Weekender

Michigan duo Red Tail Ring blends music traditions to form original compositions

Red Tail Ring will perform at the Oct. 25 Acoustic Brew concert.
Red Tail Ring will perform at the Oct. 25 Acoustic Brew concert. Photo provided

The musical collaboration of two young but old-soul Michiganers, Red Tail Ring (guitarist Michael Beauchamp and violinist Laurel Premo) blends musical traditions into an original mix. The duo strives to push the boundaries of traditional music, resulting in original compositions brimming with imagination, haunting harmonies and fiddle, banjo, mandolin and jaw-harp artistry.

“I grew up appreciating a wide swath of the American musical landscape, which came out when I started playing guitar seriously as a 13-year old,” Beauchamp said. “Laurel’s influences were more direct, as both her parents played folk and traditional music, and often a lot of Finnish music, which is reflective of the heritage of the majority of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. So she grew up learning a lot of music directly from her parents and their friends.”

Red Tail Ring’s third full-length album, “The Heart’s Swift Foot,” was released in May 2013. This record includes 10 original songs with two acoustic standards, defining what this musical marriage is about. The album features the duo’s signature sound, with layered instrumental lines over tight vocal harmonies. Compared to their previous releases, “The Heart’s Swift Foot” is the first project Beauchamp and Premo have worked on entirely together from start to finish. What makes this record shine even more is how much it sounds live, a concept that the duo was actually aiming for.

“We wrote many of the songs completely together, which is more time-consuming and painstaking, but also more rewarding in the end,” Beauchamp said. “Our albums have always been recorded live, with very few overdubs, and ‘The Heart’s Swift Foot’ is even more in that direction. With a few minor exceptions, the album is entirely live.”

Most of the duo’s music is informed by their choice of instruments and the playing techniques that come with those instruments. Beauchamp and Premo express a love of American old-time tunes and ballads, which informs a lot of what they do with traditional song choices and the structure of their original tunes.

“We both love picking the claw-hammer banjo, and pairing that with either Laurel on the fiddle or me on the mandolin (makes the process) rich in harmonic possibility,” he said. “I love both finger-picking and flat-picking the guitar, so that pushes us in bluesy or bluegrass realms occasionally. Our approach is to try, as best we can, to know where we’re coming from musically and culturally, but we don’t put too many stylistic limits on what happens after that.”

As far as the future goes, Red Tail Ring’s collective goal is to keep playing and loving the music.

“Performing and recording music forces you to embrace the process, creative and otherwise, more than you might if you were doing something else with your time,” Beauchamp said.

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