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home : columnists : columnists September 20, 2017


8/25/2017 4:00:00 AM
Put Blackberry Jam on menu
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonArcadia’s Jean Roberts plays guitar and sings in her band, Blackberry Jam - The Folk Band in the Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair. The band will play Saturday night on the Courthouse Square.
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Arcadia’s Jean Roberts plays guitar and sings in her band, Blackberry Jam - The Folk Band in the Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair. The band will play Saturday night on the Courthouse Square.
The Times photo by Betsy ReasonArcadia’s Jean Roberts (left) performs in her band, Blackberry Jam - The Folk Band, with Bill Bailey (standing left), Lisa Wagoner, Leslie Selden, Jean’s husband Steve Kobe (back right) and Kevin Reynolds (front right).
The Times photo by Betsy Reason

Arcadia’s Jean Roberts (left) performs in her band, Blackberry Jam - The Folk Band, with Bill Bailey (standing left), Lisa Wagoner, Leslie Selden, Jean’s husband Steve Kobe (back right) and Kevin Reynolds (front right).

By Betsy Reason
Editor


When we were at the Indiana State Fair on Saturday, we happened upon Blackberry Jam - The Folk Band, performing in the Pioneer Village.

I'd already heard great things about the band, led by Arcadia's Jean Roberts.

Just watching the band on stage Saturday was a treat.

They played all afternoon on a small platform just large enough to fit the six-member band. The stage is inside the Pioneer Village Farm Show exhibition building, where craftsman display their old-time talents and trades. The stage resembles an old cabin's front porch, except with handmade quilts on the walls behind it, and an audience sitting in church pews.

Jean Roberts and her husband, Steve Kobe, started Blackberry Jam more than 25 years ago.

Self-taught on the guitar, she plays and sings while her husband performs the bass and mandolin.

"We rely on wonderful musicians, accompanists and lead players, who join us in the band," she told me this week when I caught with her.

The current group has been playing together for 15 years and includes Leslie Selden on fiddle, hailing from Carmel; and Lisa Wagoner on vocals, flute and double bass, and Bill Bailey on percussion, both of Indianapolis. Occasionally, they're joined by blues guitarist, singer and multi-instrumentalist Kevin Reynolds of Bloomington.

"I like to work with an ensemble, when instruments and voices join together smoothly for a bigger, more complex sound," Jean told me.

At the State Fair, where she's enjoyed performing for more than 25 years, she has experienced "wonderful audiences there."

She said, "Audiences love the song 'Home Grown Tomatoes,' about our favorite vegetable. They also appreciate our up-tempo fiddle tunes and sweet duet singing." Jean, whose band plays what she calls "variety folk," switches to different kinds of song material throughout the program, which allows the band to play blues, Irish dance pieces and cowboy songs. They also play fun, nonsense tunes, like "Carried Water for the Elephant," about a boy who gets into a circus without paying by agreeing to bring water to the giant beasts, a song from the 1920s by Hoosier-raised duo, Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell. They played the song at the Pioneer Village.

In 2015, the band released an album of music captured in a live concert at Arcadia's Hedgehog Music Showcase, owned by Noblesville's Bob Foster, who we also saw Saturday night in Pioneer Village Opry House.

Blackberry Jam band members will perform their old-time music again at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday during the new String-Time Concert Series on the Courthouse Square in downtown Noblesville. The series is presented in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Legacy Keepers, an educational charity that Noblesville's Janet Gilray started in 2007 to offer musical family programming and teaches history through traditional song. The Hedgehog is also a sponsor of the music series, along with Old Picket Fence Antiques, Nancy Myers Salon and Whimzy Unique Finds of Noblesville.

Concert-goers are invited to bring lawn chairs and money for the raffle drawing, which will occur at the 8 p.m. intermission to benefit Legacy Keepers in Noblesville and Bluegrass Boot Camp in Brown County.

Jean said Blackberry Jam would also perform at the Series' culmination event, a free Pioneer Party, an old-time music festival in its second year, from noon to 5 p.m. on Sept. 16, with live music, historic re-enactments and old-time artifacts.

-Contact me at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.







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