Artist of the day: Thomas Wynn and the Believers
(Next week is the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock. To celebrate, WMNF-88.5 is throwing a tribute concert featuring Tampa Bay bands performing the music of artists who played at Woodstock. For the next week, we're taking a closer look at some of those local artists, as well as the legends whose music they plan to recreate. Today: Thomas Wynn and the Believers performing as The Band.)
Thomas Wynn and the Believers will not only represent one of the most prestigious acts on the Woodstock ’69 lineup, but according to citizens of the namesake town where the group lived, The Band was Woodstock.
In the documentary Woodstock Revisited, residents of the small New York hamlet called The Band Woodstock’s “favorite sons.”
“We feel honored to represent a band that so effectively influenced their home, their time and ours, by being and staying genuine,” Thomas Wynn says. “I think they needed Woodstock as much if not more than Woodstock needed them. I think it helped them stay grounded. In return, they blessed us all with their gifts.”
The original 4/5ths Canadian lineup – Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, vocals); Richard Manuel (piano, harmonica, drums, saxophone, organ, vocals); Garth Hudson (organ, piano, clavinet, accordion, synthesizer, saxophone); Rick Danko (bass guitar, violin, trombone, vocals), and sole American Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, guitar, bass guitar, vocals) – got drunk with “the rednecks,” had folks over for jam sessions and even once donated blood to a stabbing victim.
Such earthy ease and warmth were the honey in the Band’s musical tea, adding sentimental warmth and soulful heft to classics like The Weight and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.
“It was suggested we play The Band; however, we would have chosen them anyway," says Wynn. “Where can I begin, really? The Band is seriously on the short list of my favorite bands. Their ability to have so much going on, while maintaining clarity and such feel, is just astounding and intimidating – yet encouraging.”
Representing a group that’s won over fans on so many levels presents a challenge, but those who have witnessed the mighty Believers have no doubt that the Orlando ensemble is up to the task.
Showcasing the young, soulfully voiced siblings Thomas and Olivia Wynn, the bluesy, rustic rock band steals audiences with powerful solos and harmonies and locks them down with the tight musicianship of Justin Beckler on guitar; Todd Warsing, bass; Thom Damon, drums, and Chris Bell, harmonica.
“I’d like the songs we’re playing to be a surprise,” Wynn says about the Skipper’s Woodstock tribute. “I will say that anything the band has done is a challenge to cover and with their strong use of three-part harmonies and old ragtime R&B feel, it’s no exception for us.”
The Band started out as a backup band for a rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, played with Bob Dylan and was the subject of the legendary 1978 concert film directed by Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz.
Thomas Wynn and the Believers released The Reason to much acclaim earlier this year and are keeping busy extending their exposure beyond Central Florida audiences.
“We’ve been writing for a new record,” Wynn says, “and will soon begin production on it, hoping and planning for a release sometime in the first quarter of next year. We’ve also been touring a lot more, trying to expand our region as steadily as possible.”
Click here to listen to Thomas Wynn and the Believers' Gypsy Queen.
Catch Thomas Wynn and the Believers at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, at WMNF's Woodstock tribute concert, which begins at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, $24 at the door.
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*