by Gus Marshall
Acoustic old-time roots blues duo Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons will be performing two concerts this Saturday at The Rainier Valley Cultural Center. The performances will be recorded and produced into their fourth full length album entitled The Antidote.
Hunter and Seamons are historians, educators, and community organizers who have a deep love and respect for the genres of early blues, vintage jazz, ragtime, field hollers, and old-time music that is apparent in their authentic renditions of America’s forgotten folk-music. Versatile multi-instrumentalists, proficient on the banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, they intertwine complicated harmonies and melodies with a delicate vocal delivery, securely supported by their expert technical instrumentation and historical awareness.
South Seattle resident Ben Hunter spoke with The South Seattle Emerald about his work in the community and the the upcoming concert.
Gus Marshall: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Ben Hunter: Lesotho. Grew up mostly in Phoenix, although had two year stints in Seattle as a 3- to 4-year-old and Zimbabwe as a 7- to 9-year-old.
GM: How did you start playing the violin?
BH: Mom tells the story of me going with her to see the symphony when I was 5, and me asking what that instrument was and saying I wanted to play it.
GM: How long have you been playing professionally?
BH: Eleven years as income but my first professional gig was as a 12- or 13-year-old for a church friend’s wedding.
GM: How did you discover old-time music?
BH: Going to jam sessions in Seattle looking for places that played fiddle music.
GM: What is your take on the Seattle old time scene?
BH: I mean, as far as old time metropolitan cities in the country, pretty good. Not as stiff as I’ve seen. Although there a lot of young folks in PNW playing old time and doing new things with it.
GM: What speaks to you about the blues?
GM: What is your mission as a musician?
BH: To play and write good music. To learn as much as I can for as long as I can. To teach it whenever I can. Have it take me around the world.
GM: How did you meet Joe Seamons?
BH: My best friend from college introduced us as they had met at a bluegrass festival at Hornings HideOut.
GM: How did the concept for The Antidote (your upcoming live recorded album) come to you?
BH: Driving through California. We’ve been playing these songs for a while, telling stories about them, applying and curating then to our current times, and it seemed like their messages acted as medicine for coping and understanding our world right now. We’re more connected than we ever were and the most disconnected we’ve ever been also. The Anitdote is taking a break from the insanity and the rapid pace of life, and listening to good music, tall tales, and silly jokes that bring our guard down, relax us, and make us smile.
GM: Will you and Joe be playing with any other guest musicians on Saturday?
BH: Yessir! Thione Diop on djembe and talking drum, Darrius Wilrich on keys, and Forrest Marowitz on bass! It’s gonna be dope!
GM: Can you tell me about your work you do with the community?
BH: I co direct a nonprofit called Community Arts Create, I’m co-founder and partner of the Hillman City Collaboratory, and I’m co-founder and partner for the soon to be open, Black & Tan Hall!
GM: What brought you to South Seattle?
BH: People that looked like me, an energy that is life-giving, neighbors, movers and shakers, color, diversity, food, walking distance, familiarity, history, and legacy.
GM: What keeps you here?
BH: Most of the same things I listed above that are still here.
What: The Antidote (Live Concert Recording)
Where: Rainier Valley Cultural Center. 3515 S Alaska Street.
When: Saturday December 8, 2018 4 PM and 8 PM (two showtimes)