"The Tree People", recorded in 1979 by acoustic group of the same name in a studio in the woods near Eugene, Oregon, has been rediscovered around the world and was reissued to critical acclaim in 2006 as a CD by Tiliqua Records of Tokyo, Japan and in 2008 as a vinyl record by Guerssen Records of Spain. The Tree People have been signed by Guerssen Records of Spain, who reissued a second Tree People album, "Human Voices", recorded in 1984, on June 1st, 2009. The Tree People are now performing live at concerts and festivals, and work on a new Tree People album, "It's My Story" is complete! That album will be released by Guerssen Records of Spain in 2010. Stephen Cohen's solo guitar piece "No More School", from "The Tree People" is included in "Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli", a collection of acoustic guitar music released by The Numero Group of Chicago.
Stephen has created a blog (http://treepeoplechronicles.blogspot.com) documenting the history and new interest in the Tree People. Some excerpts from that blog:
I moved to Eugene, a college town in Oregon in 1977, as a young songwriter and guitarist, and began playing at local coffee houses and concert venues there. At a Eugene coffee house called The Home Fried Truck Stop (which no longer exists), I heard an amazing percussionist and recorder player named Jeff Stier playing with an acoustic trio. When I played at the same place a week later he was in attendance, and I asked him if he was interested in performing with me in the future. He had a friend at the time, Rachel Laderman, a classical flautist and daughter of the classical composer Ezra Laderman. Thus The Tree People came into being.
After a year or so of performing and practicing as a group, we went into a studio in the woods in Greenleaf, Oregon called Rockin' A Ranch. James Thornbury, a Eugene blues musician at the time, and (later to tour around the world with Canned Heat for 10 years) joined us on bass on a few songs as well as bottleneck guitar and voice on "Bring in the Water" on the recording, and we recorded "The Tree People" in one weekend.
Because my two children were very young at the time, and because Jeff had work commitments (he was a bike mechanic and then a car mechanic during those years) and Rachel was attending the University of Oregon, we never thought about touring. But we did perform all the time in Eugene: at coffee houses such as the Home-Fried Truckstop and the Loft, at outdoor market places such as the Saturday Market, at concert venues such at the W.O.W. Hall, The University of Oregon, and the Eugene Garden Club, at local festivals such as the Willamette Folk Festival, The Harvest Fair, the Eugene Celebration and the Oregon Country Fair, and live radio shows such as KLCC's Live From the Center- we performed at just about every possible place one could perform in Eugene at that time.
Rachel moved away when she finished school, but me and Jeff kept performing as The Tree People, with various guest musicians, through the mid 1980's. A Seattle record company loved the Tree People album and sent us a contract for a national release of The Tree People, but they ended up putting the project on the shelf after the recession hit the Pacific Northwest hard in the early 1980's. We made one more recording as The Tree People, a cassette called Human Voices. Jeff eventually moved to Washington D.C. to work for U.S. congressman Peter DeFazio, and The Tree People came to an end.
After the early Tree People years I moved to Portland, Oregon and continued, and still continue, to create music, to record, to tour and perform regionally and nationally, and do workshops and residencies as a solo performer and with my Talk Talk Band. My 2006 album, Here Comes the Band, is a children's album, suitable for adults, that has received some national attention and great reviews: "Here Comes The Band, multi-instrumental folk music.. gives reason to be optimistic for the future of music for families." "The amazing thing about this CD: your tiny kids can sing right along with every single song on the album, while grownups can bask in the glow of Cohen's musical inventiveness" Here's what Michael Ross said in his PureMusic review of my 2004 CD, Stephen and the Talk Talk Band: "The total effect is one of the most emotionally affecting recordings I have experienced in a long time". I have won some national awards for my song writing, including an award at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas in 2000 and several other awards for my song Thomas, which was featured in the second Tree People recording, Human Voices, as well as in my solo album from 2000, real life and fiction.
