By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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“I have great reverence,” says the singer and autoharpist, “for songs that have a story, that follow a plot line.”
He’s told such yarns for some 44 years now, and is about to bring some to Port Townsend and Port Angeles.
So whether the listener wants a night of storytelling or a night of acoustic music, both are on tap. Bowers, who lives in the woods outside Sedro-Woolley, is coming to Port Townsend’s Quimper Grange on Sunday and to the Port Angeles Library on Monday.
Bowers is well-known most of all for his inventive ways with the autoharp; he’s been inducted into the Autoharp Hall of Fame. But his youth in New Bohemia, Va., made him into a storyteller as well.
“I was raised in a farm culture,” the artist said in an interview earlier this week. “We had a story philosophy of stretching the truth as far as we could, without breaking it.
“I’m a guy who’s lived a big, wild life, who’s got a lot of wonderful stories,” said Bowers, 72. These tales are about people extraordinary and ordinary, moving through tragedy and happiness.
Naturally Bowers’ autoharp playing is woven into his tale-telling. He’ll do both at both gigs: 6 p.m. Sunday at the Quimper Grange, 1219 Corona St., Port Townsend, and at 7 p.m. Monday in the Raymond Carver Room at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.
Sunday’s concert will also feature an opening set by local country-bluegrass artists Jim Faddis and Cort Armstrong, for a ticket price of $10 in advance via www.BrownPaperTickets.com or $15 at the door. Bowers plans on carrying on stage four or five autoharps along with his mandocello.
His appearance Monday is presented by the Story People, a Sequim- and Port Angeles-based group hosting Story Swaps several times a year. Admission is free to all swaps.
“I was raised around fiddle tunes and story songs,” Bowers said. “If people like a tune, they teach it to their kids,” and that’s how folk music stays vibrant. The same goes for good stories. You know they’re good, added Bowers, when they make your heart race and the hair on the back of your neck rise.
That happens to him a lot. And one day earlier in this decade, Bowers went to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., on the recommendation of cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell.
“I went there with some trepidation,” Bowers recalled. He was wondering whether he, an autoharp player, would be accepted.
“They were warm and embracing,” he said of the festival crowd.
At that gathering, Bowers learned how every last phrase in a story must earn its keep. No fluff allowed.
“I’m just a guy who loves the autoharp, and I learned to play it really good,” Bowers said. And in the act of telling, and listening to stories, “I was illuminated.”