Stone Church Arts presents The Woods Tea Co., 7:30 pm, Saturday, March 30 at Immanuel Episcopal Church, 20 Church St., Bellows Falls
BELLOWS FALLS, VERMONT – Everybody’s heard of the Woods Tea Company. Everybody. Like maple syrup, like fall foliage, like baked bean suppers, the Woods Tea Company has been synonymous with New England since the early 1980s, when the group was formed. On Saturday, March 30, at 7:30 pm, you can enjoy The Woods Tea Co in concert in Bellows Falls at the stone church on the hill, 20 Church St. They have been entertaining audiences throughout the US since 1981 with a blend of traditional, original, and vintage musical styles that pleases the ear and inspires a smile.
In 1981, penny-whistler Rusty Jacobs and guitarist Bruce Morgan were beginning their musical careers in Vermont, playing in local clubs and bars. On one such fateful night they happened upon an old wooden crate with the words “Woods Tea Company” stenciled on the side. It seemed like a good idea at the time, perhaps even a sign, and the duo was named.
Two years later Mike Lussen, formerly of Trinity II, joined Woods Tea on various stringed instruments, making up a trio that would perform for the next decade. Playing mostly in New England with occasional forays farther afield, the band continued to gain prominence and a solid reputation as a leader in the Irish folk music world. Soon the tours began to venture farther from home, although this too was not entirely due to anything planned out. Rusty thought he was booking a gig at “The Dubliner” in Washington, DC, but it was actually another venue with the same name in Omaha, NE. It all turned out well and began to open up possibilities from coast to coast. The group has performed in all of the lower 48 and manages to at least pass through most of them about every two years.
Bruce Morgan moved on to a new career in 1993 to be replaced by Tom MacKenzie on hammered dulcimer and banjo. Howard Wooden joined in the mid 1990s, playing bass and guitar, and the trio grew into a quartet. At the century mark, Tom decided to spend more time with his family and Chip Chase on fiddle moved in to fill the void. The next 6 years saw them moving up to larger venues and ever more appreciative crowds across the country.
Late 2006 brought about tragic changes. Chip’s fiery fiddle was silenced when he passed away in October after a motorcycle accident and Rusty died of a heart attack 10 months later. A number of fellow musicians helped during this difficult time by offering their musical talents as well as providing moral support. The fans of Woods Tea were also instrumental in allowing the group to continue. Tom MacKenzie rejoined the group in 2008, and soon after, Patti Casey on guitar and flutes made it a quartet again. In 2010 Mike Lussen retired from the group, although he remains active in local get togethers. In the fall of 2013, Tom MacKenzie once again stepped away replaced by Vermont’s greatest living folk musician Pete Sutherland.
Throughout all of this people have come and gone and the music has evolved, but the spirit of fun and audience participation in which the group was founded many years ago remain bright and alive as ever.
Join Stone Church Arts for the Woods Tea Co. in concert on Saturday, March 30, at 7:30 pm, you can enjoy The Woods Tea Co in concert in Bellows Falls at Immanuel Episcopal Church, 20 Church St. Tickets in advance are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors, and $35 for premium, reserved seats. At the door, prices increase by $5 to $25 general admission and $20 for seniors and $45 premium reserved. Information and advance tickets are available in person at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls and Misty Valley Books in Chester, by phone at 802-460-0110, and online at www.stonechurcharts.org.