But The Tree People still live! A few years back I started getting e-mails about and orders for that 1979 vinyl album,The Tree People, from all over the world. Most of the few remaining original vinyl albums were quickly sold out, but as the word spread, Johan Wellens of Tiliqua Records in Tokyo, Japan stepped in and released a CD reissue of the album in 2006 to world wide critical acclaim and Guerssen Records of Spain followed with a vinyl reissue in 2008. We have signed with Guerssen Records, who reissued of our 1984 album, "Human Voices" in June, 2009, and will be releasing our new album (yes a new Tree People album is completed!) in 2010. My solo guitar piece, "No More School", from "The Tree People" is included in "Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli", a collection of acoustic guitar music by The Numero Group of Chicago, of which KVCU radio has called, "a precious release in that it brings to life fourteen lost, forgotten and obscure recordings from some of the finest acoustic guitar innovators in American history. "
Now, with the renewed interest our music, the Tree People, with myself on acoustic guitar and voice; Jeff (who now lives just down the road from my Portland home) on recorders, flute, hand-drums, orchestra bells and percussion; and Seattle double bass player Rich Hinrichsen (a wonderful new member of The Tree People!), are rehearsing weekly, creating fresh versions of material from our early albums as well as a whole body of new work, and are at last performing again live! After our first performance in 22 years, for about 50 people at a small Seattle coffee house, we successfully kicked off our new performing life with an emotional performance to a full house listening audience of over 100 (several of whom had copies of our original vinyl album) at the White Eagle in Portland in December of 2007. We continued to rehearse and perform in 2008, playing at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, the Arts in Nature Festival in Seattle, the Upstage in Port Townsend, Washington, the Matrix in Chehalis, Washington, as well as performing a live recorded concert for a small invited audience at the Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon. We did a creative residency at Centrum in Port Townsend for a week in September of 2008, where we recorded half of our new album at the Synergy Sound Studio on the Centrum grounds. We are in the Art Northwest 2009-2010 Northwest on Tour book, a juried roster of performing artists. We are now preparing to finally take our act on the road with festival and concert dates in 2009 (including a performance in Portland at Performance Works Northwest in August and at the Mississippi Studios in November), 2010, and 2011 (when we will be touring Europe and performing at the MUSIQUES DISPERSES festival in Spain. The story continues- the same love of music, the same attention to detail is there, and I can't wait to see what happens next!
Stephen Cohen- acoustic guitar and voice
Jeff Stier- recorder, flute, and percussion
Rich Hinrichsen- double bass
"The Tree People," originally released in vinyl in 1979, and reissued as CD in 2006 by Tiliqua Records of Tokyo, Japan and reissued as a vinyl record by Guerssen Records of Spain in 2008.
"Human Voices," originally in released in cassette in 1984, has been reissued by Guerssen Records in June, 2009.
Stephen Cohen's guitar piece, "No More School", from "The Tree People" is included in "Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli", a collection of acoustic guitar music by The Numero Group of Chicago.
Stephen Cohen's post early Tree People (and pre current Tree People) recordings include Many Hats (1996), real life and fiction (2000), this is a test (2001, a vinyl single of two of Stephen's songs from real life and fiction released by Ethbo Music of London), Bridges of This Town (2002, a one-song CD about Portland's bridges), Stephen and the Talk Talk Band (2004), Here Comes the Band (2006, a children's album, suitable for adults)
"It's My Story" from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
"Legends of the Tree People" from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
"More than Yoko" from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
"Thomas" from "Human Voices"
"Space Heater" from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
"Grandfather" from "Human Voices"
"Living with the Animals" from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
"Sunday" from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
"X times Y" from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
"Hearing Test", from the Tree People's upcoming 2010 album, "It's My Story"
some press for the Tree People's November 27th, 2009 concert
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Tree People, Foothills Mississippi Studios Friday, November 27th, 9 PM $12 21+ (Fathers of Freak F...Tree People, Foothills
Mississippi Studios Friday, November 27th, 9 PM $12 21+
(Fathers of Freak Folk) Having seen two of their early albums reissued in recent years, Oregon's own Tree People are currently transitioning from rehashing their heyday material to working on some new stuff. The spirit of the project has not changed. Early tracks "Legends of the Tree People" and "More Than Yoko" mix dry
acoustic guitar flourishes with other acoustic dreamy elements to create ethereal folk that feels whimsical and wierd. "She said I love you even more than Yoko could ever love John," front man Stephen Cohen sings on the latter. There's a reason the band reissues have found a cult audience, and it looks like the Legend of the Tree People will live to see a few more chapters.
Casey Jarmin, Willamette Week
The Tree People Back, New Album Out Next Year
by Barbara Mitchell on November 18, 2009 Oregon Music News
the Tree People in front of Dead Aunt Thelma's- color
Portland's acoustic-folk pioneers the Tree People are indeed back in action, and preparing to release their first album in 26 years in 2010. The band's gently meandering tunes have been rediscovered thanks to reissues of their first two albums (originally released in '79 and '84) and a renewed interest in off-kilter folk music in general. Whether you were an original fan or a newbie who's just getting hip to the band's earthy, wide-eyed positivity, this is good news.
9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave. 503-288-3895, $12
Music Editor Amy McCullough's column about The Tree People in Willamette Week
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About a month ago, I received an email that made me think ’90s punk-grunge outfit the Treepeople (fe...About a month ago, I received an email that made me think ’90s punk-grunge outfit the Treepeople (featuring Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch) was reuniting. And, based solely on that band’s dirtied-up, angsty cover of the Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again”—not to mention my immense BTS fanhood—I was pretty excited. Little did I know I’d learn an underground history lesson in Northwest psych folk instead.
See, Martsch’s Treepeople weren’t the first. Back in 1979, a man named Stephen Cohen went into “a studio in the woods near Eugene” (now-defunct Rockin’ A Ranch) and recorded a self-titled album under the Tree People name—an album one fan laid down 150 bucks for at Portland music store Exiled Records. “It didn’t last for very long,” Exiled owner Scott Simmons recalls. Cohen, who continued to play after the Tree People called it quits in 1985, says of the album’s 2006 Japanese reissue: “It is a nice feeling to do something, have it sit for years, and then be around to see it appreciated.” But to some, that original was already sonic gold: “People into psychedelic folk definitely know about it,” says Simmons.
