One of the songs that members of the Sligo Creek Stompers plan to play this weekend in Greenbelt is a traditional American tune called “Lazy John” learned from well-known, Washington, D.C-area fiddler Bruce Molsky.
“You reach out to the masters,” said Adrian Erlinger, upright bass player for the four-piece string band formed in 2010.
The Sligo Creek Stompers, with members from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and northern Virginia, will return to the New Deal Café on Friday, Feb. 28.
“The New Deal is very supportive of the arts and local bands,” Erlinger said. “We always get a warm welcome.”
“The last time we were there, they moved the tables out of the way, and we had an impromptu contra dance,” he said.
The Stompers will also be performing for a group of contra dancers, beginners included, at Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County on Friday, March 7, followed by a special St. Patrick’s Day event on March 15 in Washington, D.C.
“We play lots of traditional American music that tickles our fancy,” said Erlinger, who lived in Montgomery County before moving to Arlington.
The Sligo Creek Stompers draw on a broad repertoire of bluegrass, old-time Appalachian music, Irish tunes, traditional jazz, as well as “a little bit of country, and a little bit of Western swing,” he said.
Each of its four members also contributes something different to the band’s unique sound.
Full-time musicians Jess Eliot Myhre of Brentwood, who plays clarinet and washboard, and Chris Ousely of Hyattsville, who plays guitar and banjo, also founded and play with the Bumper Jacksons band.
Sarah Foard, the band’s classically trained and Irish-influenced fiddle player, lives in Silver Spring and teaches at Levine School of Music.
“We’re more fiddle driven, while they have more of a New Orleans jazz sound,” said Erlinger about the difference between the two.
A St. Louis native, Erlinger said he was drawn to music early.
“In high school I was listening to Dylan and Uncle Tupelo, [an alternative country band], which was a mix of punk rock and country,” he said.
After moving to Kansas, Erlinger started a bluegrass band with friends.
“We spent hours listening to recording of old time music and all traditional music that came our way,” he said.
The name, Sligo Creek Stompers, draws from several sources, he said.
Stompers are associated with string and jug bands from the 1920s, including Cannon’s Jug Stompers, he said.
Sligo is a county in Ireland, and, locally, Sligo Creek flows through Silver Spring and also Takoma Park, where nationally known guitar player and ethnomusicologist John Fahey grew up, later founding Takoma Records.
“He was a guitar player from the ’60s who played avant garde folk music,” Erlinger said.
The band released its first album, “Sligo Creek Stompers” in 2011 and its second, “Vital Mental Medicine,” in 2013.
The title refers to a banjo that helped buoy the spirits of the stranded crew of the “Endurance” during Ernest Shackleton’s near-fatal trip to Antarctica in the 1900s.
Sometimes the Stompers run into people who think they’re not wild about traditional American tunes, but they end up liking the band.
“They say, ‘I’ve never liked this kind of music, but I think what you guys are doing is great,’” Erlinger said.
He said one reason he likes traditional American music so much is because of its upbeat sound and connection to the community.
“It spoke to me very strongly,” said Erlinger about his passion for playing outdoors in public places such as farmers markets, barn dances and on street corners.
“We’ve played on porches, in backyards — we were creating something,” he said. “I like to share that happiness with other people.”