By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
BELMONT – Dyann and Rick Arthur are traveling the country in search of a rare species: female instrumentalists.
That journey has brought the Arthurs to the Sparks Family Music Park in Dennis, outside Belmont, where they’re listening and talking to Lisa Lambert.
Lambert and the Pine Ridge Boys pick and sing, playing a mix of old-time gospel tunes, bluegrass standards and Lambert-penned songs so fresh the ink hasn’t dried on them yet. All the while, Dyann and Rick pick and sing along, tap their toes and record everything they can.
The Arthurs, from Seattle, wanted to turn a trip across the country into something more.
Dyann, a musicologist and Berklee College of Music graduate, had trouble finding the stories of women musicians. She decided she and her husband would travel the country, finding female instrumentalists and telling their stories in a documentary. The pair has been on the road filming since April and will wrap up their trip in October.
“We’ve interviewed over 60 women,” Dyann said, “and we’re not even halfway through.”
Dyann spent time researching and finding women long before their journey began.
They’ve found musicians in all genres, such as Delta- and Texas-style blues, zydeco, Cajun, bluegrass, gospel, maritime and klezmer, a musical tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe. They talk to the women about what it’s like to be a female musician and their experiences in learning and playing music, and then film them performing.
“The youngest we’ve interviewed is 18, but I expect the youngest we will interview will be 11,” Dyann said. “The oldest is 93. … We have a wide range of women and their experiences.”
The Arthurs expect it may take anywhere between one and two years for the documentary to be completely finished and ready for festivals. The film, tentatively titled “Americana Women,” is a part of the Arthurs’ “MusicBox Project,” a nonprofit that will hopefully include concerts and get-togethers in the future.
The documentary will be entered into the Library of Congress as well.
Women’s tales and tunes
Dennis-based Lambert and the Pine Ridge Boys get together every Thursday for a night of music and food. They gather in their white wooden building, part of the Sparks Family Music Park. That’s where Lambert and her husband, Scott Nunley, film the performances for their TV show, which airs on Unity Broadcast at 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The pair also run their own online radio station at lisalambertmusic.com.
Lambert and her band play what she calls “hillbilly blues” – a mix of gospel, blues, bluegrass and country.
Dyann and Rick Arthur ran across Lambert via the Internet, and were down to do the first set of interviews during Memorial Day weekend. The Arthurs came down Thursday night to film Lambert and the band perform and to conduct more interviews.
Lambert said she’s excited to see the final documentary come together.
“So many times, women got left behind, and so they may not have been in the music. They may have inspired their kids to play, they may have written a song, but they never got any credit for it,” Lambert said. “For so long, the only way it was acceptable for a woman to play music was in church.”
Dyann said she’s learned much in the time spent interviewing and listening to these women.
“It’s just reinforcing the vibrancy of roots music in our culture. It’s changing along with life, and where are women in that continuum?” she said.
Many of the women have told stories about being forbidden to play music or feeling unwelcomed in a man’s world.
“These women want to be accepted for themselves,” Dyann said. “I don’t feel that separate is equal.”
She said she hopes the film serves as an inspiration to young women musicians.
“What we’re looking for is the experiences they’ve gone through, so young women can say, ‘I have someone who’s a mentor.’ That’s missing,” Dyann said. “That’s something we hope will come out of this.”
– Dyann and Rick Arthur have put up a few performances they’ve filmed on a YouTube page at youtube.com/MusicBoxProject.