone who wanted to record us, we had someone who wanted to manage us, so I said, ‘I guess we’re gonna really be a band, let’s make a CD!’ Next thing you know we had a distributor on board. We don’t have a marketing budget or anything. The album’s simply been promoted by word of mouth.”