I am frequently awed by the talent displayed by young musicians, and Wisewater -- a mostly bluegrass duo composed of Forrest O’Connor (mandolin, guitar, and vocals) and Kate Lee (fiddle and vocals) -- is one such group that amazes me.
The first time I saw them, Wisewater was a trio, but their talented guitarist returned to his teaching life so Lee and O'Connor, who are romantically attached offstage, are continuing as a duo. Both have music in their bones. O'Connor was born into a musical family -- his father is renowned bluegrass fiddler Mark O’Connor -- and Lee seems to have been born singing. They met a couple of years ago and, as they say, the rest is history.
Their voices are extremely well-suited to each other. Lee probably does more of the lead singing than her partner, but their harmonies are something special to hear. Clearly they have chemistry; they could not make music as beautiful as this without it.
Wisewater's style is mostly bluegrass, probably in great measure due to their backgrounds, but they seem to be incorporating wider roots music stylings into their writing and I like the direction in which they seem to be headed. They perform mostly original music but do covers on occasion.
They released an EP, The Demonstration, last year and plan to record their debut full-length album soon if they aren't already in the studio recording it. They are also part of a new project called the O’Connor Family Band, which will be a six-piece band with three fiddlers: Lee, Mark O’Connor, and Maggie O’Connor. That band sounds similar to the one that performed for the Mark O’Connor Appalachian Christmas show I saw last year; if so, I cannot wait for them to tour.
As they showed on this night, Wisewater is an engaging duo that should have a long career ahead of them. They make performing look effortless.
Opening the show was Mark Whitaker, a Boston-area banjo player. His music is mostly bluegrass as well, and I liked his easy manner. He does not perform often, but I plan to seek him out and see him again.