MUSIC BOX: Shady Rill, Alex and the XO’s hit town

By on October 14, 2014

Shady Rill expands the folk tradition 


Tom MacKenzie and Patti Casey of Shady Rill (left) and Alex and the XO’s bring their music to Jackson on Tuesday.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – It’s the low water time of year when a rill, or brook, percolates though a canyon or babbles along the valley floor, emptying the high elevation snowpack before the onslaught of winter. Fitting then, that Vermont’s accomplished folk duo Shady Rill will trickle into town for an intimate show at Dornan’s.

Patti Casey (vocals, guitar, flute, seated clogging) and Tom MacKenzie (vocals, banjo, ukulele, hammered dulcimer, keys) will journey west from the central Vermont town of Adamant for a six-show tour that turns around in Moose. Casey and MacKenzie have played Dornan’s a few times in the past, once as Shady Rill and a few times as members of Vermont folk group Woods Tea Party. Together they explore everything from French Canadian dance tunes and Tin Pan Alley to Old Time Country and original material in the expanding realm of traditional acoustic music. The small room at Dornan’s Spur Bar makes them feel right at home.

“There are quite a few small venues in Vermont. In fact, there are not many big rooms,” MacKenzie said. “There has always been a small but dedicated audience here. Our type of music seems to come and go in cycles, but there are a lot of younger musicians coming up adding new energy.”

A proven and prolific songwriter, Casey blends “New England-flavored” bluegrass with folk and has released five solo albums, the latest being The Heart of A Waiting Boy (2012). Her career has led her to perform on A Prairie Home Companion, while Casey’s song craft has earned recognition from some of the country’s most prestigious competitions. She won Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Songwriter’s Competition, joined the ranks of Gillian Welch by winning the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, and placed first in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s troubadour contest.

A common fixture at hundreds of New England contra dances over the years, MacKenzie teaches banjo, ukulele and hammered dulcimer when not performing. He regularly explores genres such as American old-time, Scandinavian, ragtime, classical or even Clarinet Polka on the dulcimer while also penning his own songs.

“I couldn’t imagine not playing music; it’s just a big part of my life,” MacKenzie said. “Although it’s not a vocation to get rich by, we get to travel to some wonderful places and get to know a lot of great people. We love touring, especially to beautiful places. We try to add some down time during tours so that we can hike or visit with folks we have met over the years. We do two or three big tours a year for two to three weeks and the rest are just long weekends. Both of us also do other non-music work, but the music is our passion.”

Shady Rill, 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Dornan’s in Moose. $15. 733-2415.

Kisses and Hugs via Illinois

Indie-pop and alternative quintet Alex and the XO’s formed at Illinois State University in 2011. Backed by Ryan Ristucci (guitar, vocals), Trenton Perry (mandolin), Storm Angone (bass) and Joe Brandenburger (drums), front woman Alexandra Fisher (lead vocals, ukulele, guitar) brings an articulated, Alanis Morissette vocal delivery of jangly pop melodies and at times, rock ’n’ roll energy. Venturing west for what looks like their first tour in the area, the XO’s have a spectrum of haunting to catchy tunes for their Jackson debut.

Alex and the XO’s, 10 p.m. on Tuesday at Pinky G’s. Free. 733-1500


About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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