The Acoustic Brew Concert Series comes to a close for the spring, as Americana folk duo The Tall Trees will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Center for Well Being in Lemont.
Two highly acclaimed Midwestern songwriters, Tim Grimm and Ben Bedford, have formed a collaboration that is unparalleled and creates a beautiful, magical blend of tunes. The Tall Trees will be joined by Diederik van Wassenaer on fiddle and Connor Grimm on bass.
Originally from Chatham, Ill., just south of Springfield, Bedford’s musical influences growing up were eclectic — everything from the Beatles to B.B. King and Willie Nelson to Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”
“Tim and I are both songwriters, and we both come from a folk background,” Bedford said. “Diederik comes from a pretty eclectic background but was classically trained, so he adds that sort of element to the sound.”
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More recently, Bedford has become interested in jazz, particularly from the late 1950s. He is also a huge fan of medieval and Renaissance music.
“I suppose those musical influences might percolate into the music from time to time in some capacity, such as a chord voicing,” he said. “I think anything I listen to and enjoy has the potential to inform my playing in some small way.”
Bedford’s songwriting has been described as poignant, intriguing and portrait-like — often drawing upon history and with a strong sense of time and place. His songs capture the vitality of his characters and draw the listener deep into the narratives. The songs are rich in sensory detail, which allows the listener to hear, see and feel each narrative.
Grimm has toured and recorded with his friend, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, appeared with Harrison Ford in the film “Clear and Present Danger” and shared the stage with writer and poet Wendell Berry. His recording “The Back Fields” was named “Best Americana Album” in the 2006 Just Plain Folks Music Awards in Los Angeles.
Bedford crafts songs that are sketches of America and its individuals — their victories and their struggles. Typically, most songwriters see a little bit of themselves in their work, but they quite often look for other sources of inspiration as well.
“I don’t think a writer can ever completely extract themselves from their work,” he said. “Sometimes, maybe it is more shrouded, but I think the writer is always in there somewhere. I have met a lot of people who have inspired me, and I also draw a lot of inspiration from people I encounter in books.”
Sometimes those people wind up in his songs in little ways or sometimes in bigger, more obvious ways.
“I wrote my song, ‘What We Lost’ from my grandfather’s perspective,” Bedford said. “I’m drawing upon what I know about him and my family but I am also, maybe subconsciously, incorporating little pieces of myself and other people to fill in the gaps, so to speak. I did not know my grandpa very well, so I have to rely, to some extent, upon what I know about other people to round out his portrait.”
The Tall Trees have performed at several community centers, house concerts, libraries and backyard concerts. Playing in small spaces like the Center for Well Being, an artist can see the audience’s emotional reactions to the songs and stories. It provides more give and take between the audience and the performer.
“In a concert like this, there is maybe more intimacy with the audience than in a theater,” Bedford said. “All audiences are a little different, but it is always really fun when the stars align and the audience is riding along right there with you. The performance becomes almost more of a conversation than a showcase.”
Outside of The Tall Trees, Bedford and Grimm have their own successful solo careers. For Bedford, playing solo and in The Tall Trees fulfills a different set of artistic needs, but presents fun, artistic challenges as well.
“I would say that I enjoy playing solo more now because of my work with The Tall Trees and the other way around,” he said. “It is a lot of fun to play in an ensemble when you are used to playing primarily solo or as a duo. And then after doing 15 or 20 shows as an ensemble, it is a fun challenge to get back out there and play solo and try to make that sparser approach work.”
IF YOU GO
- What: The Tall Trees
- When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Center for Well Being, 123 Mount Nittany Road, Lemont
- Info: www.acousticbrew .org