American Celtic, British Americana are on tap

In the next few days, the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College will feature two bands delivering the sounds of England and Ireland. But only one hails from “across the pond.” The other comes from across the Mojave Desert.

Emulating the sounds of Ireland are Southern California’s Gaelic Storm, which will play Saturday at the Concert Hall. This five-piece band began playing in American Irish pubs in the mid 1990s before gaining international fame as the rowdy below-decks Celtic band from the movie “Titanic.” Gaelic Storm’s return to Durango is part of the band’s hard-hitting tour schedule, which includes up to 125 dates annually.

Performing Tuesday will be the Dunwells, an English emo-folk band that is hitting it big in the states with its debut, “Blind Sighted Faith.” It is a record that at times recalls the sound of Mumford & Sons and other times sounds like Colorado up-and-comers The Lumineers.

The Dunwells are a true family band, with Joseph Dunwell on vocals and acoustic guitar his brother David Dunwell on vocals, piano, guitar and banjo; Johnny Lamb on drums; Lamb’s cousin Rob Clayton on bass; and Dave Hanson on guitar, vocals and sometimes pedal steel.

The record is receiving great reviews around the country. Although it is referred to as an Americana record, it doesn’t reflect anything that a fan of traditional “Americana” would call “Americana.” That’s OK. The Dunwells are not from America. Think of it more as a British, ballad-heavy folk record with standard instrumentation dotted with the occasional banjo and pedal steel. It earns its comparisons to Mumford & Sons – and even Crosby Stills and Nash – but it isn’t Americana in the vein of Lucinda Williams or Guy Clark.

Call them what you will, but the Dunwells are on the rise.

“We recorded (“Blind Sighted Faith”) at Willie Nelson’s studio in Austin, Texas, which was one of the best experiences we could ever have, to record our debut album at such a prestigious studio,” said Joe Dunwell via Skype from his home in the U.K. “We’re super happy with it. It’s a product that has been evolving since the band started. The ability to have that product out there makes it once again easy to go out and tour the album.”

They ended up in Austin after a series of events that began in Tennessee. After going to the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis in February 2011, their first time in the States, they played a show and got spotted. Soon after, they were signed to the Concord Music Group. Next thing they knew, they were in Austin.

During their limited time in the U.S., the Dunwells already have developed a soft spot for the Centennial State.

“We love Colorado, and we keep coming back there. We finished a nine-week tour and during that period we went back and forth to Colorado five times,” Dunwell said. “It’s a place we like to play and we get a really good response every time we go back.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.

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