'Vermont's hardest working folk group' to visit Western Mass.

Date: 5/12/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

Much like the New England favorite known as Enter the Haggis, Wood's Tea Company is a group that defies categorization. At one turn folk, at the next as Celtic as they come, the Vermont-based band performs on everything from banjos, bezoukis and bodhrans to guitars and tin whistles, sometimes forgoing all accompaniment to perform a capella.

The Wood's Tea Company will be playing the Black Moon Music Lounge, 37 State St., Belchertown, on May 27 beginning at 8 p.m.

Dubbed "Vermont's hardest working folk group" by both the Burlington Free Press and Vermont Public Radio, the group is made up of Howard Wooden (vocals, bass, guitar, bodhran), Mike Lussen (vocals, five string banjo, bodhran, bouzouki, guitar), Tom MacKenzie (vocals, hammered dulcimer, banjo, guitar, ukulele) and the newest permanent member, Patti Casey (vocals, guitar, flute, penny whistle, and clogboard).

The Wood's Tea Company recently released a DVD/CD combination titled "A Lively Evening." The audio half of this package is great listening fun. The group has amusing banter between songs and tunes, both originals and covers, that literally take you away.

"The Old Dun Cow" put me in a hard-drinking crowd in a pub somewhere in Ireland. "Glencoe Schottische" put me out on the moors of Scotland. And "Drown the Cheerio" put me in a really good mood, since it made me literally laugh out loud. Every song made the stress of everyday life melt away...at least a little bit.

Unlike the aforementioned Enter the Haggis, the Wood's Tea Company plays only acoustic instruments, which creates a mood and a style of music that appeals to a vast audience. Yes, it appeals to the Celtic music crowd, but it could also become a favorite of bluegrass fans, folk fans or people who enjoy tight harmonies and musicians who are masters of their instruments.

While the DVD doesn't vary much from the CD, it adds a unique visual element to the group's performance. There are no high energy antics and definitely no pyrotechnics, but it's mesmerizing to watch the rhythms of hands of the bodhran players and the ways the musicians seem to lose themselves in their songs.

The DVD does include songs not included on the CD, like "The Cat Came Back," "There Were Roses" and "Ah Woe, Ah Me."

The group's show in Belchertown is the only one they will be playing in Western Massachusetts until November. If you want to hear something familiar with a twist - or try a new genre of music you may not have listened to before - I recommend heading out to the Wood's Tea Company show.

For more information on the group, visit www.woodstea.net. For more information on their show at the Black Moon Music

Lounge, log on to www.myspace.com/ blackmoonjazz.