The Acoustic Brew concert series for fall 2014 concludes this weekend with a performance by singer-songwriter and bluegrass musician Dede Wyland and Washington, D.C.-based bluegrass band Momma Tried.
No newcomer to the bluegrass scene, Wyland has been in bluegrass bands for almost 40 years. She began playing in regional bands in her native Milwaukee, Wis., and became a member of internationally known and groundbreaking group Tony Trischka and Skyline when she moved to New York in the 1980s.
“Members of this band knew their bluegrass, but they were also well-versed in many other genres, including, jazz, classical and rock,” Wyland said. “So it was natural for the music to be an amalgam of the musical influences that had shaped the individuals involved in the group.”
Wyland also knows her bluegrass but said it’s natural for her to bring in other styles that have shaped her musical personality.
“I love a fiery bluegrass instrumental, a moving ballad or song with a rock ’n’ roll kick to it,” she said. “You’ll find all of these things, and more, in the music I play, and almost always with bluegrass instrumentation, which includes mandolin, upright bass, banjo and guitar.
Momma Tried showcases the talents of Wyland and Randy Barrett, one of Washington, D.C.’s best bluegrass singers. Known for their powerful duet singing, the duo discovered early on that their voices had a naturally rare blend, and their musical partnership has lasted for more than a decade. Barrett, who also plays banjo and guitar, also is the president of the D.C. Bluegrass Union. The band also features the musical talents of Ira Gitlin on bass and Tom McLaughlin, a long-standing member of the Washington, D.C.-area bluegrass scene, on mandolin and guitar.
Throughout her career, Wyland has graced the stage of some of the most prestigious bluegrass and acoustic music venues and festivals in America. She has performed in venues all over the world and has appeared on nationally broadcast radio programs “A Prairie Home Companion” and “Mountain Stage.”
In addition to performing, which she has scaled back in recent years, Wyland said she tapped into a gift that she didn’t know she had — vocal teaching. Though it has given her the opportunity to develop her skills as a teacher and to connect with people in a new way, Wyland said her life is still musically oriented and feels balanced.
“I’ve been able to develop my skills as a producer, working with local recording artists,” she said. “But I continue to perform on a schedule that works for me without having to keep up with the physical and mental rigors of the road.”
Wyland said she considers herself lucky to do something she loves, to express herself through her music and to feel a connection with her audiences.
“Personally, it’s an amazing vehicle for personal expression and connection to others,” she said. “Professionally, I’ve managed to make a living doing something that holds meaning for me.”
As for her future goals, Wyland is filming a series of educational videos on vocal technique that will be available on her website by February. She also plans to record a new CD this winter.