Acoustic / Folk: Ensemble

Stefan George and Songtower

"IF YOU HAVE to have a bin to put it in," says Stefan George about Songtower's music, " 'Urban folk' works as good as anything."

The juxtaposition of images in that description suggests strength and gentility blending together to create an attractive, contemporary musical collage.

Songtower's endurance lies precisely in this combo of powerful, acoustic sounds rounded out by steady bass-and-rhythm backdrops. George heads up the band with his highly respected guitar playing and vocals, and the delightful mix of Jan Daley and Lavinia White's voices pull color from the folk side of the pallet. Jay Trapp is one of Tucson's hidden treasures on bass guitar--always able to find the groove whether the song requires something easy-going or a little bit funky. Wil Clipman, noted for his fluid ability to find just the right beat no matter the venue, is the rhythmic foundation for this formidable acoustic ensemble.

Band Photo "I hog the writing," George laughs, "but there's always input from others. Lavinia helps me a lot, and then everybody in the group finds their own way through the material. It's a cooperative effort when it comes to arrangement."

The cooperation has paid off, because this is the ensemble's second TAMMIES award in two years in the acoustic-ensemble category. George has some interesting thoughts on winning a second time around.

"Not to disparage it at all, but I don't play music to compete. I think The Weekly tries to downplay the competitive aspect. But certainly the music business is can be competitive to sit around a campfire singing songs! I don't play for my fellow musicians, and I don't play for the notion of winning a prize. I play to reach people. You don't walk into a music store to buy a guitar thinking 'next year I'll win a prize.' Musicians do get locked into things, get career obsessed. When you're feeling that way you lose track of what you're really doing it for."

Lavinia White expresses similar sentiment. "I was quite genuinely surprised this year. I didn't think it was ours. I kinda think it's nice for it to be passed around. I don't like contests, but yes, it's truly an honor."

The ensemble has an upcoming album on Tom Poley's Blue Bhikku label. Cactus and Concrete will be released this summer. The album focuses on expressing the group experience by keeping overdubs and production to a minimum, letting the natural relationship between these fine musicians tower high in the lyric vista of southwest urban and folk life.
--Molly Who

Good Medicine

IF YOU'RE IN need of medical attention, try urgent care. Sadly, Good Medicine is no longer prescribing their magic elixir. The band broke up between the TAMMIES Showcase Shuffle and the awards presentation ceremony.

With three songwriters and guitarists--Joseph Crowell, Chad Stone and John Bunkelman, bass by Dave McKenna, and roots/world beat rhythms by Jim Lipson, Good Medicine was the right mix for what ailed many Tucsonans.

But as the band worked together, Lipson says they found "a bigger sound" to explore. Moving away from the folk-rock, country and world beat grooves and trying out some harder rhythms started the tremors that led to the band's ultimate demise.

Stone agreed with Lipson's diagnosis, adding his own clinical observations. "The country side didn't really float my boat. I wanted more jazzy, funky kinds of things."

But the band members were definitely honored to receive the TAMMIES award. "The TAMMIES," continues Stone, "were like the cherry on top of the ice cream. It left a good taste in my mouth after the whole thing. It told us that what we had done was real--and that it was really good."
--Molly Who


© 1995 Tucson Weekly