About... FolksTogether

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Folks Together is not an easy group to categorize. Combining the talents of five "seasoned" musicians, singers, and songwriters is bound to create something unique... After an appearance on his weekly "Root and Branch" folk show, DJ Scott McKinnon of WSMU 91.1 FM in North Dartmouth, MA had this to say about their sound.."FOLKS TOGETHER perform tasteful originals and beautifully arranged classics, (...be it the Louvin's, Tim Harden, Eric Andersen, or a zillion other influences upon this band), with reverence and intelligence. A "FolksTogether" concert is a wonderful trip back on the time machine of folk and roots music."

At any given time, FolksTogether features some combination of acoustic and classical guitars, violin, viola, banjo, mandolin, fretless bass, and all manner of percussion. This collection of instruments might suggest a "bluegrass" band, but the FolksTogether sound is a true hybrid. Their varied musical training and experience allows them to integrate elements of Folk, Country, Jazz, Bluegrass, Rock and Pop into an eclectic and highly entertaining show.

Musicianship is only half the story. FolksTogether can sing a bit too... In fact, multi-part vocal harmonies are a big part of their sound. Rick Bellaire, Donna Olson, and John Dunn handle the majority of lead vocals, but everyone takes their turn at the front... They also feature a number of duets combining their unique styles to create a variety of vocal combinations.

Folk DJ/ Promoter Nick DiBiasio described FolksTogether as a " A modern day minstrel show... They are almost as much fun to watch as they are to listen to... They're always on the move, trading instruments, swapping solos and changing vocalists on every song. You never know what they'll say or play next ."

So, how do we describe FolksTogether? Well, maybe singer-songwriter Terry Kitchen put it best,

"FolksTogether is a true Rhode Island Folk Super Group."

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The Past

Duo's Bellaire & Dunn and Wire & Wood (Jeff and Donna Olson) met through The Rhode Island Songwriters Association in 1996. Impressed by Bellaire & Dunn's songwriting and performance skills, Jeff Olson asked the duo to contribute a song to the Providence Musicworks Christmas CD "The 12 Steps of Christmas and Other Holiday Fare." He also asked B & D to help Wire & Wood with their cut for this highly regarded independent release.

During the "12 Steps" promotional tour, the duos began sitting in on each others sets... Their collaborations evolved into a "Grand Finale" jam session featuring many of the artists on the tour. At the Olde Vienna Kauffeehaus, Bellaire & Dunn brought their friend, multi-instrumentalist Vinnie Pasternack, to beef up their sound. Vinnie's masterful violin work brought down the house... The response to these impromptu collaborations was so enthusiastic that the duo's and Vinnie decided to continue working together after the tour.

Initially, they envisioned the union as an "in the round" presentation with each doing their tunes and the others adding instrumental and vocal support. Under the unwieldy name of "Bellaire & Dunn and Wire & Wood with Vincent Pasternak", the newly formed fivesome began booking performances at local coffeeshops and bookstores. After their first few performances, they recognized the exciting possibilities of a more unified approach and began mining the wealth of unique talents each of the five individuals could contribute to the whole.

True to form, they became "FolksTogether" by accident. At their inaugural band performance, the promoter forgot their lengthy name and promoted them as "FolksTogether." No one in the group can explain why the name stuck, but following successful performances opening for RI folk icon Jon Campbell at The Coffeehouse In The Square and Jack Hardy at Stone Soup Coffeehouse, the buzz about the group made changing the name seem unwise.

FolksTogether followed up the In The Square and Stone Soup gigs with successful performances at Hear In Rhode Island 97, The WERU Full Circle Fair (Orland. ME), and a number of local venues and special events. They capped off a very successful first year by sharing the stage at First Night Providence 98 with critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Susan Graham White...

Since 1998, FolksTogether has taken their show on the road, traveling north to Maine for performances at the Left Bank Cafe, University of Maine Farmington, Deer Isle Coffeehouse, Kennebunkport Community Hall, Saco Coffeehouse, Stonington Maine's July 4th Celebration, and the WERU Full Circle Fair, and south to New York for performances in Beacon at Recycle Fest '98 and Strawberry Fest. '99, and on Yasgurs Farm in Bethel, NY, at Bethel '99 (the "real" 30th anniversary of Woodstock.) Recently, they traveled Chester NY in the Hudson River Valley for a gig at the pretigous Bodles Opera House. Photos from many of these performances, including pix with Pete Seeger and Country Joe McDonald, can be seen by clicking on the gallery links on our homepage.

In the early years of the new millennium FolksTogether stayed closer to home; opting to dedicate more time to finishing their long awaited new recording, Pilgrims. They had their share of great performance opportunities including several appearances at The Narrows Center for the Arts opening for Peter Rowan and Eric Andersen and Coffeehouse 309 (both in Fall River, MA.), a special concert at the Oceanville Community Center in Stonington Maine and return trips to the Soule Homestead Summer Concert Series (Middleboro, MA), and the United Church of Assonet (Assonet, MA).

Over the past 4 years a series of illnesses and other problems have limited their performance opportunities. The first of these occurred almost immediately after Pilgrims was released eliminating the opportunity for touring to support the new recording. If this had been one of two events we would have gotten back on track by now, but it was just the start of an unending string of calamities culminating in a recent illness that almost took the life of Jeff Olson. The good news is we have all survived and the "situational" problems have been largely resolved. We look for to 2009 and beyond and hope to make

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The Present and Beyond...

Despite the recent complications FolksTogether is still continually expanding upon and updating their live show. They spotlight their individual skills in the context of an integrated uniquely entertaining "show." Their extensive playlist features their own songs interspersed with an eclectic mix of "classics" by the likes of Gram Parsons, Tim Hardin, Jesse Colin Young, Carol King, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Lefty Frizzell, Eric Andersen, Sandy Denny, Donovan, and The Louvin Brothers. Folks Together's instrumental and vocal versatility allows them to reach beyond folk and acoustic country into such unlikely areas as R&B on The Drifters "I Count The Tears," and the Samba on Vinnie Pasternak's "Sala Jordi."

In 1996, they released CDs under their duo names: Belliare & Dunn "From Now On," and Wire & Wood with Folks Together "The Age of The Grand Carousel."

In 2000, FolksTogether released their first group recording, a 9 song live CD titled Homemade . In 2001 in one FolksTogether released a compilation titled Looking Back featuring tracks from our previous recordings and cuts that were previously only released on compilations.

In 2005 FolksTogether released their first full group studio album. Pilgrims. The recording has received critical acclaim and was in regular rotation on many Folk and Americana radio stations. Go to our Pilgrims web page to find out more about this recording or visit our myspace site to hear cuts from Pilgrims.

MP3 and RealAudio sound clips of the group are available at




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