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Published: 2014/07/30
by Glenn H Roth

Dead Winter Carpenters’s Cali Roots

After being out on the road for two months, caught up with Jesse Dunn of the Dead Winter Carpenters. Dunn sings and plays rhythm guitar for the Americana roots-rock band based in Lake Tahoe, Calif.

“We’re working on a bunch of new material, and we’re looking forward to a summer full of festivals,” said Dunn, who plays a 1970 Martin D-35 acoustic, and a 1991 Epiphone Sheraton electric.

Dead Winter Carpenters, who formed in 2010, are rounded out by co-founders Jenni Charles (fiddle, vocals) and Dave Lockhart (upright and electric bass, vocals) along with newcomers Bryan Daines (lead guitar, vocals) and Brian Huston (drums, vocals).

How were the last two months on the road?

We timed it perfectly with the weather coming across the South. The weather was 70 degrees and sunny every day. It was a break from the winter here in Tahoe. We had some great shows and it was nice to play some new markets and travel to new areas of the country.

What were some of the new places?

Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina – all those areas were pretty fresh for us. I know it’s a cliche but Southern Hospitality is the real thing. They fed us well, enjoyed the music and we made new friends.

It seems like our country wants to hear Americana roots music. Would you agree that more bands are going back to the roots sound?

We’ve definitely been seeing a resurgence in bluegrass and American roots music over the past decade or so. Good examples of these bands would be The Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, and Old Crow Medicine Show. All of the members of our band come from varying musical backgrounds, but we all have a deep respect and appreciation for American roots music. We rely on a lot of the instrumentation and storytelling values of early Americana and the power that those songs possess.

Your summer has included appearances at the High Sierra Festival, where you played in 2011 and 2012 and also Yonder Mountain String Band’s Northwest String Summit for the second time. Can you talk about those? Is there a connection between DWC and YMSB?

[High Sierra] is a magnificent festival. And for a descent size festival, it still has an intimate feel.

We’ve done several things surrounding Yonder but never directly supported them. We played both of their festivals in previous years: The String Summit and the Harvest Festival in Arkansas. When we first started up as a band, Yonder played two shows in our hometown at the Crystal Bay Club in Lake Tahoe and we were asked to play the after-party. It actually turned into two nights of shows. The way it works is that there’s a a main room and a second side room called red room that gets all the spill over from the main room. At that point in time, we weren’t even really established as a band. We weren’t sure if we were going to do this as a band. We were just having fun. Those gigs were the turning point. We all looked around at each other on stage and said, “This is awesome.” I guess we have that connection with Yonder because those shows were a jump off point.

What made you guys decide that you could do this as a full-time gig?

All five of us had been in different bands over the years and had been touring in different capacities, so we knew it was possible. We figured, “Let’s give it a shot.” We all really enjoyed playing with each other and thought the music was sounding good. We had a batch of original tunes and we wanted to get out there. I think we hit the road in June that summer and played our first Northwest tour and have been a band ever since.

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