Here in Portland, plenty of music fans are into psychedelic folk, and—whether those fans know it or not—they could lump the Tree People’s spooky, hypnotic forest folk in with that of legendary faves like Texan duo Charalambides or British psych-folkstress Vashti Bunyan. All share a key aesthetic: a sound that’s one with nature, whether it be evoked by cryptic lyrics, sylvan flute, hand percussion or experimental forays into trancelike string noise.
So why did the Tree People vanish? Cohen’s then-young children made touring a non-option, and original bandmate Jeff Stier (recorders, flute, hand drums) eventually moved to Washington, D.C., for work. When the kind-voiced Cohen started hearing from “collectors [and] music fans who all had somehow discovered our first vinyl album,” he contacted Stier only to find that he was moving back to Oregon. “The enthusiasm for our older recorded output [played] a big part in inspiring us to play again,” says Cohen.
The reincarnated band—which is already working on fresh material with new double-bassist Rich Hinrichsen—played a “small, warm-up performance” this past Saturday at a coffee shop in Seattle. “It was great to get our feet wet again,” says Cohen. Simmons’ response when told the Tree People are playing Portland this week? “Oh, weird.” Yup, and pretty awesome, too.
3 recent reviews of Human Voices
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Review by Francois Couture, Allmusic: The discreet Oregon band the Tree People released their seco...Review by Francois Couture, Allmusic:
The discreet Oregon band the Tree People released their second album, "Human Voices: as a cassette, in 1984. A minor folk gem, it remained unavailable on CD until 2009. This album contains peculiar underground folk songs and acoustic guitar-and-flute instrumentals. The writing is delicate, careful, almost fragile at times and features occasional dissonances and complex chords that keep the emotional charge in teh murky waters of melancholia, indecision, and disappointment. There is a strong influence from Pearls Before Swine and the kind of American freak folk that happened outside of the major urben centers and didn't get much exposure (or get recorded) back in the day. With hindsight,one could easily put the Tree People near the roots of the tree whose branches would give birth to a flurry of groups usually lumped together (rightfully or not)under the label "New Weird Underground." That said, this trio is closer to Simon & Garfunkel than bands like In Gowan Ring or Jackie-O Motherfucker would ever get. However, in the vocal delivery and use of recorder, one could hear a precursor of In Gowan Ring ("Opus II" falls somewhere between that band and one of Steve Hackett's instrumental tunes).Guitarist and main composer Stephen Cohen has a pleasant understated voice, with something of a childlike tone in the phrasing, as if he was pouting. The songs "Grandfather" and "Thomas" sport exquisite melodies supporting strong lyrical content, and "If That's Entertainment" is a surprising song/tirade about what the people want and what the artist is willing to give them. On the instrumental front, the highlights are "Things Fall Apart" and "Opus II", two tracks that could appeal to a wide range of people, if they were given exposure. "Human Voices" is not a life-changing record, but it is definitely above average, has a timeless quality (already obvious upon its release in 1984- rarely has an album from that year sounded so un-mid-'80's), and it sweats honesty through every pore. Recommended.
Gerald Van Het, psychedelicfolk.com:
Hearing the second release of The Tree People I can hardly believe how this never had an LP version or CD/LP reissue before. Reminding me slightly of Ptarmigan with its flute improvisations and endless shoreline waves of skimming fingerpickings in between some very strong songs. I understand who the Tree People became one of Johan's (Tiliqua Records) favorite bands. By some reasons the reissue now was released in Spain instead of Japan, reaching hopefully a wider public. The two songs I meant that pop our very well in between the improvisations are "Thomas" and "If That's Entertainment", two very conscious songs which I think beg to covered some day, for they will remain actual and recognizable, as strong statements. The opener, "Human Voices" is the only track which has a triple voice arrangement, of an almost religious introduction. The song, "Grandfather" is moving too, about someone who passed away and leaves their traces of being there among his family members. The song is drawn into the atmosphere, with some dreamy sadness. A very strong album, that should be regarded as a classic for the genre.
Foxy Digitalis website:
This is a welcome 25th anniversary reissue of this Oregon trio rare, cassette-only sophomore effort of this Oregon trio. Dreamy, mellow folk tunes paved the way for the current new folk movement and unique touches like the echoed vocals on Grandfather and the tinkling bells on Rain, Rain make this something special. The Jeff Stier flute and recorder establishes a warm, floating vibe throughout the mostly instrumental album, and the liner notes from main composer Stephen Cohen are both historical and informative. The Spanish air to the Cohen guitar on the lengthy Things Fall Apart is both hesitant and inviting, and draws the listener in to the Stier recorder/flute flourishes, transporting the listener to an otherworldly plane, part gypsy dance, part ominous bullfight. (Note: The bonus track, Sketches also benefits from this earthy, European vibe and is generously dedicated to the part-time drummer of the band, Denis Mochary, who played on it and several other tracks and who passed away in Japan several years ago.)
