On 26 May 2017, up and coming Pacific Northwest bands Roselit Bone and The Black Tones played the evening slots at the Northwest Folklife Festival’s American Standard Time stage. It was a perfect day for sitting in the grass and listening to music. After a long, wet, dreary winter, it felt like summer had finally gotten the upper hand.
Roselit Bone, formed by Joshua McCaslin in 2013, is based out of Portland, Oregon. I first learned about Roselit Bone from fiddler Faith Grossnicklaus while working on a small story about Pike Place Market’s busker community. When she’s not serenading the crowds at the bustling market, popular with locals and tourists alike, she’s either performing with Roselit Bone, working on her ceramic art, or planning musical adventures. I liked Roselit Bone even before I heard their music. On their website, under the bio section, Will Stenberg wrote a beautiful description of the band, comparing McCaslin’s voice and lyrics to Nick Cave, Marty Robbins, and nightmare-poetry. There’s not much I could add to that, except to compare the first time I heard Roselit Bone to the first time I heard Devotchka or Nick Cave’s soundtrack for The Proposition. The music and the voice compel you to stop and take notice.
The Black Tones are a local Seattle band consisting of founders (and twin siblings) Eva Walker and Cedric David and bassist Giordan Montero. Eva Walker was also playing with Claire Michelle, but as Claire joked recently (in Eva’s presence), they had to replace her because Eva’s getting too famous. It sure seems that way. The Black Tones recently played at Seattle’s Upstream festival. When I walked by, the venue was packed, and there were people lined up out the door. On Friday at Northwest Folklife, The Black Tones gave an energetic performance to an appreciative crowd. Their music draws on several genres, and throughout the set they paid homage to the important role that black musicians have played in shaping the musical landscape.