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Folk Dreams

The Musers go with the flow

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Assembly of Strings The Musers specialize in acoustic folk that's uplifting and fun.
  • Assembly of Strings The Musers specialize in acoustic folk that's uplifting and fun.

Since forming two years ago, Sebastopol's self-described "free-range folk" trio the Musers have spread their cheerful, light-hearted music throughout Sonoma County and beyond.

With two albums under their belt and a recent West Coast tour that took them to Oregon and Washington, the Musers wrap up their summer schedule with a show on Sept. 14 at the Occidental Center for the Arts alongside San Francisco string band Late for the Train.

The trio is made up of kindred musical spirits Anita Bear Sandwina on fiddle, mandolin, guitar and Banjolin, Megan McLaughlin on guitar and mandolin, and Tom Kuhn on upright bass.

"I think the other day I counted it up, it was 38 strings," says McLaughlin. Kuhn also contributes some mouth-persuasion and bass slapping.

The group took shape when McLaughlin moved to Sebastopol from Oakland two years back and met Sandwina (Spark & Whisper). Shortly thereafter, Kuhn, a longtime Sebastopol resident and musician was recruited and together the group bonded over creating fun, original folk tunes marked by harmonies and lots of laughter.

"We have a lot of fun together," says Kuhn. "We all get along, and we do stuff that has nothing to do with music—running or bicycling together."

"We also have a great mix of strengths that we all are able to make room for," Kuhn continues. "Anita works a lot on intuition, I'm analytical, so I have the spreadsheet on tour. Megan is a great salesperson, she'll approach [someone] and ask them to come see our show or book us."

Musically, Sandwina's Appalachian roots and McLaughlin's Celtic background let the group indulge in several influences for a folk sound that also incorporates funk, swing, jazz and bluegrass vibes.

As heard on their two releases—2018's self-titled debut LP and 2019's follow-up, Love Will See You Through—the group showcases their boot-stomping sound to great effect, though it's in the live setting where the jovial trio shines, whether it be at the local farmers' market or large North Bay music festivals. Still, the Musers' favorite place is West Sonoma County.

"I love being in Sebastopol," Kuhn says. "It's amazing how many good musicians there are in the Sebastopol area, for a relatively small community."

"When I moved here, I felt so embraced by the songwriting community," McLaughlin says. "I don't think you can find a more supportive community for the arts."

The Musers perform on Saturday, Sept. 14, at Occidental Center for the Arts, 3850 Doris Murphy Ct, Occidental. 7:30pm. $15-$19. occidentalcenterforthearts.org.

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