Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons have been performing American roots music together since 2012. The music they play is inspired by early 20th century American folk, novelty songs and black Americana.
About Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons
Ben Hunter was born in Lesotho, a tiny nation in South Africa, and was largely raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Living with his globe trotting mother, he also spent 2 of his formative years in Zimbabwe. There, at the age of seven, his love of rhythm began to blossom as he learned to play the marimba and perform traditional Shona music, while also continuing to pursue better grasp on the violin. Throughout his early travels, Ben was introduced to a large variety of music, ranging from the folk traditions of the United States, down through Latin America, and across the seas to the continent of Africa.
Ben began studying classical violin at at the age of 5, and was taught predominantly in the that tradition. Ben played in a variety of youth and string orchestras before, eventually, majoring in violin performance at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Adopting the Pacific Northwest as his new home, Ben moved to Seattle, WA soon after college. After discovering the vibrant diversity of SE Seattle, he founded a non-profit,
Community Arts Create, to break down social barriers through community arts activities. In 2011, he joined Renegade Stringband after meeting its banjo player, Joe Seamons, at String Summit. After two years of national tours in 2012- 13, both Ben and Joe attended the Pt. Townsend Acoustic
Blues Festival, where living legends of traditional blues and ragtime showed them a new musical direction. After founding a new duo act with Joe to pursue this direction, Ben suggested that they expand their work as educators (both regularly taught private lessons and after school classes) by developing a new music project as a program of Community Arts Create.
The Rhapsody Project was thus established, with the goal to strengthen communities through song and spread the gospel of folk and blues music. Rhapsody is the integration of performance and teaching through public events and school workshops designed to facilitate cross-generational, cross-cultural interactions through the medium of music. Ben plays an active role in the SE Seattle community, serving on a variety of boards and committees that serve to develop the south Seattle region economically, socially, environmentally, and all the while, artistically. In 2013, Ben co-founded The Hillman City Collaboratory, the mission of which is to be an instrument of transformation that provides a built environment and
programming specifically designed to create community and equip change-makers.
Joe Seamons was raised in the backwoods of Northwestern Oregon in a house built by his parents. There, he was exposed to local folk music of sawmill workers, loggers and fishermen whose music reflected the character of the region. As he heard these songs in living rooms, around campfires, and at cider pressing parties, Joe also attended public school in the small
nearby town of Rainier, Oregon. Consequently, he was exposed to the artistry and fierce environmentalist passion of his parents and their friends as well as the quiet conservatism of a tiny town full of paper mill workers and longshoremen. Living between these two cultures perfectly prepared Joe to relate to the outsider perspective of the great early blues artists, whose music he discovered after taking up guitar at age 16 and while exploring the influences of his local folk heroes.
After graduating from Rainier High School in 2003, Joe moved to Portland where he studied music and English at Lewis & Clark College. In 2006, the College’s abroad program allowed him to travel to London, where he spent four months pursuing an independent study of British folk song and its influences on American balladry during the day, and busking on train platforms at night. In 2007 Joe graduated from Lewis & Clark with a major in English poetry and a minor in music. The following year Joe worked to deepen his knowledge of the history of Northwest folk songs by applying for and receiving a Woody Guthrie Fellowship from the BMI Foundation. He travelled to New York City, where he worked for a week in
the Woody Guthrie Archives uncovering manuscripts and letters written by Guthrie during his time in Portland, OR (in 1941). This intensive study of Guthrie’s Columbia River songs greatly enhanced his appreciation of the power and value of the obscure music he had heard growing up. To properly
perform and interpret this music, Joe soon took up the banjo, taking instruction from the brilliant Northwest folklorist (and old family friend) Hobe Kytr. Joe’s passion for Northwest folk culture soon took shape in a new musical endeavor called Timberbound, an acoustic quartet that performs Northwest ballads.
As he studied banjo with Hobe, Joe also began to spend time with Hobe’s longtime musical partner; Dave Berge; Dave is a former logger and fisherman who wrote very fine songs about his work in the Northwest. Joe learned Dave’s songs and brought him into the studio to play autoharp and sing on Timberbound’s self-titled album in 2014. While doing this work as a folklorist, Joe teaches guitar part time and tours nationally with Renegade Stringband, a new-timey bluegrass band he founded in 2010. As his bandmates began choosing life off the road, Joe deepened his commitment to American folk and blues traditions in 2012, when he began performing as
a duo with his Stringband-mate, Ben Hunter.
Reviews of Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons
“Convivial, relaxed roots music like this seems hyper-relevant… especially when it is played by a multi-racial trio at a venue that celebrates historical black-and-tan clubs, which ‘offered a haven for people of all races in an era when segregation dictated social boundaries.’ A Black & Tan Ball is righteous stuff.” – Songlines Magazine
“Hunter and Seamons present the kinds of songs that invite participation, and they give lots of indications of the various forms participation might take. A hand slapping a knee on “Some of these Days,” a gloriously goofy kazoo on “Jungle Nights in Harlem” a pair of bones on “Mississippi Heavy Water Blues,” the solo callouts on “Jazz Fiddler” – whether you actually do grab something and play along, the point is made that this is not music for the stage, it’s music for the living room, specifically your living room, not just theirs. The very sympathetic production across the album underscores that idea. For those of us who aren’t able to be in the room with them, this disc is so inviting, so intimate, that you’ll feel like you were.” – Glen Herbert, Sing Out!