Thomas is a live favorite that is part Simon & Garfunkle, part Peter, Paul & Mary and 100% fun. The harmonies are particularly well-arranged, weaving wonderfully around the Stier recorders. This is one for those rainy day dreamaways where you find your mind wandering off to lonely strolls through the park, or navel gazing under the old apple tree out back. And if you cannot get up and do the jolly jig to Dance, then your get up and go has got up and gone and it is time to return to your armchair traveling, back to the kinder, gentler times of 1984 to climb up and build a tree house to hang out with The Tree People and mellow out to Human Voices.
Jeff Penczak (11 August, 2009)
Stylus Magazine review by Paul Teasdale
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The forgotten legacy of The Tree People can be pretty accurately traced to one summer weekend i... The forgotten legacy of The Tree People can be pretty accurately traced
to one summer weekend in 1979 when
Stephen Cohen, Jeff Stier and Rachel Laderman headed to the secluded Rockin' A Ranch Studio located somewhere in the backwaters of Oregon to record an album. Originally released as a limited run LP, the record
slipped almost unnoticed into the dusty annals of history before Johan Wellens (owner and music archivist of Tokyo based Tiliqua Records) salvaged the album from obscurity and re-released it on his own label 28 years later, this long-neglected album flags up the telling historical debt that modern folk, in all its freaky derivations, owes to those early , unsung pioneers.
While Cohen's voice and acoustic guitar predominate, the contributions of Stier (percussion, recorder) and Laderman (flute) are just as essential. They react to his
playing almost instinctively. It's a good thing: the album's nine songs often feel as though the group is merely jamming around pretty loose structures. (The quietly terrifying "Opus" might exemplify the group's
sensitivity to each other's tonal fluctuations best.) Even the structured hippy rumba of "Morning Song" still sees Laderman frolicking with abandon on her flute over the
Perhaps as a result of their free-form approach, the tone of the album modulates between a dreamy acquiescence and a jagged purposefulness; the soothingly lyrical "Pot of Gold" and "The Pineapple Song, " the most structured pieces, contrast with the
ad hoc violence oof "Sliding"s raw steel-stringed riffs and raga-esque hand drum and the deliriously heathen cadenzas on "Space Heater" and "No More School." These imprumptu asides make listening to the album slightly unnerving, but hugely compelling- you never know when the the next
jarring slide or dissonant not is going to land.
Like the reissue of Vashti Bunyan's Just Another Diamond Day in 2000, this re-release goes some way toward preserving the easily overlooded tradition of outsider/ psych folk from sliding into the realm of self-perpetuating myth. But to appreciate this album from a historical perspective, as the mere totem ancestor to folkies lide Devendra, Espers, six Organs of Admittance et al., would be do it a gross disservice. Of even greater value, The Tree People is an album of exquisitely crafted music, regardless of its undoubted historical import. Here's to their Lookaftering.
Anthology Recordings listing and Aquarius Records review
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Originally recorded at a studio in the woods outside of Eugene, Oregon in 1979, the self-titled albu...Originally recorded at a studio in the woods outside of Eugene, Oregon in 1979, the self-titled album "The Tree People" is a fantastic piece of hippie acid-folk. This album features free-hand percussion, eerie flute melodies, and bare hand guitar playing with Cohen's strong vocals completing the portrait painted through melody. The soothing and mellow "Pot Of Gold" and "The Pineapple Song", the almost heathen sounding "Space Heater", and half reggae, half backwoods sound of "Sliding" make for a highly diverse album that is a joy to listen to. It keeps you wondering what you're going to hear next.
Stephen and Jeff decided to bring The Tree People back together in 2008, including third member Rich Hinrichesen on double bass, and are once more touring as a live act.
Not to be confused with Dog Martsch's amazing ninteties outfit, the Tree People are equally amazing, but are a whole different proposition. This disc was originally released as a super limited LP way back in 1979 and managed to quietly disappear. Now, here we are nearly three decades later, and whattaya know? There's a whole movement of modern free folk, 'freak' folk and the like, and if you didn't know better. pretty sure we could pass this off as some strange super limited CD-R by some modern folk revivalists. But keen ears would certainly be able to tell. This is so entirely original (especially for the time) and genuine sounding. Mostly acoustic guitars, flute and vocals, The Tree People had two distinct sounds, the first, a lilting melancholy moonlit folk, like Cat Stevens or Van Morrison, a gorgeous lazy drawl, rich and lustrous, over simple folk and fluttering flutes, dreamy and gorgeous, sounding like some lost folk classic one minute, a strange "Girl From Ipanema" shuffle the next. But even at it's sweetest and softest, the record seems to always have a hint of meloncholy and sometimes even a trace of ominous foreboding. Which definitely gives the songs a subtly dark undercurrent. The majority of the record however is spent in full on hippy jam mode. Very Comus-like at times (especially on track two, "Sliding"), wild steel string excursions, tangles of fingerpicked melodies and aggressive strummed riffs, with a definite raga-like vibe, all over a smattering of hand drums and tablas, a glorious drifting buzzing steel string dronefolk that just sounds so incredibly timeless. Elsewhere, the same jams evolve into more tranquil acoustic dreaminess, with the flutes floating over sweet lilting melodies, but even then, the song will be peppered with sudden bursts of buzzing slide guitar, or brief squalls of atonal fingerpicking. SO cool. And considering the current love of all things freaky and folky, it's sort of amazing this stuff was already being made 27 years ago!
