Old Time Music Duo Release CD Of Traditionals

Old Time Music Duo Release CD Of Traditionals
Staff Photo Nick Brothers Willi Goehring (up) and Allison Williams are Old Ties. The duo released their self-titled album June 4. Copies can be found at May Bell Music.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers
Willi Goehring (up) and Allison Williams are Old Ties. The duo released their self-titled album June 4. Copies can be found at May Bell Music.

Allison Williams and Willi Goehring were brought together by a passion for old-time music.

The duo is best known around these parts as the leaders of the monthly square dances at The Backspace and various spots throughout Northwest Arkansas. When they aren’t calling dances, Williams and Goehring gig as Old Ties at places like Arsaga’s and Big Star.

The tradition of old-time music originates from the early 20th century in rural America. The music is acoustic, folksy and often involves storytelling, jokes and politics. Old-time is passed down through generations orally, and in that tradition, two-thirds of the songs on the record were personally taught to Williams and Goehring. Both play banjo, guitar and Goehring plays fiddle.

In early June, Old Ties finished a record with the help of Kelly Mullhollan of Still on The Hill, and celebrated its release at an intimate show at Backspace.

There’s a warmth to the album. The mixing is harsh at times, but that’s a part of the album’s experience. The CD sounds almost like a genuine field recording in a room somewhere in the hazy Ozark mountains.

The intimacy of the record, or rather the space you can hear in the album, is definitely the most charming aspect of the album and it’s a faithful recreation of what it’s like to see Old Ties perform live.

The album can be found at May Bell Music for $10, and will soon be available online at Cdbaby.com. The physical CD includes a handmade album with a woodcut by Aviva Stiegmeyer and liner notes about the songs chosen.

We sought out the chance to speak with them about the new album:

TFW: What was the inspiration behind the name Old Ties?

WILLIAMS: The name of the band comes from the song “Old Ties” by Uncle Dave Macon. We really liked that title the best, and referring to relationships. To me, it makes me think about my connection to this music and a deep comfortable relationship with the music.

GOEHRING: To me, the sort of bonds that this music makes is there are old ties because you can pick them up and put them down and they’re just the same as you left it. It’s a very conservative music that can be played with new energy inside of it all the time. It’s like meeting up with an old buddy and not reminiscing about the past but having the same relationship as you’re used to. As far as where we came from, both Allison and I come from a punk rock background. Allison a little bit more than me. That made it so we were interested in vernacular music that people were making for each other on a local and sustainable level. Old time music is sort of the pan-American version of that or sort of the history nerd’s version of that.

It has a built-in community, and often times that community is built around sustainable agriculture, local level politics or communal dances. The tradition engages all levels of engagement, comedy, dance, storytelling, music, visual art and so on.

TFW: As for the tracking on the album, why did you choose these songs to play and record?

WILLIAMS: We’ve talked for probably a year and a half about making this and it didn’t come together until we heard about Kelly Mulhollan doing recordings for Handmade Moments and the Ozark Highballers. I’d gotten to know him through working at local radio station, KPSQ and getting their studio together. I really learned that he was a knowledgeable person about audio, but he was also a person who listens and doesn’t think he knows everything. His taste and analysis of technical stuff is spot on. I felt like I trusted as him as an engineer.

GOEHRING: We just sat down and we did what we’ve been doing for years, which is play our favorite songs in a row. I think we did two takes of every song. A lot of these I’ve known since I was a kid, and other ones we’ve been listening to for many years. It was a low pressure recording environment. We’ve had a three hour set for a long time, we don’t do any publicity. This will be as close to anything like that we’ve had for self-promotion. The gigs have always just kind of come and we run the square dances. We always have things on the back burner. This is a nice homemade project. We’ll be here for your thing when you want us.

WILLIAMS: I really like the track list. I really feel like it covers a lot of what we like to do. There’s some shape note hymns on there, some stuff that was really popular like Carter Family era. There’s some great songs in here from outside the Ozark region which is important, too. I really like “Sals Got A Meatskin,” such a sweet song that’s actually quite dirty.

GOEHRING: I’m pleased with Neil Morris’ “Turnip Greens.” The song is known throughout the country. Jimmie Driftwood’s father of Mountain View fame, sings this really cool variation of the song that pumps up the Ozarks and says it’s the best place possible. The story is always the same, a guy goes up to heaven and St. Peter asks him what he wants to eat and he says “Turnip greens.” It’s a really bad food to want. The sociopolitical implications are that you’re really poor so you don’t know to want anything beside turnip greens.

TFW: What motivated you to record the album? What was the vision for it?

WILLIAMS: We just wanted a record. I have this friend in Canada, Chris Coole. He’s a little older than I am. He’s gotten a little bit famous, but right now he’s got this great little local career. He teaches, he’s got regular local gigs and he’s come to a comfortable place in his career where he’s not having to travel all the time. I asked him if he misses touring or if he should be doing more, and he says “It’s all about the work. It’s all about what you get done and what you make and put out into the community.” I didn’t want us to play for years and years and never make a record of it because it wasn’t perfect yet. So, I’m happy just to have something that’s a snapshot of where we’re at musically and share that with our friends, family and community.

GOEHRING: Community is a great keyword. I mentioned the Fayetteville square dance. We keep pretty busy just trying to be the liaisons to the culture that brings us joy and fellowship. To be able to work in that and say that’s your industry, in some small way, is a huge gift. I think that’s the goal, to make something that continues to give. Most of the time people know us from the square dances (more) than the duos. Without being too pretentious, I think square dances and these sorts of concerts bring people together in a way other music doesn’t necessarily.

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