Danny Barnes and Matt Sircely at Alex's

The duo's original music is a contemporary expression of old, American forms
Banjoist and guitarist Danny Barnes (front) and mandolinist Matt Sircely will present a benefit concert for KS Wild at Alex's.Photo courtesy of Matt Sircely

Friends for nearly a decade, banjoist and guitarist Danny Barnes and mandolinist Matt Sircely, both of Port Townsend, Wash., recently have teamed up for a short series of West Coast shows, including one to benefit Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland.

Americana is the foundation for both songwriters' exploratory and innovative, original songs, which Sircely aptly describes as "open-minded roots music."

If you go

Who: Danny Barnes and Matt Sircely

What: Benefit for Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, March 21

Where: Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar, 35 N. Main St., Ashland

Cover: $10 to $15

Call: 541-482-8818

"It's very reverent but, at the same time, limitless," says the rock-loving folkie. "It's not bound by genre, but it's mindful of what makes each style musically."

Sircely kindly narrows "limitless" to old-time, bluegrass, country, blues and rock traditions while Barnes' music is more or less influenced by noise music, avant-garde, country-western, "compose" music, pop, folk, blues and jazz.

"There's been a tremendous exploratory, experimental impetus in American music, and I'm trying to breathe some of that into my work," Barnes says.

"My roots are like my fundamental sound — banjos, fiddles and country fiddles and things like that — but at the same time, I consider my poetry and sonic architecture to be more contemporary."

Both musicians' lyrics have narrative components to go with their elaborate soundscapes. Sircely writes historical fiction with modern metaphors, and Barnes is all about characters with literary ties.

With nearly 20 records, touting about 10 songs each, Barnes says he has run out of personal experiences to write about and, instead, gets new material and insight from daily observations, as well as classic literature and movies. Some of his characters are courtesy of books by Thomas Hardy, Charles Baudelaire, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe.

For now, the duo is only a fun, interim project as Sircely fronts Django Reinhardt-inspired ensemble Hot Club Sandwich and roots band New Forge. He also plays in various formats with guitarist David Jacobs-Strain. Barnes frequently tours solo as Barnyard Electronics, combining banjo with electronic music, and has collaborated with numerous, big-name artists, including Dave Matthews.

Matthews and Barnes jammed and performed together on numerous occasions and contributed to one another's albums, including Barnes' 2009 release, "Pizza Box."

Matthews praises the album, saying " 'Pizza Box' is my favorite new music, my favorite rock record and my favorite country record. ... The music is smart and soulful, and the lyrics are profound. It is heaven and earth. It is Americana, from the back porch to the pulpit, shattered dreams on angels' wings. I can't stop listening."

In 2011, Barnes released "Rocket," which he later rerecorded in Barnyard Electronics-style ("Poison") and as stripped-down demos ("Angel").

He also recently signed Sircely to his cassette label, Minner Bucket Records, and is helping him record and produce a batch of original songs.

Part of the underground music scene, cassette tapes, Barnes says, are an inexpensive way to release music to real music fans because only real music fans keep tape decks.

On a CD or iTunes, listeners have the liberty to skip around but "on a cassette, you have to listen to it straight through as it was originally intended," he says.

Cover to the benefit concert at Alex's is $10 to $15. Call 541-482-8818.

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