Obviously, fans of the current crop of modern folk troubadours will find this absolutely essential . Devandra, Vetiver, Espers, Newsom, whatever your particular poison, The Tree People will fit in frighteningly well. Hard to say whether it speaks to the prescience of The Tree People, or just to how much these modern bands have actually been 'borrowing'. Eitherway, this is absolutely essential. Packaged in a super deluxe Japanese miniture gatefold style CD sleeve, with a printed obi and extensive liner notes in English and Japanese!
Now Toronto, Other Music and Gnosis reviews
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Tree for All Whether you call it freak folk, real people psych or new weird American music, the g...Tree for All
Whether you call it freak folk, real people psych or new weird American music, the gently trippy self-titled debut from Oregonâ€™s Tree People â€“ recorded in 79 though it sounds like 69 â€“ has risen to the top of the heap of the genreâ€™s collectible artifacts. And once you hear the eerie flute, wistful strumming and entrancing hand percussion on the magnificently packaged reissue from Tiliqua Records, youâ€™ll quickly understand why this fragile masterwork is so revered by connoisseurs of backwoods hippie hijinks. Fans of Espers, MV & EE and Voice of the Seven Woods should investigate.
Tim Perlich, Now Toronto Magazine.
January 16, 2008
The Tree People (Tiliqua)
Thought this might have been unreleased songs by Doug Martsch's
old band, but this is a reissue of a legendary late '70s private folk album out of Oregon, led by guitarist and songwriter Stephen Cohen. Within lie nine thoroughly stunning examples of outsider folk, informed by the heat of Delta blues and the darker direction of serious post-Woodstock singer-songwriter a la Joni Mitchell or Van Morrison, all the while serving within and without the traditions of American folk. The arrangements are cunning yet gentle; the playing assured in statue but evocative and searching in execution. Rests aside the Gary Higgins and Virgin Insanity
reissues as a pinnacle of beatific, pristinely executed 20th century folk. Cohen's musicianship is something you can get lost in for hours on end.
(DM) Other Music web site
The Tree People
The Tree People were an Oregon based acoustic group centered around guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Stephen Cohen. "The Tree People" was privately released in 1979 and quickly disappeard into specialists collections. On the surface it would appear to be just another basic singer songwriter album, with an environmentalist message. Fortunately it's nothing of the sort. Rather "The Tree People" is a meditative, deeply introspective work, with stunningly clear production, that really does make one feel they are amongst natural surroundings. The best tracks feature recorder and flute, such a 'Opus" (my personal favorite), 'Pot of Gold', 'Morning Song' and 'The Pineapple Song.' Cohen has a slight rural twang in his voice, one that seems confident yet vulnerable. Despite the sparse nature of the recording, The Tree People are quite a distant cousin to the recent free-folk artists on exhibit today. For
progressive folk fans, the comparisons go northwards towards some similarly minded Canadians. Perhaps most obvious would be the Vancouver based Ptarmigan, though there's not a hint of aggression in The Tree People. But the acoustic guitar, fragile vocals and ample use of recorder are instantly recognizable. As well, there are similarities with their French speaking brethren in Quebec, such as L'Engouvelent or the earliest workds by Connivence. I've seen comparisons as far fetched as Comus and I would say that's about as far as one can get from Evil sounding aggressive pagan music? Not The Tree People! How about a new movement called Introspectica Americana? As is so often the case, due to family and career responsibilities, this was to be the end of the 4 piece band. They marched on as a duo, even managing to get out a cassette in 1984 titled "Human Voices." The CD reissue on Tiliqua Records is stunning. A beautiful Japanese mini-LP, extra thick cardboard, with a full history, photos, etc... It's very obvious that this is a labor of love, and that the label owner is a huge fan of the album. Bravo.
Tom Hayes, Gnosis web site,
June 8, 2007
"Psyche van het Folk" review
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Singer-songwriter Stephen Cohen gathered around him two good musicians to work with: percussionist a...Singer-songwriter Stephen Cohen gathered around him two good musicians to work with: percussionist and recorder player Jeff Stier, and flautist Rachel Laderman, forming a trio under the name the Tree People. After a year of performing and practicing the group had the chance to make a recording in a local recording studio in the forest, with additional guest musician James Thornbury, who was going to be a member of Canned Heat later, in their second period) on bass, slide guitar and vocals. The recording session showed all qualities of a one chance in a lifetime where everything seemed to come together, even when they only had just one weekend to record. 1,000 copies of the album were pressed. Due to personal obligations, the group was never was launched properly after the recording. Even when in 1984, they still did a second cassette-only release, "Human Voices," this couldn't prevent the Tree People to slowly submerge. Stephen Cohen however continued with a comparable musical style interest with three releases during this new century.
