The Farwells (Aug 2015)

The Farwells (Aug 2015)

The Farwells are Debra Clifford and Becca Wintle, an old-time Southern Appalachian roots music duo that represents a part of the Americana path not typically trodden. They have managed to create a sound that borrows from classic bluegrass, ancient Celtic music, Appalachian roots, and the folk revival of the early 1950’s to forge a music that is entirely their own. They are deeply reliant on each other in a very meaningful way:  their bond is forged through their marriage to each other and the musical alliance they have found through this deeply personal connection. The music on their debut album draws deeply from traditional Appalachian sources, but with a sensitivity to how these traditions can impact us today. The Farwells project a nuanced and moody color to their music, sometimes a whisper, but as powerful and compelling as anything a music lover could hope to find.

Debra Clifford’s name will be familiar to many roots music fans for her award-winning work with The Lonesome Sisters; an acoustic duo known for their evocative mountain ballads and mournful harmonies. They have released 6 critically acclaimed albums and have been featured artists at prestigious music festivals such as the Newport Folk Festival, Merlefest and every major roots music festival in the U.S and Europe. Formed as a collaboration with Ginny Hawker’s niece Sarah Hawker, The Lonesome Sisters are a seminal roots duo that has performed with everyone from Alice Gerrard and Hazel Dickens to The Levon Helm Band and Jesse Winchester. Debra is also a key member of the renowned old-time stringband Old Buck, which features Riley Baugus, Emily Schaad, and Sabra Guzman, and who released a self-titled debut album in 2013. Debra’s parents were country music fans who went out dancing every Saturday night down at the local VFW hall, raising young Debra on a steady diet of Patsy Cline, Hank Williams and Jim Reeves. “There was always music around and my mom sang constantly,” she says. It was in her early 20’s that Debra first heard bluegrass music and fell madly for it. Debra trekked all over the country in pursuit of her newfound love, and it was in this world that she honed her chops - especially as a high harmony singer. She has a reputation for having laser-beam pitch and a voice capable of nailing the high in the “high lonesome” sound. Over the years Debra has also found a voice as a songwriter, contributing several of her own compositions to The Lonesome Sisters and The Farwells, songs that fit seamlessly within a repertoire of timeless traditional works.

Becca Wintle was raised in England and came to American roots music via a different path, learning classical violin at age 8. “Everyone in our family played an instrument and it was assumed that I would too,” she says. At the tender age of 12, Becca began playing in an English folk band that took her under their wing. “They picked me up and took me to dances for 6 years! It was a life changing opportunity.”; The British folk scene opened Becca’s eyes to first bluegrass, then old-time music. When she first heard an old-time band in full swing, the energy and rhythm transported her to another place and she became a convert. Now an accomplished old time fiddler, Becca’s classical background can be heard in her spot-on intonation and full rich tone.

Debra met Becca when teaching a harmony-singing workshop at the Gainsborough Old Time Festival in the UK. Debra was immediately impressed with Becca’s intonation and sense of harmony on the fiddle – and her extraordinary voice, “I think there’s nothing like the connection you feel when you sing with someone,” Debra says. They immediately bonded musically and personally, finding common ground in old-time, bluegrass and the archaic ballads found in both the British and Appalachian repertoire. The British influence is reflected in their newly found band name: The Farwells are named after Debra’s 18th century ancestor, Bethiah Farwell.

On this, their debut recording, The Farwells explore a deeply rooted repertoire that stretches back through the generations, giving the listener an opportunity to be transported to an eternal place, buoyed by the sound of two kindred spirits in harmony.