Welcome Tall Poppy String Band, a newly-formed old time trio consisting of banjo player Cameron DeWhitt in Portland, OR; fiddler George Jackson in Nashville; and guitarist Mark Harris in Fort Collins, CO. Fresh off a tour of the Pacific northwest this spring, they are set to release their self-titled debut album later this month.
The Poppies are dedicated to new old time music, and playful challenges to settled standards, describing the process by saying that the tradition is still being written. Just so.
A new video is available today, a live performance of a tune DeWhitt wrote, commissioned as a part of the group’s successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the recording. Titled Nine Eagle Feathers In A County Cork Park, it evokes the spirit of a piece of original sculpture, Kindred Spirits, by Alex Pentek, unveiled and dedicated in 2017 as a symbol of gratitude from the Irish people to the Choctaw nation of American native people, and their thoughtful 1847 gift of roughly $170 to help relieve the Irish famine of the time. That would equate to $14,000 in today’s dollars.
The Choctaw had just experienced the infamous Trail of Tears, where five American Indian nations were forcibly relocated from their homes in the southeastern United States. These men, women, and children were vigorously marched west of the Mississippi River by men on horseback, to regions that had been designated as Indian territories. Many died along the way, leading some cultural historians to refer to it as a genocide.
Resettled in their new location, and having survived tremendous brutality, the Choctaw were moved to offer what assistance they could in response to the famine in Ireland, feeling that the Irish had been abused as badly at the hands of the British government as they had here. Their gift wasn’t large, nor able to feed many people, but the Irish were deeply affected by the generosity and have expressed an indebtedness to the Choctaw nation ever since.
The tune’s titled perfectly describes Kindred Spirits, a set of nine stylized feathers arranged in a circle, each 20 feet tall and made of stainless steel. It was commissioned by the Middleton Town Council in 2015, and Choctaw Chief Gary Batton was in attendance for the dedication in June of 2017.
Here’s the guys performing the somber tune live.
The Tall Poppy String Band album will release July 29, and pre-orders are enabled now online.