Free Range: Just for fun

Free Range is a musical duo that's out to make sure its audiences enjoy every song.

Drawing from bluegrass, country and folk traditions, they sing and play simple music that makes for great listening. 

In short, their music is user friendly.

Free Range is two voices, accompanied by guitar, banjo and dobro.  You'll recognize some of the tunes -- others will be new to you, but it's all engaging and entertaining. Their major musical influences are Doc Watson, Laurie Lewis, Mike Auldridge, Linda Rondstadt, Tim O'Brien and Gordon Lightfoot.

Look for Free Range at Portland area farmers markets and summer festivals, and think about them when you're looking for a small ensemble for your next event. We love performing for weddings, birthday parties and company picnics!

      "Matt and Claire play incredibly well together and have a delightful sound! We can't wait to have their Bluegrass tunes back at the Vancouver Farmers Market."
            - Kate Reudink, Market Manager

       "Free Range has been a favorite act at our market for many years among both our customers and vendors.  Always professional and always entertaining."
             - Jeff Becker, Oregon City Farmers Market     

The Day the Music Lived 

So much has been written about the last 16 months that it would be hard to find anything to add. We do want to post a grateful hooray for everything that has brought our communities back to life -- and brought the music back into our communities.

There are so many thanks to be given -- to front-line workers and first responders and medical providers and scientists and public health administrators -- and all the public officials who had to make decisions with ever-changing information, hoping that their policies would save lives while knowing that whatever they chose was going to anger many.

Thanks to all these and others, our world is pretty much back to the way it was in February of 2020.  We just got word that the markets are bringing music back -- a wonderful announcement.

We hope today finds everyone health and well -- and that any needed healing has already started. We hope to hear you and see you and sing with you very soon.


Libba Cotten 

I have been lucky enough to do some writing for an on-line bluegrass publication called Bluegrass Solutions. I was honored to be asked to write about Elizabeth Cotten.  We all know her song Freight Train, but fewer know the amazing story of her life and her remarkable success after the age of 60.

Here's to Libba -- and the wonderful women musicians in this, National Women's Month.


Community in the campground 

Free Range went to the desert.

We were extremely lucky to have timed our trip to Arizona and California in time to see the beginning of the super bloom -- yellow and pink and purple and white flowers covering the desert floor.

Aside from the spectacular beautify of the southwest -- not just the flowers and cactus, but the amazing rock formations and glorious skies -- one event stands out in my mind. 

One night, we pulled our instruments into our outdoor shelter and were singing and playing around our propane fire pit (well, it doesn't smell as good as a real fire, but we never get ashes in our eyes, either).

Two men stopped by to listen, and eventually they asked if they could join us.  One fellow is a very good blues guitar player, and his uncle who he was traveling with recently retired after 35 years as a professional bass player.  They joined us on guitar and a handheld acoustic bass, and we played for a couple hours -- everything from bluegrass duets and fiddle tunes to Last Date and Sleep Walk.

The next morning, our neighbor in the next campsite told us how much he enjoyed the music. He had recently gotten into bluegrass and was (and this doesn't happen very often!) delighted to be camped next to a banjo player.  

And here's what he said that will remain one of the favorite things anyone has ever said to me.

"I stayed out here to listen as long as I could.  I'll remember that for the rest of my life."

On Sondheim and simple music 

"If I cannot fly, let me sing." Stephen Sondheim

Singing is the best antidote for overthinking that I've encountered. Now I think that instead of checking my news feed compulsively throughout the day, I should take myself off to sing somewhere instead.

I feel free just imagining this.

Columbia travels 

We've set ourselves a goal of traveling the Columbia River from its headwaters to its mouth over a number of years.  Last month, we started the journey. We drove to the town of Canal Flats in British Columbia and wandered through a residential neighborhood to reach a tiny park and a short trail around a marsh.

After a few minutes, we reached a foot bridge. On one side was the marsh. On the other side, the water formed a small moving stream. That would become the great river that flows a few miles from our home.

Before it gets to us, the little stream will become Columbia Lake, then a free-flowing river surrounded by miles of wetlands, then a series of dammed-up reservoirs and the massive Columbia that flows, albeit much tamer, into the Pacific. We don't know how long it would take the molecules of water that froze Matt's toes (yes, he stood in it) to get to Astoria, or if any of those molecules would make it this far, but it's been fascinating to think about the journey and its implications for our part of the world.

Coming back to Portland, we took Highway 14 along the north side of the Columbia Gorge. We loved remembering the tiny stream and thinking about the massive flooding that created the gorge -- and how it's all interconnected.

As we start our annual farmers market indulgence, we're excited to have more context about the water flowing into our region. That trip helped us feel connected to our own geography. So do farmers markets -- as what could tie us to our region more profoundly than small-scale agriculture?

We came home to fresh local raspberries. Already we know it's going to be a great summer. Enjoy yours -- and your local market. We hope to see you at one, soon.

Columbia Lake


Love happens every day 

I just read this great quote:

"February days are a marketing gimmick; love happens every day."

It was written by an Indian film star named Randeep Hooda. Now I have to watch Monsoon Wedding and everything else he's been in, as this is my new favorite quote.

It's February. It's pouring rain. Neither the Steelers nor the Packers made it into the Superbowl. Valentine's Day is one bloated marketing event.

And the world is full of uncertainty.

But love, like music, happens every day.  

Thanks, Randeep.


