Emily Pinkerton’s driving force as a songwriter and ethnomusicologist is to explore the musical and social ties that bind the Americas. For two decades, she has traveled between the U.S. and Chile, playing fiddle, banjo, guitar, charango and guitarrón.
In her solo career, Pinkerton writes songs that blend Appalachian and Andean traditions. She draws on her studies with legendary musicians Alfonso Rubio, Chosto Ulloa, Patricia Chavarría and others, including extensive fieldwork with rural poet-singers of central Chile. Performance highlights include concerts at Sala América in Santiago, Chile, the Panama Jazz Festival and collaborations with Venezuelan violinist Eddy Marcano.
In 2012, Emily founded old-time trio, The Early Mays, who are known for watertight vocal harmonies and stirring arrangements. The Mays just performed on NPR’s Mountain Stage this August, as well as hitting the top of the National Folk-DJ charts with their latest release “Chase the Sun.” Last year, they won the Neo-Traditional Band Competition at The Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia, not far from the home county of the Hammons Family, whose music was the first inspiration for Emily’s latest project, Rounder Songs, scheduled for release on New Amsterdam Records on November 17, 2107.
Rounder Songs is a song cycle for voice, clawhammer banjo and chamber ensemble that brings together the sounds of 21st century post-minimalist classical music and North American old-time. The work is based on field recordings and legends from Kentucky and West Virginia that tell the stories of several “rounders”: rural drifters who include a gambler, a murderer, and a mill laborer who strikes a deal with the devil. Rounder Songs was conceived and composed by Emily and composer Patrick Burke to focus on the common ground between their musical styles — hypnotic, pulsing rhythms, subtle melodic variation over time, and perhaps most of all, the vivid evocation of certain moods. The work features old-time and classical genres on a level playing field, rather than subsuming one within the other.