Recorded music cannot compare to the experience of having tunes played by living, breathing people; especially when it's by Bill Ward and Amanda Barton.
Area residents gathered at the Wine Cellar of Jamestown on Friday evening to enjoy a set by a duo whose performance is more alive than just live. The way that Ward and Barton flow together is a clear indicator that the musical bond between the two is both long-running and strong. The way the two moved together, smiled at one another and jammed for an audience of patrons enjoying their brews was something worth appreciation.
The duo plays at the Wine Cellar once a month because the venue is a mainstay of Jamestown, Ward said. It also has a little to do with the fact that Ward has been playing the venue since 1977. He's been playing the venue's Christmas celebration almost every year since its inception. Plus, it's Ward's birthday on Monday, and the day will signify the beginning of his fifth decade of performing in Chautauqua County.
"It's always fun to hangout where you sort of grew up, and the Wine Cellar has a lot of music history - which I feel kind of proud about having helped to begin almost 40 years ago," said Ward. "We do our share of clubs and bars, but we also get to do our share of festivals; and it all makes a nice package. I wouldn't want to do just one or the other. ... But, (the Wine Cellar) is wonderful, it's great and I love it here. I like it because we get to stretch our legs and do things that sometimes you don't get to do."
Ward and Barton are currently on their Winter Wander tour, which has brought them all across Chautauqua County and into the neighboring areas. According to Ward, the purpose of the tour is twofold: to prepare for a spring and summer tour of festivals, and to work on their original tunes so that they can bring their first full-length album with them to the Great Blue Heron festival in July.
"The project with Amanda is what I'm passionate about right now," said Ward. "The tour will be called something else when Spring starts because we're just not stopping. We're playing two or three times a week because we're having a great time and the idea is to get the album going."
Pictured are Bill Ward and Amanda Barton performing at the Wine Cellar on Friday night. The duo make an appearance at the establishment once a month.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
Barton is a recording artist from Jamestown who recently signed up to be an Infinity Performing Arts instructor. She is also a former member of the roots-rock band Big Leg Emma.
"Bill and I have been playing together for a lot of years, but this is the first time that we've taken it seriously as a duo," said Barton. "So, we're looking forward to a full summer festival season. Plus, the album we're working on is the first project that we've worked on together with just the two of us. It feels good, I mean we've been playing long enough that it's almost like: 'It's about time that we put something out.' We're recording it at Infinity. I really love it there and I'm excited that we can incorporate them with us to do it as a collaborative effort."
Ward is a member of the Bill Ward Band, which has appeared throughout the northeast. The band recorded an album entitled "Highway in the Desert," which featured Barton on vocals and fiddle. During the Wine Cellar show, Ward and Barton performed the title track from the album. The duo also performed several of their own originals, a tune written by Barton's sister, some Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne and more.
During a particularly long jam, a patron sitting at the bar swung his head to-and-fro in perfect accordance with the flow of the song. When asked what he thought of the show, another man responded that he didn't come to the bar knowing that the duo was playing, but he was glad that they were and that he would come back to see them again. Don Hatch, manager of the Wine Cellar, said he loves having Ward and Barton perform for the bar's customers.
"Bill is fun and Amanda is great too," said Hatch.
The duo's next performance is scheduled for Saturday at St. Susan Center's facility at the Gateway Center, 31 Water St. in Jamestown. The show is a fundraiser for St. Susan Center, and admission is $10. In addition to the live music, the event will include a choice of two of seven soups, several varieties of bread, crackers, dessert and drinks. Doors open at 6 p.m., and music begins at 6:30 p.m. Then the duo will appear at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 22, at The Pad in Kennedy.
In addition to the Great Blue Heron, over summer the duo will appear at the Hickory Fest bluegrass music festival in Wellsboro, P.a., the Edinboro music and arts fair, the Lightfest of Westfield and several others. For more information visit www.billwardband.com or search for "Amanda Barton and Bill Ward" on Facebook.