A la Carts 

One member of Free Range has a confession. She has long wanted to play music at a food cart pod.

And she got to fulfill her desire yesterday at the great Rose City Food Park at 52nd and Sandy.

In our continuing search to play around as much food as possible, we performed in a lovely sheltered area surrounded by a  mini-United Nations of gustatory delights. (OK, I've always wanted to write the phrase "gustatory delights," too.) 

It's also a great place to interact with people. We got to watch (as always) small people looking quizzically at the dobro and toddling toward the tip jar; listened to conversations in unknown-to-us languages, and asked people if they would prefer we did or didn't play Wagon Wheel. (We had already packed up by that time, so it was an academic question).

We get to play there again on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and this time I will be sure to be hungrier than I was yesterday.

Continuing our Summer of Food, we're playing once again at Blast Burger in Lake Oswego this Friday, the 12th; and at Fire & Stone on Sunday, the 14th. In between, those talented gentlemen of Slipshod will be performing at Horseradish in Carlton on Saturday night.

Follow the food! 

There's no place like home 

OK, we're Portland-centric, but it seems to me that there's no place better to be during the summer than Oregon.

And if you happen to be in the city, the best place to be is at a farmers market. And for us, it's our neighborhood market in Hollywood.

We love this market for many reasons: First, we're liable to see many of our friends and neighbors there. Second, the stage is positioned among all the luscious prepared food, and folks can sit at one of the many tables and watch and listen while they eat pastries and berries and drink great coffee.

Third, well, that would be a tie between the berries, the veggies, the salmon, the lamb and the beeswax candles.

As always, we are delighted to be performing at the Holllywood Farmers Market this Saturday from 9 to 12:30. We hope to see many of you there.

Claire & Matt

Little girls in pink tutus 

The first time we played at Fire & Stone was on Easter Sunday.   Just a few families were there at 6, when we started playing.

One of the listeners was a little girl in a pink tutu, who wasted no time in dancing after we started playing. In a little while, we got a request for "Ring Around the Rosy," something we had never played but were able to dispatch with great enthusiasm, if little finesse. Three little girls danced and squealed and ended up in giggling piles on the floor -- about seven times.

So when it came time to celebrate her dad's birthday, the tutu'd one somehow remembered us, and suggested that her mom invite us to play at the birthday party. It was lovely to think that a three-year-old would think of us that way, and we had a great time at the party.

This is all a preamble to say that we're playing again at Fire & Stone on Sunday, June 26, and we hope that it is accompanied by much dancing in the aisles.

The following week we'll be at our first Blastburger adventure on July 1. How appropriate to be playing at a place called Blastburger on July 4th weekend.  And that Sunday we'll be at the Vancouver Farmers Market.

We are so happy to be spending this season surrounded by wonderful food, friendly adults -- and little girls in tutus. 


The End of the Oregon Trail 

In about a 20-year period in the mid-1800s, half a million people crossed plains and mountains to reach the Oregon Territory.  Many came over the Barlow Road in what's now Clackamas County, roping up their oxen to keep them from crashing and tumbling downhill -- taking their wagons and all their possessions with them.  The lucky and hardiest arrived in what is now Oregon City.

In 2016, two intrepid travelers will head south on I-205 to visit the same location. Today, it has a lot more people and a lot more pavement. But it remains the market center for some of the best farmland in the world.

And in good traffic, it shouldn't take us quite as long as it took the pioneers. 

Yes, we're headed off to our first farmers market of the year, in Oregon City.

This will make our (I think) fourth year at the market, and it's always a highlight for us. We get lots of pickin' time in, and we get to meet lovely people. We usually find something we can't live without (sweet hazelnut butter was last year's find), and I always browse the used book collection.

It's always an honor to play at any farmer's market.  It's important to control the volume, not interfere with the commerce -- and above all, not annoy people. So we feel happy about being invited back.

One of us is happy that it will be cool and rainy. The other is just happy to be playing and will dig up her hand warmers left over from the Tygh Valley festival last September.

We congratulate Oregon City on its exciting plans for the Willamette Falls area. It's a spectacular piece of scenery and Oregon history, and we are so glad the city and region are working together to remind us of this fabulous place.

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Previous events


Bluegrass at the Grange

Multnomah Grange 71, 30639 SE Bluff Rd. , Gresham, OR 97080

Bluegrass at the Grange is back! And we'll be Free Range at the Grange on the Eighth of January!

The jam starts at 5 p.m., show starts at 7. Free Range will be sharing the stage with another Portland area bluegrass band, which will be terrific. Suggested donation is $10.


Peninsula Arts Center

Peninsula Arts Center , 504 Pacific Avenue North, Long Beach, WA

Sue and Bill Svendsen have created a beautiful community gathering space and arts center on the Long Beach Peninsula. They have kept the venue going through online activities through Covid, and recently have started in-person concerts outdoors. We are delighted to have the opportunity to play here, where we feel we've become part of the peninsula community through their on-line events. We hope to see you on Oct. 16th.


Vancouver Harvest Market

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Esther Short Park

The wonderful Vancouver Farmers Market hosts its annual "last chance to shop before Thanksgiving" market, with 35 food and farm vendors. Please join us to enjoy the end of harvest season.


Hollywood Farmers Market

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NE Hancock between NE 44th and 45th

Our neighborhood market! Always great prepared food, beautiful produce, and a wonderfully festive way to spend a morning.