If you go
When: Today through Sunday
Where: Appalachian South Folklife Center, Pipestem
Cost: Weekend pass is $30; individual day passes range from $7 to $15
Info: www.culturefestwv.com or 304-425-6425
FYI: Culturefest includes world music and dance, performance art, healing arts, drum circles and artisan vendors.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For a band of seven, Songs of Water sure travels heavy.
That's because they just keep picking up new instruments.
In their efforts to explore world music since forming the group in North Carolina in 2002, band members are open to trying all kinds of sounds and instruments, said Stephen Roach, who plays tenor banjo, acoustic guitar, mandola, mandolin and hammered dulcimer.
"Everyone is multi-instrumental," Roach said.
A trip to a gig, such as the band's stop at Pipestem for a concert as part of Culturefest Saturday evening, can mean taking along 40 instruments.
"It makes loading the van fun," Roach said. "I always say you have to know how to play Tetrus to play in this band."
All of the musicians, including Jason Windsor, Luke Skaggs, Michael Pritchard, Greg Willett, Jon Kliegle and Elisa Rose, are veterans, and several have formal training. The violinist, Rose, plays in a symphony orchestra.
"She's pretty up there," Roach said, adding his own training has included studying with percussion masters around the world.
His idea in 2001 was to form an instrumental, acoustic band that explored world music, blending elements such as the bluegrass sounds he grew up hearing and the Turkish and Greek music he studied later in life.
"I tell people we're sort of like street musicians, wearing torn-up tuxedos. We have a classical side, but it's a pleasant classical."
As the group has evolved, so has the sound. For example, there are songs with lyrics now.
That part isn't all that surprising, considering Roach, one of the primary songwriters along with Skaggs and Willett, also is a published poet. He also has written a children's book.
"I write tons of songs," he said.
"If you get our next album, you may be surprised to know that half of it is going to be lyrical," he said. "Our last one had two lyrical songs. That is part of the evolving development of the band."
As a testament to the band's diversity of sound, it has opened for the likes of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and has been featured on National Public Radio's "Echoes."
Roach said what you hear in a recording is quite different from what you hear when Songs of Water plays live.
"We do a lot of interludes, percussion interludes and violin-led interludes. We look at the music as a launch pad into the unknown. With the studio version and the live version, you're going to get two different things. We also like to incorporate other art forms into our live shows," he added.
"Sometimes we'll use film, backdrop videos to our songs. Sometimes we have live visual art -- artists painting while we play. We do that whenever we can because we believe music really is an art form."
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.