The Cherokee Maidens and Sycamore Swing take family matters seriously. Their bloodlines hold the group, and its star-studded history, together as they travel to McPherson to perform Aug. 5.
“There’s two families that are clear and present and you can hear it. You can tell that we’ve grown up together singing the same songs,” said Robin Macy, founding member of the Maidens. “There’s so much unspoken because you’re already on the same playing field and you know how its supposed to sound.”
The group will bring a film crew to the McPherson performance to gather footage, and hopefully capture the Gilded Age glow to compliment their music.
“The fathers of western swing were traveling up the I-135 corridor, but they used the Chisholm trail on Highway 81 and stopped in these beloved music halls,” Macy said. “There’s hillbilly dust in those walls and we’re going to channel some of that past when we play there. It really does feel like we’re walking in their footsteps.”
The group hearkens back to past styles and adds their own fresh take.
“Western Swing was started in Tulsa with Bob Wills. In a particular era of his music, he would have a set of sisters who sat primly on the front of the stage and cross their ankles and he would motion and they’d jump in and sing or yodel very distinctive, family-style harmony,” Macy said. “We’re emulating that expression, but we also throw in some other stuff. We do a lot of western swing, we write our own stuff, and we also do a samba number and some early Vaudeville stuff, but it always has that Western swing vibe so it’s very danceable.”
Those two families bring together three states-worth of Western swing influences.
Joining Macy in the Maidens is Monica Taylor and Macy’s sister-in-law Lauren “Sis” White. Sycamore Swing, which backs the Cherokee Maidens, is led by Macy’s husband Kentucky White on guitar. At the core of Sycamore Swing is fiddler Shelby Eicher, known for his work with the Tulsa Playboys. Eicher’s sons Nathan and Isaac, also chime in on bass and mandolin, respectively.
Of the three Maidens, one was a Dixie Chick, two appeared on Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” two performed at the Grand Ole Opry. Sycamore Swing holds it’s own list of highlights, including Eicher’s 20 performing history with Roy Clark.
Their history of accomplishments stays just that — a history — as performers like Macy use the past to develop new elements in familiar genres.
“You have some wisdom and some age since you’re not the new kid on the block. We all have this unique set of past experiences, and it unifies us,” Macy said. “That genre of music resonates in my DNA because I was raised up with that music. It’s so authentic. When you hear our recording or hear us live, you hear the same production, it’s not augmented by stereophonics. You don’t get that very often in the modern recording business.”
Macy hopes that communities the band plays in will take a liking to their historic elements and keep them going strong.
“The McPherson Opera House is one example. The community saw its towering potential wanted to sustain that and make sure it lasts for generations to come. McPherson is lightyears ahead of the big cities in historic preservation. You saw that opera house and decided it was important to preserve,” Macy said.
Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.