By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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He figured that recording, done in rural Clallam County, wouldn’t have the polished sound of an expensive Seattle studio. He and his stand-up bassist, and partner in life Kia Armstrong, turned the session into a community party.
And so “Cort & Kia Armstrong: Live in Dungeness” turned out to be “a beautiful example,” its producers write, of what a band can do with an audience of friends and live-music lovers. The 14-song album, featuring a flock of guest artists, came out last winter and has been selling in local shops ever since.
One of those guests was Jim Faddis, a member of the Prairie Flyer band from 1997 to 2011. He and Cort, along with stand-up bassist John Pyles and guitar-banjo-Dobro man Rick Meade, formed a new ensemble: FarmStrong, a blend of rootsy country, bluegrass and blues. The four roamed around playing the music of John Prine, Merle Haggard, Taj Mahal — and even the Temptations on a recent night at Wind Rose Cellars in downtown Sequim.
“It has taken me some time to get mixed up in a group of this quality,” Cort said soon after FarmStrong was born. He noted that Meade has played with outfits including Rural Delivery, one of the longest-running bluegrass bands in the state, while Pyles brings 50 years of experience to the table.
On June 1, FarmStrong recorded its debut CD, “Live in Dungeness: The Summer Sessions,” again at Dungeness Community Studios. Just as when Cort and Kia played, owners Bill and Anna Yates opened their doors, turning the recording sessions into concerts.
Now, to bring back some of that “Summer Sessions” warmth, FarmStrong will host a CD-release party and concert Saturday night (Oct. 26) at the Dungeness Schoolhouse, 2781 Towne Road. Tickets to the 7 p.m. event are $10 at www.BrownPaperTickets.com, and any remaining will be sold at the door. The Old Sidekicks, another local band, will open with a bluegrass and country set.
If their recent performance at Wind Rose Cellars is any indication, FarmStrong’s men are reveling in this latest musical adventure. The sound of their acoustic instruments and voices float across the room, warm and light, as they sing songs from the album: “Blue Night,” “The Old Crossroads,” “Won’t You Be Mine” “You’re Still on My Mind.”
After “Across the Great Divide,” Faddis said, “We’ve made people cry with that song.”
“That might have been allergies,” quipped Cort.
To wrap the last set, Faddis began to sing “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” the Temptations hit from 1972. His fellow men joined in, putting soul and bluegrass together.
“What makes FarmStrong work,” said Dungeness Community Studios’ Anna Yates, is the rapport among the musicians, as well as “an absolute dedication to the songs and their stories.
“Jim brings a wealth of performance experience,” she added, “and a smoking-good voice.”
As for the CD’s 16 tracks, they have “no amplification, no overdubs. The beauty is in its simplicity.”
“Summer Sessions” will be available at Saturday’s event, at Nash’s Farm Store, 4681 Sequim-Dungeness Way, and at other FarmStrong gigs through this fall and winter.
More about the band awaits at FarmstrongMusic.com, while details about Dungeness Community Studios, which is available for recording sessions and as a rehearsal and performance space, are at 360-681-6224 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anna Yates added her own invitation to the FarmStrong show, recalling the feeling of that June recording session.
“The audience becomes a fifth member of the band,” she said.