One of Central Pa.’s busiest musicians, Andy Tolins, recently answered five Weekender questions. One of his bands, Haystack Lightnin’, will perform Friday on 98.7 The Freq.
Q: How long have you been playing?
A: I’m 58. I started piano at 8 and switched to guitar at 10; been playing guitar ever since.
Q: How do you describe your sound?
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A: I play bluegrass, blues, jazz, rock ’n’ roll. I dabble in country, soul, funk and jam band stuff. The guitar presents you with various approaches or techniques that are unique to each style. I try to play what’s appropriate to a particular style. My style is a mash up of what I think sounds good, just stay relaxed, in the moment. I once had an old bluegrass instructional book that described the music of Earl Scruggs as “Folk Music in Overdrive.” Haystack Lightnin’ is my attempt at this challenging form.
Q: Which musician — alive or dead — do you most wish you could share the stage with?
A: There are many, and I’m lucky enough to have found some standout musicians who grew up in Centre County and beyond to work with. That being said, I think Charlie Christian has had a huge influence. I saw Lionel Hampton once. I love those striped down swing groups like Benny Goodman Sextet featuring Charlie Christian, and the Charlie Christian influenced Nat King Cole Trio with Oscar Moore on guitar.
Q: What’s your favorite song to play live?
A: I went through a number of phases, trying to experience a variety of genres I had access to around the Philadelphia area where I grew up. Folk, blues, celtic, bluegrass, old time string bands, jazz, funk and soul — I saw everyone from Doc Watson and Bill Monroe, to Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Not to mention Bromberg, Joni Mitchell, Tony Rice, Muddy Waters, The Grateful Dead and countless others in their prime. The late ’60s and the ’70s were fertile musical years — Beatles, Stones, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, etc., but there was still a local economy. The music stores were locally owned, as many still are, but we had to listen to vinyl and cassettes which sounded better then CDs but less convenient. Suffice it to say I can’t answer this question. My favorite song is whatever fits the moment.
Q: Where can people hear your music?
A: Haystack Lightnin’ play’s Zeno’s every Wednesday; The Triple A Blues Band plays Zeno’s happy hours every Friday. You can find me with the Screaming Ducks on New Years Eve at the Arena starting at 10 p.m. I play Webster’s Book Store and Cafe the first Sunday of every month, brunch, noon-2 p.m., with John “JT” Thompson. Getting ready to release a set of original instrumentals very soon. My website andytolinsmusic.com is under construction and you can find links to my CDs: “Sue’s Ramble,” “Highwater,” and “Pork Chop Money” on CD Baby.