Folk band to perform at Meetinghouse Cafe

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BENNINGTON — Looking for a little folk music to spice up your night? The Vermont-based trio Woods Tea Company will be performing at Bennington's Meetinghouse Cafe Friday at 8 p.m.

The trio now features Howard Wooden on bass and guitar, Patti Casey on guitar and flutes, and Pete Sutherland on fiddle and guitar and though the group no longer tours, they still find time to record and play on special occasions.

"Those two alone are worth coming to see," said Wooden. "They can entertain like no one else. "

The band, started in 1983, is known for their fiery Celtic tunes, bluegrass, sea shanties, and American folk songs. The group toured the country full time for much of the last three decades.

"We were a full time group until about 2012, and all we did was travel," said Wooden. "We did about 120 plus shows a year all over the 48 [continental] states, so we were on the road for probably 200 days a year."

Woods Tea Company built a steady following in New England, and soon found success on the national concert circuit playing prestigious venues like New York's Lincoln Center and the Chautauqua Institute, alongside performances on PBS and NPR.

"Woods Tea Company probably has about 15 or 16 albums out," said Wooden. "We've done two or three live albums, and those have always been our most popular."

The band scaled back to part-time as the economy worsened, and some original band members passed away.

"We still have a big fan base, and we still enjoy getting out there and recording," said Wooden. "We'll still go anywhere, but we just don't put together tours anymore."

The band's unique name dates back to the early 1980's, when penny-whistler Rusty Jacobs and guitarist Bruce Morgan were just getting their start in Burlington.

"Rusty had one of these old shipping boxes from the 1950s that was actually from a real company called the Woods Tea Company out of Boston," said Wooden. "They basically named the band after this box."

Though Jacob's had expressed concern about backlash from the actual Woods Tea Company until his death in 2007, affiliates of the now defunct company have come forward to express thanks for the commemoration.

"After he had died, several relatives of that company wrote to me about how they've been honored that we kept the name going," said Wooden. "I really wish he had lived to see that."

Though the band has committed to only playing for special occasions, they consider coming to Bennington an occasion in its own right.

"We've been playing in Bennington ever since the beginning," said Wooden. "Bennington is deep in our hearts with a lot of shows and a lot of history."

For the trio, their fans in the area are reason enough to keep coming back every year, as they have for the past decade.

"It's a chance for us all to see old friends again, but we always change the show up so there's something new and interesting to see," said Wooden.

"Our fans are more than just acquaintances at this point, they really become very much like family for us."

Woods Tea Company will return to Bennington's Meetinghouse Caf at 8 p.m., Friday, May 19. The Caf is at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship located at 108 School St. in Bennington. Information is available at www.uubennington.org. Tickets are $15; $10 for students.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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