The first quality I notice immediately on the opening track, "Stranger" is Stephen Cohen's beautiful and emotionally rich voice, a song where the lyrics become rich with feeling during this performance.
Each track lands into an instrumental improvisation of a rare affectionate concentration. "Sliding,"
with hand percussion and slide-guitar, has an acid folk blues feeling. Also the song "Pot of Gold has a delicate rhythmic evolution carried out with great emotional strength, and some improvisation on flute, recorder, bass and guitar.
The calmness and delicacy of the unfolding instrumental "Opus" is from a rare quality, which makes it fit well with the Ptarmigan release I also reviewed on this site. "Morning Song" on side B is based upon a happy, traditional bast Cuban rhythm with a jazzy evolution, finding its own personal way of song into it. "Space Heater" once more digs back into the delicacy of the acid folk inspriration, simple and poweful, creating blushes of warmth with a vivad acoustic body. It is this
feeling which is held strong during the whole recording, and makes this release so special to be appreciated wholeheartedly and easily.
The CD is release in a mini LP sleeve. Tiliqua Records is run by former Antwerp Radio Central DJ Johan Wellens, who moved to Japan after his studies in Japanology, with case studies in Japanese electronic and progressive music. He is also a record collector. This album is one of his favorites of all time.
Volcanic Tongue review
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Beautifully presented reissue of this legendary real-people/outside psych-folk side, originally rele...Beautifully presented reissue of this legendary real-people/outside psych-folk side, originally released in 1979. Johan Wellens talks of it a being in the lineage of "Dino Valente, Erica Pomerance, Dide Favreau, Gary Higgins, Kenneth Higney and Roger Rodier," but you might want to throw in a touch of Rokey's acoustic demos, a more lugubriously-stoned Tim Hardin, some pastoral modal guitar-hand percussion jams that could almost be Six Organs of Admittance, Roy Harper's classic Harvest recordings, psychedelic Donovan and even a hint of Help Yourself. Very beautiful, intimate atmosphere and possessed of that *that* necessary star-crossed/lost in time element that gets record collectors hot under
their three chins. Beautiful heavy duty gatefold sleeve with obi strip and booklet with liner notes by Johan.
liner notes from The Tree People reissue by Johan Wellens
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In 1962 when Harry Smith released his Anthology of American Folk Music, he could have had little ... In 1962 when Harry Smith released his Anthology of American Folk Music, he could have had little idea that his collection of eighty-four rural compositions, originally recorded between roughly 1920 and 1930, would come to represent a Rosetta Stone for generations of folkies to come. Smith's collection tapped directly into the veins of pre-war depression
America, displaying the preoccupations of a collective folk-mind fueled by everyday experiences ranging from natural calamities to train wrecks, murders, demonic possesion, moonshining and ultimately death. Decades later, music jounalist Greil Marcus would label this vast body of outsider music as "Old Weird America."
Today, creative marketing types check the pulse of Smigh's dusty body of work only for the purposes of concocting new, dubious genres like New Wierd Americana and Freak
Folk. In doing so they are stepping blindfold onto the meandering path of an American folk tradition that originated with Smith's Anthology and the second and third generation of folk artists it birthed during the early sixties and late seventies. Of course, their attempts to define a marketing genre has the
merit of atracting new audiences to a musical style that has been marginalized and ignored for too many decades. But by trying to lump
a huge range of activity under the catch -all banner of "New Weird America", critics seem bent on creating a scene where there is only a confluence of like-mined individuals instead of a conscious movement of work. But such fine distinctions have not prevented the mew marketing terminology from developing its own consumer following and an aesthetic sufficiently defined to work as a category on the record racks. And maybe this cranky critic should just be content that younger ears are tuning in to the vagaries if highly individualized musical expression rather than the cookie-cutter forms of mainstream corporate rock.
But a closer inspection of this so-called scene reveals sosme remarkably common denominators. In particular, the adherence to a string of creative sources by now several decades old: musicians like Dino Valente, Erica Pomerance, Didi
Favreau, Virgin Insanity, Gary Higgins, Kenneth Higney, Roger Rodier, and the Tree People, whose album you hold in your hands now. What links these these early 'torchbearers' is that for the most part they operated well below the radar of consensus culture and that they often left just a single sonic testament for future generations to unearth. Upon re-digesting these sounds from another time and spac, it becomes clear that many of today's free-folies are in fact distant
satellites of this remarkable , hidden tradition of 'out' folk. The reflected light they cast back through time on to the style's (sometimes pjoratively known as acid folk) progenitors illuminates and rejuvenates what has been a long and unfairly ignored musical tradition. In spite of the change in terminology for 'acid' to 'free', there is a continuity of imbedded ininfluence of work here, echoes of those unsung early pioneers into the unexplored fields of psychedelic folk . And it is amongst those predecessors that the vastly overlooked Oregon based
outfit The Tree People can be situated.
