Lewisburg’s Hell for Certain String Band will be performing live at the Irish Pub in Lewisburg on Thursday, January 17th. Their most recent concert was opening act for the Crankie Show at the Wild Bean last November. Based here in Greenbrier County and playing together since last summer, this is an old-time Appalachian string band that we think you’ll enjoy.
Hell for Certain’s sound is unique, with band members bringing a new, young energy to fiddle and banjo tunes that have been passed down in West Virginia for over a hundred years. The band’s curious name is inspired by Hell for Certain Branch, a stream within the Monongahela National Forest’s Cranberry Wilderness Area, and an area that inspired much of the music you’ll hear when you take in one of the group’s local gigs.
“The Cranberry Wilderness is a special place with a rich history,” says Mike Costello, who plays clawhammer banjo in the band. “We’re proud of that history, and it carries over into certain tunes such as ‘Cranberry Rock’ and ‘Cherry River Line’ that came from the area near Hell for Certain Branch. Long ago in early hunting camps or logging camps, people came up with fiddle tunes to pass the time. Mountain people dealt with harsh conditions that influenced the tunes, so you can really hear the struggles in the music. Behind each tune there’s a story to be told, which we enjoy passing on and keeping the history alive.”
Fiddler Dennis Ott says although the tunes have been around for many decades, old time string band music is recently re-emerging in Lewisburg’s music scene. So far, the response has been very positive, not just to the music, but also to the group’s dedication to preserving the state’s wild places and rich natural resources.
“We really emphasize that we want to preserve the music and the landscape, which are connected, and that’s something West Virginians respond to with great pride,” Ott said. “It’s in our music, it’s in our name and it’s in the way we work off stage, since each of us is connected to the land aside from the music. Whether it’s protecting mountains or operating small farms, we share that connection to the land, and it definitely has its way of folding into our music.”
In a sense, every Hell for Certain show has a visual element, as the band offers its popular hand-printed linocut posters as a special reminder of the landscape that inspired their music.
In addition to Ott and Costello, Hell for Certain’s regular members include Isak Howell on guitar and harmonica and Corey Bonasso on the upright bass. Just like the Crankie Show in November, which featured guests Anna Roberts-Gevalt and Elizabeth LaPrelle, additional multimedia performances are on tap for the coming year.
The band will continue hosting a series of mountain music and folks art shows, which combine visual or craft elements with music from a visiting band. In a sense, every Hell for Certain show has a visual element, as the band offers its popular hand-printed linocut posters as a special reminder of the landscape that inspired their music.
For the January 17th show at the Irish Pub, Hell for Certain expects some friends to tag along. Jake Maynard, guitarist for the Allegheny Hellbenders, will join the band on stage, with additional guests joining throughout the evening. The show starts at 8 p.m. and costs only $5.