Oct 25, 2018
by Robert Feuer
Renowned folk/blues artist Mary Flower, a two-time finalist in the National Finger Picking Guitar Championship, and nominated for three Blues Music Awards, has been one of America’s premier female guitar pickers for a long time.
She’s released ten CDs and produced a number of highly-regarded instructional DVDs and books, with a new one, recorded in Woodstock N.Y., arriving soon. Her repertoire includes originals (her favorites being instrumentals) and new arrangements of older songs.
Flower will be visiting the Sebastopol Community Center from her home in Portland on Nov.16 for an 8 p.m. solo show on acoustic and Lap Slide guitar. “I try to be my own band,” she says in our recent phone interview.
Her history began in a small town, Delphi, Indiana (dubbed Home of the Wabash & Erie Canal). She left for Denver in the early 1970s after getting a job playing at ski lodges. At that time, female musicians were not common, she says. There, she helped found a woman’s music collective, the Mother Folkers, which put on big annual shows for 25 years. “It’s still legendary around those parts.”
She made important connections during her Denver years. Geoff Muldaur and David Bromberg used her when they arrived in town seeking female backups. She attended a music camp in West Virginia in 1990, where she collaborated with Jim Schwall and Phil Wiggins.
“It changed my life,” Flower says. “When you’re a woman in a male-dominated world, it’s a good thing when you’re able to be respected by them. It made me realize I was pretty good at this and it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Needing a change, Flower relocated to Portland in 2004, after visiting there and finding the music scene attractive.
Though her focus is blues and folk, since 2013 she’s performed with the BBQ Boys, a four-piece jazz, blues, and jug band started by Fritz Richmond of the original Jim Kweskin Jug Band.
“People like to put me in in the blues box but I’m a lot wider than that,” she says. “I channel the old guys. I don’t copy them. I try to do the songs people haven’t heard.” She prefers the Piedmont finger-picking style, which originated in the 1920s in a wide swath of the East Coast
Flower followed up her early experiences at music camp with visits to Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch, playing with him there and at concerts. Kaukonen referred to her as “a national treasure in your own backyard.” Now, she has her own camp east of Portland.
She discusses a problematic appearance at Buddy Guy’s club in Chicago. With the Chicago Bulls game on TV, the noisy crowd wouldn’t let her play until it ended. “It was the worst night I could have ever played in Chicago,” Flower says.
A much quieter crowd is expected at her Sebastopol show.
For more Mary, go to maryflower.com
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