Kate Lee, Forrest O’Connor and Bart Budwig to perform at OK Theatre, Jan 16!

Kate Lee, Forrest O’Connor and Bart Budwig to perform at OK Theatre, Jan 16!

ENTERPRISE, Ore – Rocking folk, Americana and alternative country will heat up the OK Theatre stage in Enterprise Jan. 16 with the double headliner of duo Kate Lee and Forrest O’Connor and the Bart Budwig Band.

Local music lovers will recognize Lee and O’Connor from their appearances with the Mark O’Connor Band at the OK Theatre in December 2016 and again in December 2019. The Christmas-themed shows packed the house as the band wove traditional bluegrass tunes and Christmas carols together seamlessly. The 16-date tour ran from November 30 right up to Christmas Eve in Santa Fe`. During a break between tours, I caught up with Lee at her home in Nashville. 

A New York State native, Lee said she began playing violin at the age of 9, but by the time she was 11 she had turned to fiddling. Through the Rochester-based organization “Fiddlers of the Genesee” she said she met other musicians who shared her love of folk and bluegrass music – mostly men old enough to be her grandfather. She formed her own band, “Kate Lee with No Strings Attached” and played gigs and festivals until she graduated from high school and moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University.

Lee said, “At the time I applied to college Belmont and Berklee School of Music in Boston were the only places that had a music major besides classical – and I wanted to be in Nashville.”

Living and going to school in Nashville gave Lee an edge in the industry. Shortly after graduating in 2014 Kristen Wilkensen, a string arranger and producer, introduced Lee to Forrest O’Connor who plays guitar and mandolin.

“Kristen hired me to play for the Country Music Award show in the string section and knew Forrest for a long time. She thought we would do well writing and singing together,” Lee said.

The two began playing publicly together in 2015, and in early 2016, after attending one of their shows, Mark O’Connor suggested Kate and Forrest join his band. For two years, Lee said they toured with the band full-time, but in 2019 Mark O’Connor turned his focus more on teaching allowing Lee and Forrest O’Connor to record an album with Compass Records. 

Lee said they finished recording at the end of December and Forrest O’Connor is now doing much of the technical work.

“He’s doing all the mixing right now in our apartment ‘home studio’,” Lee said.

The album won’t be available until spring, but Lee said they will be showcasing songs from it at their OK Theatre show. Lee called the album’s style Americana and folk with some pop elements. 

The duo is playing small venues this winter – clubs, theaters and listening rooms, including three shows in Oregon. Lee said they return to the Northwest in February for the Wintergrass Music Festival in Bellevue, Wash.

Co-headlining with Lee and O’Connor is the Bart Budwig Band. The Jan. 21 show will serve as an album release party for the Band’s “Another Burn on the Astroturf,” recorded last year at the OK Theatre.

The album was released by Fluff and Gravy, a record label out of Portland. Budwig described the record’s sound as, “Psychedelic folk-rock with a big band sound.” 

Seventeen musicians and singers, many from Wallowa County, contributed to the record’s big sound featuring a lot of jam sessions.

“The songs swirl around and go into other songs,” Budwig said. “Of the 11 songs on the album, three go into each other.”

The first single from the album, “Human Again,” was released Nov. 8 in audio file format, but the full album is also available on CD and vinyl. Budwig said, unlike his previously released work, this one runs the gamut on style.

“The biggest difference between this and other albums is it’s the most dynamic and ‘all over the place’ of any of my records. It’s like Al green meets Van Morrison,” Budwig said.

While some songs are really folky, Budwig said this is the first album he’s made with electric guitar distortion.

“One song starts off with a Rolling Stones-like vibe with two electric guitars and drums,” Budwig said.

Budwig had a couple of solo Northwest shows in December appearing with John Craigie in Portland at the Aladdin Theater and the Domino Room in Bend. The Enterprise show is in the middle of a January tour with the full four-piece band featuring Nevada Soule, Ben Walden and Cooper Trail that kicked off in Moscow, Idaho and will wrap up Jan. 29 in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Tickets for the Lee-O’Connor/Bart Budwig Band show are $15 through www.eventbrite.com, Joseph Hardware, The Bookloft and Dollar Stretcher in Enterprise and at the door. The show starts at 7 p.m.


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