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