The Tree People were the brainchild of Stephen Cohen, a young songwriter and guiatarist who touched down in Eugene, Oregon in 1977. Originally from Pawtucket, Rhode Island , his first forays into music were on trombone,
aged twelve. A couple of years later he dropped the unwieldy brass plunger in favour of the guitar. After attending Brandeis University in Waltham for three years, Stephen felt the compelling call of the wide-open road, picked up his atchel of songs and guitar, and set out to crisscross the country in the great hobo tradition while performing his compositions at local coffeeouses, clubs and restaurants. Arriving in Eugene, he dived straight into the vibrant local coffeehouse folk circuit and began performing compositions from his bag of songs.
Venues such as The Loft and Teh Home Fried Truck Stop (previously known as Momma's Home-Fried Truck Stop)provided the opportunity
to jack straight into the fetile local jazz and folk circuit and to team up with like-minded heads and local talent. It was at the latter venue that he stumbled across a percussionist and recorder player called Jeff Stier, who was paying his dues with an acoustic trio. Enthralled with his skills, Stephen approached him and the two of them struck a familiar chord that quickly escalated into a creative coalition. With the addit'on of classically trained flautist Rachel Laderman, an acquaintance of Jeff's, The Tree People came into being. As a trio, the combo performed mainly original compositions from the pen of Mr. Cohen. After a year of practicing and performing locally at outdoor marketplaces, radio stations, coffee houses, concert halls and local festivals, The Tree People decided the time was ripe to have their music recorded. On summer weekend in 1979, the tree of them headed down to the Rockin'
A Studio, a local recording studio tucked in the backwoods and run by
Michael Ayling-Brewer, former bass player of the 1968-1969 sych outfit Mary Butterworth. Local blues musician James Thornbury (later a member of Canned Heat) was drafted in to complete the line-up and contributed bass, slide guitar (on "Bring in the Water" and vocals to the session. The whole affair was
recorded in a relaxed and homey atmosphere as Stephen recalls,
"We recorded the entire album in one summer weekend at the Fokin' A Ranch. I remember Michael's wife Linda bringing us fresh warm cookiesat one point in the proceedings.I recall a new born baby in the house. I femember the feeling of waking up in that A-Frame studio in the woods knowing that this was where I was supposed to be, surrounded by good musicians and good people and creating music."
Upon listening today this hushed and intimate feeling still resonates
through the music: the record possesses an extraordinary potent
atmosphere that still intoxicates the senses after so many years. Over a combustible backing dominated by shimmering strings, bone-shaking hand percussion rhythms, and quivering sensuous threads of eastern-toned flute playing, the group suceeded in concocting up a syncretic combination of meditative Indian raga, western folk stylings and idiosyncratic melodic ideas. The music breathes out intimacy and communicates with a rare directness- hooking you instantly with sheer aural bliss derived from the melody, from the flowing beat, from the sound of the words and syllables and all those separate elements interacting with each other, rendered into a concentrated,
gracious flow of lunar notes. The deep-seated and affectionate nature of the music expands within
acid folk parameters, sets pastoral reveries aside and mutates into animate matter, conveying not a singular message but a multiplicity of messages, visions, perceptions and emotions that are all part of the artist' creative consciousness. It breathes out soul, parts of people, living matter which links it again with Harry Smith's Anthology and the magic this particular kind of music is beholden to. A magic based on limpid beauty and fragile vocals that succeed in framing real sentiments.
Sadly enough , The Tree People never had the opportunity to take this freshly recorded material on the road. Due to Stephen's family life and the fact that his two kids were still infants, Jeff's professional commitments as a car and bike mechanic and Rachel's preoccupations with university life, touring was very much out of the question. Still, the band performed in Eugene all the time, making appearances at the Oregon Country Fair, a three day counter culture festival, in July 1979, the weekly Eugene Saturday Market, the Erb Memorial Student Union, the Eugene
Garden Club and a string of live radio performances such as NPR station KLCC's Music From the Center program. However, upon graduating from the university Rachel moved out of Eugen, eventually settling in Olympia, Washington, and thus rendering the Tree People into a duo unit. Stephen and Jeff kept the project going for another seven years, interacting at various occasions with guest musicians. In 1984, the cassette-only follow-up album, "Human Voices" was released but even that couldn't prevent the Tree People from slowing to a halt when Jeff moved to Washington D.C. for work commitments. Stephen however kept going and remained active as a musician, visual artist and award-winning songwriter. In 2000 he released "Real Life and Fiction" and in 2004 the "Stephen and the Talk Talk Band" album. Apart from that he is currently in the process of finishing a children's album (also suitable for adults), Here Comes the Band (to be relesed in 2006), workshops and performing his music. Still, the initial Tree People album continues to be the perfect point of entry into Stephen's
creative vortex. The album's compositions have so many hidden qualities, all breathing out deep and affectionate sentiments that reveal, just like a lotus flower centered on the axis with its petals unfolding towards the circumference, a
streamlined adhesion towards the group's own singular creed. Listen to it and may feel like awakening from a deep slumber, your unconsciousness leaking away as aspects of reality slowly mix in with the rest of your already blurred mindset.
