Taarka is a little (although sometimes bigger) indie folk / gypsy-jazz / bluegrass band from Lyons, Colorado. And if you lived here through the tragic floods of 2013, you know that the town of Lyons was ravaged by the unrelenting waters. It has been a long road to rebuild, and David Tiller and Enion Pelta-Tiller, the leads in this 5-piece string band, lost their home in the devastation. So, fittingly, Taarka’s most recent album, released on March 24th, is titled Making Tracks Home. The album was written in the aftermath of the floods, and much of its introspective melancholy is fueled by loss. On Saturday, March 28th, Taarka played the Walnut Room as part of a few shows billed as CD Release Parties. Though the mood in the room was decidedly mellow, these talented instrumentalists write and perform music that is infused with optimism.
We arrived early enough to catch the end of the Caravan of Thieves set, and it was clear that this infectiously enthusiastic motley crew of percussionists, banjo players and violinists have talent to spare. The high point of their set was unquestionably their precise and joyous version of Bohemian Rhapsody. With the whole room singing along, Caravan of Thieves won all of us over.
Taarka took the stage with a decidedly more serious mood. Playing songs from the new release, which is the band’s sixth album, Taarka’s band members were the definition of self-deprecating. Tiller and Pelta-Tiller were joined on stage by Troy Robey on bass and Eric Wiggs on guitar. The group was unassuming and certainly reserved, but the overriding sense was that these are focused and talented musicians. The opener was “Carried Away” and the swelling strings certainly brought a reflective energy to the room. The songs are layered and have a wandering, self-exploring sensibility that truly evoke what I’d imagine a Colorado band of gypsies to sound like. Enion Pelta-Tiller’s voice is reminiscent of Regina Spektor, with the vulnerability and slight hint of defiance that the comparison implies.
The new album features bassist Sam Grisman (son of bluegrass legend David Grisman), guitarist Ross Martin and guest spots by trumpeter Ron Miles, banjoist Jayme Stone, guitarist Grant Gordy and banjo player Dusty Rider. The tracks from the album sound like rising waters, and though there is significant loss associated with the event that inspired the album, there is a hint of optimism, of being stripped bare and starting anew, shining out around the edges. Musically, the sound is close to a southern bluegrass – but with a current of lament streaming through. And in fact, David Tiller, who joined his wife on vocals throughout the night, mentioned that he had lived in Watertown, Virginia, and once he mentioned this, I could certainly hear this geographical influence.
It was a lovely evening, and we could all feel the introspection that saturated the album. A fitting reflection of the Colorado floods and the aftermath – a time when the residents of our beautiful state banded together to recover and rebuild. Making Tracks Home is the soundtrack that we all can understand, and be inspired by.