Out of the ashes of one of the most tragically unappreciated Portland bands, The Gleaners, Clampitt & Gaddis have risen to deliver Portland from its own evil, just by picking guitar and singing songs about the Lord. Erik Clampitt and Marley Gaddis started singing together in October of last year, initially just as a "recording project." In the four months since, they have spread a traditional folk revival across Portland stages, but Clampitt & Gaddis aren't looking to add any edge or gimmick to folk music. With influences including Jimmy Rodgers and The Carter Family, and harmonies that could pull oceans out of drought-plagued deserts, C&G would be much more at home with Harry Smith's Anthology of Folk Music than, say, the latest offering from Bloodshot Records.
Clampitt makes no bones about this. "Right now we have a very narrow focus in traditional folk music; we're definitely not alt-country, and we want to stay that way. It's really intimidating doing traditional folk, because it's revered so much. There's so much out there; it's like a maze once you get into it. Following a song like 'Wildwood Flower' through 80 years of recording, and performing it I wonder, 'Are we adding anything to this?'"
"For me this music is ingrained," explains Gaddis. "When I was a kid, my parents had a lot of friends who were amazing musicians. There was a period when it seemed like there were get-togethers at our house nearly every weekend. The grown ups would haul out their guitars, banjos, mandolins, and harmonicas, and the kids would dance around.
"As I grew up, I guess I chalked it up as my parents' music and moved on. I didn't realize how important this exposure was to me until I was older, and bored with much of what I heard. While visiting my family, I went to a folk music festival that a friend hosts each year on his property. I sat around a campfire with those same people, singing those same, traditional songs, and it dawned on me. It's no wonder these songs have been around for hundreds of years, and people never tire of singing them--they just get you deep down."
The most alluring quality of the band is their frailty. This is a trait of the songs, and also of Clampitt & Gaddis themselves. In this age of so much garage-rock reviving and the ridiculous stage shows that can go along with that, C&G come to the stage as they are. Their songs of rebirth and redemption are naked against an empty stage for anyone to see. Like the music, the gimmick-free live show makes you think back to a simpler time that probably never existed.