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Photo of Pearl & Wood's three band members

From left, Natalie Spears, Ellie Barber and Mark Zoller of the trio Pearl & Wood will perform a free concert on April 6 at CMC Rifle. The band hails from the Roaring Fork Valley and plays a mix of Americana tunes and contemporary originals. Photo Renee Ramge Photography

By Carrie Click

In the fifth grade, Natalie Spears used to lug her huge upright bass on the school bus three days a week, hauling the giant instrument back and forth to school for lessons.

Music was in her blood; she’d learned to play her father’s piano when she was just 5 years old. Since then, she’s mastered another instrument – clawhammer-style banjo.

As a founding member of the Roaring Fork Valley’s trio Pearl & Wood, Spears works with her bandmates to weave silvery harmonies, personable melodies and a strong sense of groove to deliver a fresh taste of Americana.

In just a few years, Pearl & Wood – a name chosen to capture the contrasting elements in the trio’s sound – has become one of the more popular bands in the valley. Now they’re venturing from their home base in Carbondale to play a free concert for the Rifle community on April 6.

“We’re looking forward to sharing an evening of music with Rifle and Colorado Mountain College,” said Spears.

The trio – Spears on banjo and keyboards, Ellie Barber on cello and Mark Zoller on drums – has an enthusiastic following. Pearl & Wood has played at numerous venues including Carbondale Mountain Fair, Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale, and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, the latter venue speaking to both women’s backgrounds in environmental education.

Fresh covers, original tunes

“They’re a wonderful regional group,” said Alice Beauchamp of Silt, who’s helping to coordinate the Colorado Mountain College Rifle concert.

Expect to hear vintage Americana with a twist. On Pearl & Wood’s song list is a contemporary version of bluesman Lead Belly’s “Bring Me Little Water Sylvie.” “Shortenin’ Bread” is accompanied with body clapping. Added to that are other covers and the trio’s original tunes, which compose nearly a third of the songs the musicians perform.

During an on-air interview in January with Luke Nestler, KDNK public radio’s music director, Barber talked about the group’s style of music.

“We may catch you by surprise,” she said. “Not all of our covers are old time. A song evolves. We may switch it up.”

At the same interview, drummer Zoller said, “I got the easy job in this band. I’m a rock drummer by trade. Being in Pearl & Wood has been a good challenge. I have to rethink rhythms and how can I best serve a song.”

Colorado Mountain College Rifle will present Pearl & Wood: A Free Community Concert at the Clough Auditorium on campus, 3695 Airport Road, on April 6. Doors open at 7 p.m., the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and a dessert reception will follow the concert at 9 p.m.

At the concert, campus leaders will make an announcement about a new, multifaceted arts series for the CMC Rifle Campus.

For more information, please contact Beauchamp at 309-3106 or beauchamp@q.com or Colorado Mountain College Rifle at 625-1871. More at pearlandwood.com.