Round Mountain

Round Mountain’s Windward, NM grown

In the heart of New Mexicos Pecos Wilderness, Round Mountain rises to a height of 10,700 feet, offering panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the fertile Pecos valley. Brothers Char and Robby Rothschild share fond memories of visiting Round Mountain as children, so when they formed a musical duo later in life, they named themselves after that noble peak. Since then, theyve been cutting new trails with their distinctive style of world-folk music.

I recently attended the release of Round Mountains third album, Windward, at the Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe. Built in 1911, the pink-stucco temple towers over downtown, an appropriate venue for the brothers Rothschild, evocative of the ancient elements from the North Sea that inform their sound. While Id driven by the Scottish Rite for years, I didnt appreciate the enormity of the building until that evening. Walking up the steps, I was reminded of a song from Round Mountains previous CD Truth and Darkness:

Each blade of grass in this town Ive seen
This castle standing tall, Ive never noticed at all

With Windward, Round Mountain delivers more of the genre-defying, trans-national creativity that has earned them a wide following in northern New Mexico and throughout the United States. Both brothers are well studied in traditional folk music from such diverse regions as Ireland, Turkey, West Africa, and the United States, and their original compositions present an inventive melding of these styles. While their songs might seem eccentric, full of odd time signatures and cerebral lyrics, they are, nonetheless, surprisingly accessible and infectious. They offer poetic insights on numerous themes, but a concern with family and place is prominent. Take “In Us All,” a moving song inspired by Robbys two young children. Accompanied by the plaintive sound of his West African kora, Robby sings:

In a song, in a song inside of song
In a song inside of a song, in a song in us all

In addition to kora, Char and Robbie play an impressive array of other instruments including accordion, banjo, guitar, bagpipes, saz, trumpet, bouzouki, cajon, and djembe. More impressive still is watching them play several at the same time at their live performances. On “Dont Lie Down,” for instance, Robby simultaneously plays bouzouki and foot percussion while Char plays the accordion with one hand and trumpet with the other. Later in the tune, Robby will switch to Djembe and Char to the Scottish Bagpipes. They carry the audience along throughout, heads bobbing and feet tapping, as they range stylistically from the Balkans to North Africa and on to the British Isles within five and a half minutes.

As Char describes it, “were trying to find ourselves in the world and looking outside at whats there while also bringing something inside of us out. If theres a larger concept that gets into, it has to do with peace.”

In a world were much violence is born of cross-cultural ignorance as well as cultural rigidity, Round Mountain sets a healthy precedent for modern cultural reinvention, rooted and reflective yet visionary and fresh. On Windward, leaving behind the old and embracing the new is explored in “Carry the Stone”, a reverse-Sisyphus story about carrying a stone to the ocean and letting it go rather than rolling it up an endless hill. The stone symbolizes our inherited burdens:

Am I really the stone, though Ive held that notion
and how heavy its grown through our history
But Im letting it go back into the ocean,
and Im letting it roll back into the sea.

Heres Round Mountain in a performance at GIG in Santa Fe.

Upcoming concert dates

Saturday, July 10, 2010
Tailgate Series – New Mexico Museum of Space History

Alamogordo, NM
8:00 PM

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Santa Fe Bandstand on the Plaza

Santa Fe, NM
1:00 PM
with Laurianne Fiorentino

Saturday, August 14, 2010
Music Under the Mesa Festival

Rowe, NM
Time TBA

Saturday, September 18, 2010
Lake City Uncorked Festival

Lake City, CO
2:45 PM

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