Better Late Than Never
by Shawn Macomber
(Below are excertps from an article published in the Foster's Daily Democrat, 8/7/05)
The natural instinct of anyone who's stood in an endless line at a college financial aid office waiting to watch the "You Better Pay the Government Back" film is to assess the experience as a waste of time.
But, there can be an upside. Just ask the folk duo Late Bloomers.
Randy Browning and Brett Kinney met in such a line, and it wasn't long before they began performing together.
For the Late Bloomers "folk" is an inclusive term. Over the course of a single set, the pair moves easily between new and old, original and old-timey.
"We combine everything we can get our hands on, especially roots-related styles," Browning said. "We like a wide variety of music. Our concerts reflect that: Originals, covers, songs and instrumentals- all kinds of things."
Whatever they do, it's working. The duo's latest disc, 'Sneakin' in the Back Door', has been extraordinarily well-received, opening doors for them at such gathering places as the Boston Folk Festival, the House of Blues, and Falcon Ridge. And it just keeps getting better: This year the duo performed at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, where Browning took home the prestigious New Folk songwriting award.
32 songwriters were selected out of a pool of more than 700 applicants to perform for a panel of judges and the audience at Kerrville. From 32 finalists, 6 winners were named: Eric Balkey (PA), Andy Corwin (CA), Beth Wood (TX), David Stoddard (WI), Jack Harris (Wales, UK), and Randy Browning (ME).
"Kerrville was amazing," Browning enthused. "It's like camping out with a few thousand old friends. It's the country's largest and longest-running festival of songwriters, so it draws people from around the world. For 18 days each year, they throw a big party with concerts all day and jamming around the campfires all night. There's a magical feeling there."
As far as the award goes, Browning insists it was secondary to the experience. "Leading up to the festival, I kept reminding myself to forget it was a competition and simply enjoy the experience," he said. "Being chosen as a winner there is something that means a lot to me. It's a memory I'll always keep close. It's nice to be validated for what you do and when it's coming from other songwriters, it means even more."
The Late Bloomers will take advantage of some of their buzz with dates throughout New England and beyond, and move on to their third record. "Creatively, we've made a lot of progress together," Browning explained. "We've learned a lot, both as people and as musicians."
It is worth noting that "progress" is not a dirty word in the Bloomers' camp. The duo fully believes even a style of music as traditionally rooted as folk can be expanded upon. "People are often pleasantly surprised to find Folk music still alive and evolving," Browning said. "It's great to discover Folk in the 21st century and find out it's more than what you might see in the movie 'A Mighty Wind'."
Increasingly, the duo has used their burgeoning popularity for the greater good, performing benefits for Habitat for Humanity, local AIDS advocates, Central American Relief, women's shelters, and community neighborhood associations. "An important part of the folk scene is its history and connection with progressive social causes," Browning said. "That core sense of community is a common theme with many variations."
So is all of this a recurring lyrical theme for the Late Bloomers? "Most of our lyrics are actually stories," Browning said. "I think of them a bit like short films. Each one is very different."
So with two cheers for musical diversity, let it be said: The show must go on.
Late Bloomers will perform with other area favorites David Surette and Susie Burke at the Hot Summer Nights concert series in South Berwick, Maine on Thursday at 6 p.m.
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