Thursday, November 15, 2007

Woods Tea Co., a Burlington, Vt.-based folk group, has had it hard over the past 13 months. In October of last year, fiddler Chip Chase succumbed at 58 to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. Then, just three months ago, the band's founder, singer, guitarist and tin whistle player Rusty Jacobs, 56, died of a heart attack.

The band's remaining members, Mike Lussen (vocals, banjo, guitar, bouzouki and bodhran) and Howard Wooden (vocals, guitar, bass, bodhran) plan to continue, Wooden said in a phone interview from his home in Vermont.

Lussen and Wooden have recruited former longtime Woods Tea Co. member Tom MacKenzie (vocals, hammered dulcimer, guitar, banjo, keyboards and bodhran) to rejoin them on a permanent basis and, for the time being, are employing a rotating collection of fiddle players to round out the group.

Following Jacobs's death, Wooden said he and Lussen initially intended only to fulfill the group's existing performance commitments, which at the time ran through autumn of next year. But Wooden said new booking requests come in wherever they play. "Things have gone extremely well over the last several months. I'm very confident we will be able to keep the group going." he said.

The live performances feature tributes to Chase and Jacobs, and Wooden said that he and Lussen are finding some peace of mind on the stage, remembering their friends. "For Michael and I, it's been very therapeutic just to be out there performing," he said.

Woods Tea Co. was formed by Jacobs in 1981. Inspired by traditional Celtic music as performed by groups such as the Chieftains, Jacobs gave up rock-and-roll to master the penny whistle and begin his own folk group, performing traditional American folk music as well as bluegrass, sea chanteys, Celtic and original songs.

The band has cultivated an intimate rapport with its audiences, adding comedy and participatory aspects to its performances, which have been regular and popular affairs in the Burlington area. The group also has spent significant amounts of time touring the country, performing 120 shows a year on average.

Woods Tea Co. has released several CDs, including "Side by Each" in 1995, "The Woods Tea Co. -- Live!" in 1999, "This Side of the Sea" in 2001 and "Standing Room Only" in 2003. A concert DVD, "An Evening with Woods Tea Company" was also released in 2003.

Wooden said the group plans to release a new CD in just a few weeks, tentatively titled "Collage," which will include recordings with Chase and Jacobs.


The Alden Theatre is in the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean. Tickets are $27; McLean district residents, $22. For information, call the box office at 703-790-9223, or go tohttp://www.mcleancenter.orgor

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