1979 and 1980 reviews of the original vinyl Tree People album
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Cohen's Album Draws Raves Eugene singer-guitarist Stephen Cohen has produced an excellent albu...Cohen's Album Draws Raves
Eugene singer-guitarist Stephen Cohen has produced an excellent album. What's more he's done it on his own and with his own finances. The sacrifices were worth the pain.
The Tree People , recorded in Greenleaf by Michael Ayling, is simply a beautiful album. There is much here to like: maybe too much. The result is disconcerting. Just when the listener settles into one of Cohen's fine guitar grooves, Cohen breaks the mood with a vocal. And visa versa. The next time out Cohen might do well to settle on one style or another. The question is, which one? Cohen's vocals as wispy affairs reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's. His voice is full of gentleness and melancholy, his songs long on fragmented melodies. The appeal is immediate. His guitar play is delightful. He uses a variety of techniques to effectively tell his stories. Although every cut is a winner, the most rewarding are the vocals, "Stranger," "Pot of Gold," and "Morning Song" and the instrumentals "Sliding," "Opus," and
"Space Heater." Accompanying him is an excellent trio of Rachel Laderman, flute; Jeff Stier, recorder and James Thornbury, bass. They greatly enhance Cohen's haunting moods.
Fred Crafts, The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, November 15, 1979
(Fred picked The Tree People as one of the albums of the year at the end of 1979. He recently retired from the Register-Guard. and he was very happy and excited to hear about the new interest in The Tree People and the reissue CD.)
The Tree People: Light and Unjaded
In the age of new wave music, it's nice to be reminded that some musicians are still in touch with a quieter, more meditative sensibility. Because they're so soft spoken, one rarely hears about them. And a hunger for publicity and financial success may not churn their stomachs, but they are out there. One of the best is Eugene's Stephen Cohen, a guitarist and singer whose group (Cohen, Jeff Stier and Rachel Laderman) recently release it's first album, called The Tree People, which is also the name of the trio.
The album was recorded and produced last August at the Rockin' A Ranch in Greenleaf, Oregon almost as if it were a live performance. Very little was over-dubbed and several cuts were played straight through on the first take. Furthermore, the music's intensity is enhanced because the group carefully time its studio appearance , recording when they were in total control of the material and when their energies were at their creative peak, Cohen says. All nine songs were composed by Cohen and arranged by Cohen and Stier.
Because Cohen's music is so distinctive, it creates problems for those unimaginative reviews who explain new music only in terms of which major artist it sounds like. I know I've never heard anything like it. But from the child-like cover illustration through the final not, the album is so fresh and unjaded it's like a breath of clean air.
Certainly, as Cohen himself says, his music has a foreign feel, particularly on instrumental numbers such as "Sliding," in which percussionist Stier cooks along on his bongos and Cohen makes his guitar alternately whine like a sitar and pound like a piano while following an almost Mid-Eastern rhythm. Stier, a versatile musician, is equally at ease adding eerie, mystical effects with a cymbal and whimsical, airy touches with bell thoughout the album. The strong classical elements in Cohen's music are highlighted by Laderman's flute and Stier's recorder. There's also James Thornbury's tasteful bass and back-up vocal work. Thornbury took time out from his own band, "The Raccoons," to sit in with The Tree People and his appearance is an impressive departure from his usual hard-driving style. But above all, Cohen's guitar dominates.
For some inexplicable reason, the few critics who reviewed the album nagged Cohen for mixing vocal and instrumental numbers. Actually, it's a much stronger record because of the blend. Cohen refuses to single out his influences because it's impossible: there are too many. And
he has difficulty describing his music in words. "The main thing I go for is mood... that's why I play it I guess. There's a certain mood I'm just trying to get and I just play it... When I first started playing at 14, I could hear the way I should be playing guitar and it wasn't any way
I heard anybody else playing. I could even hear notes that I would be playing and years later I was playing them. I still work that way a lot."
The 1,000 albums he pressed are gradually selling- some in stores but mainly at the group's performances and straight out of Cohen's and the other Tree People's backpacks. Whatever happens, The Tree People proves that unadulterated acoustic music is alive and well. Although it may be a little hard to find, it's worth the search.
Peter Leibik, Eugene Magazine, May 1980
It's My Story, Sliding, Stranger, Thomas, Grandfather, Rain,Rain, Pot of Gold, Morning Song, Space Heater, The Pineapple Song, 3 Dances, Suite Maive, No More School, The Change in Kate,
x times y, Sunday, Hearing Test, Living with the Animals, Legends of the Tree People, More Than Yoko, Melody for Three, and various other original songs and instrumental pieces.
We can do one 35 minute to one hour set, or two 35 to 45 minute sets, or 3 sets if asked.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.