• Brother Sun Trio (L-R) Pat Wictor, Joe Jencks and Greg Greenway with our music writer Debra Penberthy.

      Brother Sun Trio (L-R) Pat Wictor, Joe Jencks and Greg Greenway with our music writer Debra Penberthy.

      Award-winning folk trio Brother Sun opened last Saturday night’s Levitt Pavilion Pasadena concert, the final night of the 2014 season.

      By Debra Penberthy

      Given the high quality of the musicians chosen for the Levitt, it goes without saying that Brother Sun’s performance was technically brilliant. More importantly, the trio’s clear love for music and deep-felt commitment to their songs’ messages of peace and love seemed to cast a spell over the full crowd, who became involved in the performance as early as the first song.

      Prior to their performance, I had a chance to interview the trio, consisting of Joe Jencks (vocals; guitar; and bouzouki, which he described as an overgrown mandolin); Greg Greenway (vocals, guitar, and piano) and Pat Wictor (vocals, slide guitar, acoustic and electric guitars).

      Award-winning folk trio Brother Sun @ the Levitt Pavilion

      Award-winning folk trio Brother Sun @ the Levitt Pavilion

      What would you like for people to know about your music and why you do it?

      Greg:

      Well, it’s all about harmony. And when you hear what we do, [you realize that] that’s a metaphor.

      Brother Sun perform @ the Levitt Pavilion - Saturday, August 23, 2014.

      Brother Sun perform @ the Levitt Pavilion – Saturday, August 23, 2014.

      When I listened to your music, I heard that with the three part vocal harmony and with the content—the messages. Tell me about your song about immigrant rights?

      Joe:

      Yeah, ‘Lady of the Harbor.’ (See official video here). As many of us do, I come from a family of immigrants. And a couple of years ago I got to go to Ellis Island and look up my granddad’s name in the books in Ellis Island. And I really got to thinking about immigration and how the immigrant experience has changed. And I think we live with this sort of Norman Rockwellesque sense of being the great melting pot and this welcoming place. But sort of every successive waive of ethnic immigrants from various parts of the world have experienced that it isn’t always as friendly. So I wanted to write about that, but I also wanted to write about [the framing of the American immigrant experience]. Emma Lazarus wrote this beautiful, famous poem that sits at the foot of the Statue of Liberty that ends with “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” And when Emma wrote that, the consciousness around the Statue of Liberty was not necessarily about a symbol of immigration. And through her art and through her poetry, she re-framed how a nation looked at this symbol and put it in a different light for us.

      How was it viewed before then?

      Joe:

      I think it was just a work of art. It was more triumphant and patriotic, and she invited us to think of it differently. And that became our perspective. And so when I was writing this song, I really wanted us to again think about it differently.

      Pat Wictor playing the slide guitar

      Pat Wictor playing the slide guitar

      Wow. Powerful, and it’s an incredible song. So how long have you guys been singing and playing together?

      Patrick:

      Close to four years for us. And we’ve all been friends for a long time and all made music in pairs over many, many years. And we sang together for the first time in the summer of 2009, and it was really obvious within the first few minutes that the sound of our voices together was something very special and powerful. So we knew that we wanted to see what we could do with that.

      Joe Jencks and Greg Greenway

      Joe Jencks and Greg Greenway

      Who would you say your influences are?

      Greg:

      Oh wow. That’s one of the greatest things about this is that the harmony is what people get from Brother Sun, but underneath that we get to play just about anything. So, as long as they hear that familiar harmony people will listen to us play jazzy stuff, traditional sounding stuff, rock stuff. As a musician it’s a beautiful thing, because it allows us this great latitude. So whatever influence we are trying to bring into our stuff, as long as we can make it sound like us with the harmonies, that’s pretty much it. So, if you listen tonight, you’ll see that from song to song, we rarely give you the same set of instruments, even two times in a row. It’s just always shifting and changing, and that’s really one of the fun things about it.

      Brother Sun: We’ve all been friends for a long time and all made music in pairs over many years.

      Brother Sun: We’ve all been friends for a long time and all made music in pairs over many years.

      Joe:

      We all can cite a dozen different artists as influences The Blind Boys of Alabama and Cat Stevens with a lot of Crosby, Stills, and Nash brought in.

      Greg:

      Yeah, we’re Crosby, Stills, and Nashy but from the South, with a little more gospel thrown in. That’s kind of the common thread among us. Believe it or not, Pat started out as a shredder, as a metal guy, and Joe knows far more about traditional or Celtic music. And I am kinda the pop guy. So, we have a large vocabulary from which to draw.

      Brother Sun performing @ the Levitt Pavilion - August 23, 2014.

      Brother Sun performing @ the Levitt Pavilion – August 23, 2014.

      It sounds like you just freakin’ rock!

      Greg:

      Yeah, you could say that!

      And rock they did!
      Check out their website here, and catch these guys if they are back in town anytime soon.

       


      We hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, please consider supporting the Colorado Boulevard’s journalism.

      Billionaires, hedge fund owners and local imposters have a powerful hold on the information that reaches the public. Colorado Boulevard stands to serve the public interest – not profit motives.

      While fairness guides everything we do, we know there is a right and a wrong position in the fight against racism and climate crisis while supporting reproductive rights and social justice. We provide a fresh perspective on local politics – one so often missing from so-called ‘local’ journalism.

      You can access Colorado Boulevard’s paywall-free journalism because of our unique reader-supported model. People like you, informed readers, keep us independent, beholden to no outside influence, and accessible to everyone.

      Please consider supporting Colorado Boulevard today. Thank you. (Click to Support)

      Contributor

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *