Round Creek String Band shares love for old-time string band music

BELMONT —You can credit the Great Lakes Music Camp for spawning the Round Creek String Band.

The annual lakeshore gathering of musicians for instruction in acoustic delights brought together the group of musicians from Grand Haven, Kalamazoo and Belmont for the first time — and things eventually got serious.

“We all have diverse musical interests and backgrounds, but share a common love for old-time string band music, so Round Creek’s sound is very much rooted in that genre,” mandolinist Jason Wheeler said of the group that formed in late 2021.

The downtime during the recent COVID-19 pandemic offered opportunities for “sitting in a circle with a bunch of musicians” without an audience and playing vintage folk tunes “purely for enjoyment.”

Since then, the band — with Wheeler on mandolin, Caleb Hofheinz on fiddle, Erik White on guitar, Sam Herman on banjo and Tom Sutherland on bass — has played some Michigan music festivals with plans for entering the recording studio in coming weeks for their first official EP project.

The group will also play the acoustic stage at the Wheatland Music Organization’s Jan. 14 Winter Wheat Fundraiser at The Intersection. The Round Creek String Band performs on the Acoustic Stage at 4:20 p.m. Saturday.

Wheeler, 41, of Belmont, insisted there’s true joy in “submitting to the groove” of “a simple, straightforward celebration of traditional music. Old-time tunes are shared, not performed, so there is a fundamental difference in how we look at the time we spend together and the music we make. We’re sharing, so we’re giving and serving the music.”

Wheeler said he’s “sort of fallen in love with the old-time stuff again,” citing his early training with mentor and multi-instrumentalist Bruce Ling, an authority on old-timey material.

The mandolinist said he even found himself “researching old historical music and then finding my way through a couple of resources around here, which are basically old-time fiddlers that just have these huge collections of tunes.”

Wheeler, a longtime member of the West Michigan bluegrass outfit Fauxgrass, said the approach toward playing old-time music is a bit different.

“I’m really enjoying it. It’s more of a selfless music,” he said. “Bluegrass music has a lot of flash and a lot of excitement through instrumental solos. I love bluegrass and still play daily so I say it with respect, but old-time music is an ego-less approach. You’re listening, learning, sharing and teaching.”

Still, he hopes Fauxgrass — which lost guitarist Hayes Griffin after he moved out of state — might eventually complete its mastering of a long-delayed studio album and reassemble with a new lineup.

Until then, he’ll focus on the Round Creek String Band.

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“We want to get a few recordings out this winter, so our first priority is getting in the studio within the next four to six weeks,” Wheeler said.

“We’re basically building the business and getting the recording out and then we hope to be busy playing shows, doing workshops, dances and camps.”

— Find more Michigan music news and concert listings at LocalSpins.com. Email John Sinkevics at john@localspins.com.

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