Guitar chords build. The fiddle is rising in a low minor wave, and the bass beats slow. Two voices are singing in close harmony.
Holding your hands in the candlelight,
slipping away from your gentle eyes —
soft hallucinations of your silhouette on pages of my story,
tracing out your face … and I can see my own reflection in the drawing …
Noah and Chloe Gose on guitar and violin and Andrew Vaggalis on bass perform as the Wildwoods, a folk/Americana trio from Lincoln, Nebraska who have won acclaim from folk festivals to Sofar concerts and performed from Dublin and London to Brooklyn and St. Louis.
In their music, their sound and voices blend together with a warm presence and rare kindness. And they are coming to the Berkshires this week, performing at both ends of the county — at Studio9 in Porches in North Adams on June 20 and the Dream Away Lodge in Becket on June 21.
‘That boost of confidence — that’s what the song is about,” he agreed, “finding those open-door moments in your life and not being afraid.’ — Noah Gose
This is their first time touring this far up in the Northeast, Noah said, and they are finding beautiful places.
They were speaking from from Cold Spring, N.Y., in the bight center space of the camper van they have fixed up for living on the road this summer. A home on wheels gives them a fluid margin, they said, while they’re playing new places every day or two, and they are keeping up this rhythm through the summer and into the fall.
The night before, they had played the Chapel Restoration, a new music venue in old church overlooking the Hudson River (with Storm King on one bank and West Point on the other.) And they were heading to Saratoga Springs that night, before they crossed the Taconics.
This kind of traveling, and the experiences they gather, have a strong influence in their music, they said. They released their newest album, Foxfield St. John, in February, and many of the songs have roots in their life on the road. They began touring as early as 2019, in a college summer, and even in the aftermath of the pandemic they have been on the move.
Since they graduated college in 2021, they have evolved a body of original music, Chloe said, drawn from a collection of places they’ve visited and people who have inspired them.
Thirteen Sailboats began when she and Noah graduated from college, she said. They immediately started touring full-time. They played a show in Savannah, and they were staying with the family of a friend on Tybee Island.
Tybee is a barrier island, the most northern of Georgia’s sea islands, a tidal place of beaches and salt marsh always close to the ocean. Chloe and Noah came there soon after college, as they were moving away from that structure and the disruption of Covid, feeling their way toward a new rhythm. When anyone finishes a large period in their life, they said, they may feel uprooted, navigating change.
“We were feeling that touring and playing music is what we wanted to do,” Noah said,
Talking with the family who took them in … gave them a place to stand.
“They were inspiring to us, kind and down to earth,” he said. “We talked with them about where we see ourselves in five to 10 years.”
“It gave us peace … or hope,” Chloe said. “They inspired us to continue doing what we love.”
“That boost of confidence — that’s what the song is about,” he agreed, “finding those open-door moments in your life and not being afraid …”
“… to chase them,” she said.
Thirteen sailboats passing me by, and a young timid sailor was I —
I would sleep on the shore and dream of something more
of my life and all of the open doors I have ignored …
Folk influences show strongly in this song, in close harmony and minor chords. But Wildwoods’ styles can vary with agile fluency. They draw inspiration from artists as varied as the Beatles, Gillian Welch, Watchhouse, Noah said, and Ravel, Debussy, jazz … as they worked on material for this newest album, they were listening to Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell.
Foxfield St. John can range from the bluegrass feel of West Virginia Rain to
The songs span these few years around the pandemic, 2019 to 2022, Chloe said. The name comes from a street in Dublin where they stayed while they were touring in Ireland in the summer of 2019. They crossed Europe that summer, she said, playing in small towns, cafes and bars.
‘We turned around and the whole place was full,and we started playing and people immediately were silent and listened …’ — Chloe Gose
She remembered a night in Ireland, in the Spirit Store in Dundalk. They came in to set up in the downstairs bar.
“We walked in and it was a rowdy place,” Noah said, “but people seemed to be attentive and respectful of the music. As soon as we started playing, everyone got quiet.”
“I remember we were messing with our cables, and we turned around and the whole place was full,” Chloe said, “and we started playing and people immediately were silent and listened … in Nebraska, when we start playing in a rowdy bar, people don’t care — we’re just background music to them.”
The title song, Foxfield St. John, comes from a family they stayed with on the road. The family welcomed them warmly, Noah said, and their son Roy, seven or eight years old, was interested in their instruments and asked to play. They were jamming with him, and they asked him if he wanted to write a song — and that morning lit the spark.
Their tunes begin with the lyrics, Noah says. He writes and composes for the group. The first raw words evolve into music, words and phrases stand in as he feels out the melody, and then the music leads him into the words again.
And the trio will mold their parts as they play together, Chloe said. This summer, she feels their sound tightening seamlessly as they are playing consistently together, practicing every day just by performing.
“We become telepathic,” Noah said, and Chloe agreed, laughing with him:
“Someone starts playing a song, and someone else says ‘that’s the one I was thinking of playing next.’
They are working on new music, she said, and they hope to have new work to release before the end of the summer. Life on the road can be unpredictable, but every audience can be unique, and they feel the energy in the crowd, and what they’re giving back.
She recalled the chorus of Foxfield St. John, a call for resilience after a hard year — ‘It’s so hard to see the brighter side of anything — you’ve got to keep on moving, try to see another day.’
“It’s a reminder that what we’re doing is so much more than that,” she said. “It brings a lot of happiness to a lot of people.”