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

      "Thank you so much for your fantastic performance earlier today! My highest compliments. Your music was such a beautiful addition to our market". - Sara Wagstaff, Oregon City Farmers Market

We would love to hear from you. Give us a call at 503-830-3453!

Love at the Donkey Sanctuary 

What happens when you combine two people who love kids, donkeys, dogs, their family, their friends – and each other? An amazing wedding at the Donkey Sanctuary, set up to make sure the kids have as much fun as possible.

Rachel and Cole invited us to play music during and after their sweet ceremony. Rachel is a Montessori teacher, and she had invited her kids to the wedding. So she invited Free Range to make sure there was some dance music that the little ones would enjoy.

I think the kids had a great time – and we had a terrific time, too.

Thanks to Crystal Genes Photography for sharing her fabulous photography with us!  Pictures in this case are worth a gazillion words.



Berry Season 

Some time ago, Matt wrote a song about stopping at a fruit stand on the way home from the coast.  The song, Roadside Stand, has been a favorite whenever he plays it, and it was recorded by the amazing Steve Spurgin (whose wife says it's her favorite song on that CD.)  

Roadside Stand describes a little girl – and we've all met someone like her – who likes to greet the folks stopping by her family's farm stand and to chat about whatever comes into her head. It's also a great summary of what we like about summers in Oregon – the stuff that's grown locally and that you can buy directly from the farmer.  And the stuff that always tastes better than anything you'll ever get anywhere else.

Once again, we're in the height of berry season and fully indulging in Oregon's bounty.  We're also glorying in how much fun it is to play once again during a full summer of markets and festivals – it fees like the first whole summer we've really experienced since 2020.

The food is still terrific, the tiny dancers are still adorable, and people seem happier than ever to listen to live music.  I think we don't appreciate how much people have missed it until we see people snapping photos and taking videos of the performers.

Maybe we all need more live music in our lives?


Dinosaurs and dragons and the end of a wonderful season 

Photo Courtesy of Sarah Ells Fish

I hope that we are always able to play at a farmers market the weekend before Halloween.

Playing for dancing dragons and dinosaurs and Alice in Wonderland and a tiny Elvis is an awful lot of fun.Thanks to the Woodstock Farmers Market for allowing us to join in the celebration, as well as to the other markets we had the great pleasure to play at: Oregon City, Hollywood, Kenton and Woodlawn.

We met an awful lot of great people and, of course, ate very well all summer.

Sunday's market was also especially fun because we were joined by Sarah Ells Fish and Dan Fish, of the Sunfish Duo.   For the day, we were Free Range Sunfish. Those two bring a sparkle and new joy to the old time tunes they love, and it was a delight to play with them.

As we move inside for the rainy season, we'll be conscious of how lucky we are to live in a climate that produces amazing food and a culture that builds community around local agriculture.  We'll do our best to keep that spirit alive until the sun shines again.

Comfort and Joy at the farmers markets 

After two crazy and tumultuous years, I am looking forward to the sense of community and reassurance I find at farmers markets.

Just thinking about the act of planting and growing food; the care that craftspeople take in designing and producing hand-crafted soap, cutting boards and pottery; what it takes to nurture gorgeous dahlias and lilies and daisies, has a calming effect on me. Being among the beauty of the produce, the aromas of fresh food being prepared and the smiles on everyone's faces is an incomparable experience.

We love playing for people who are just happy to be where they are -- surrounded by people of good will and the bounty of the Pacific Northwest.

We hope to see some of you at markets this summer.  We also hope to visit more markets around the region, to get a better sense of the new cultures and communities developing around Portland.


Optimistic, uncertain -- and Jeremy Wilson's Foundation 

We see that our last post was written during that little window we had last year in which we breathed freely, thinking that the availability of vaccines would bring life back to normal -- and bring music back everywhere.  

Well, sheesh. That worked for about a month.Once again, we are facing a summer of uncertainty. 

The good news at this point is that farmers markets seem to be thriving -- and many are scheduling music again. We hope as the summer progresses we'll be able to feel even more confident that outdoor venues are pretty safe places to gather -- and that all of us will feel  more comfortable meeting at locations like these.

But this is a good time to remind music lovers that life for full-time musicians in this area is still a struggle. From week to week, they don't know if their gigs, festivals, workshops and camps will go as scheduled or be cancelled suddenly. While we have the luxury of playing for fun, there are so many in our community who have dedicated their lives to becoming exceptional musicians and entertainers.  

At the best of times, many professional musicians live on the financial edge. That's why we support The Jeremy Wilson Foundation.  So if you're feeling optimistic about your future, grateful to musicians, and recognize that sometimes they need help, please visit the website and make a one-time or ongoing contribution.

And -- we hope to see you at the markets!


(Photo of Jeremy Wilson courtesy of Norm Eder)

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


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Annual Horse Brass Christmas Show

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Horse Brass Pub, 4534 SE Belmont St., Portland

Every year, the wonderful folk musician Tom May gathers his musical friends to welcome the winter. This year, Matt will accompany Tom and others on the dobro for much of the show, and Free Range will do a set, too. The Horse Brass is known for its great beer selection as well as better pub food than was ever served in Great Britain! We hope you'll join us for a very fun evening.

Clark & Lewie's

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130 SW Cascade Ave., Stevenson, Washington

Clark & Lewie's is a delightful restaurant in a beautiful old building on the Columbia River in Stevenson, Washington. We'll be helping everyone get warmed up at a pre-New Year's Eve show. We're looking forward to playing there again, as we had such a terrific time last year.