Jayme Stone: Folklife Project

Canadian artist's Helena, Ronan concerts plant heirloom musical seeds in modern soil

On Stage
Jayme Stone: Folklife
Jayme Stone’s Folklife album was recently nominated for a Juno Award for Traditional Roots Album of the Year.

Jayme Stone is a Canadian composer, banjoist, instigator, producer, and educator. He brings all those skills to his latest project, Folklife, which comes to Helena Feb. 13 and Ronan Feb. 15.

Stemming from his Lomax Project, Stone treats old field recordings as heirloom seeds passed down from a bygone generation in Folklife.

Planting these sturdy seeds in modern soil, this versatile gathering of musicians has cultivated vibrant Sea Island spirituals, Creole calypsos, and stomp-down Appalachian dance tunes for contemporary listeners.

Their concerts and educational programs are moving, inventive, and participatory experiences that prove folk songs are indeed perennials for the people. The new album, out now on Borealis Records, features Stone (banjo), Moira Smiley (accordion), Sumaia Jackson (fiddle), and Joe Phillips (bass). All four sing.

National Public Radio praises it as “a fresh contemporary take on musical treasures.”

Stone: A musical evangelist

On any given day, you might find the Juno Award-winning artist in his studio reworking a little-known hymn learned from a field recording, producing a session with musicians from Bamako or New York, creating experimental soundscapes with electric banjo and pedals, or tucking his kids in on time so he can get back to writing the next verse of a new song.

As a young banjoist, Stone was obsessed with learning from both traditional players and modern masters. In his late teens, he spent hours at the headphone station of his local record shop listening deeply to different kinds of music. He was interested in the “heart and guts” of what he heard – the warmth and grit of folk songs, the camaraderie and risk in jazz, the dynamics of chamber music, the cyclical rhythms of West Africa – but no one genre felt quite like his own. He might’ve forever remained a listener were he not compelled to make the music he heard in his head.

Stone, a “consummate team player” (Downbeat), has collaborated with Margaret Glaspy, Moira Smiley, Tim O’Brien, Bruce Molsky, Julian Lage, Dom Flemons, Bassekou Kouyate, and more.

Guided by his own aesthetic compass and a desire to let his collaborators “make the sounds that only they know how to make”, he has made a surprise album every two or three years – seven total. The Edmonton Journal calls him “a musical evangelist” who “loves using fresh approaches that get people hooked on wider musical traditions.”

Montana concerts

Helena: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Myrna Loy Center; call 406-443-0287.

Ronan: 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Ronan Performing Arts Center; 406-887-2739.