Sail Away Ladies: All-Female And Appalachian 09:20

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Sail Away Ladies is a Boston-based, all-female musical group that takes its inspiration from Appalachia. The group came together at the New England Conservatory, and its members are:

  • Eden MacAdam-Somer on fiddle and foot percussion
  • Sarah Jarosz on mandolin
  • Mia Friedman on fiddle and banjo
  • Ariel Friedman on cello

Blend Of Backgrounds

Though Sail Away Ladies focuses on American folk music now, the group's members come from diverse backgrounds.

MacAdam-Somer grew up playing classical music, but in her early teens, she was introduced to contra dancing — a form of American folk dancing.

"Once I connected with that group, I was brought into jam sessions like the Irish session and started playing with an Eastern European party band in town and a jazz band," MacAdam-Somer recalled. "From there I started playing all kinds of music while I was studying classical music in school."

Jarosz in originally from Texas, near Austin, which is known for its rich music community.

"I was just exposed to a lot of different stuff from a very early age," Jarosz explained, "but I really got into it when I was about 10 —  I started going to a weekly Friday night bluegrass jam and just immediately fell in love with it." Jarosz's first instrument was the mandolin, and picked up claw hammer banjo and guitar soon after that.

"I started going to music festivals around the country, and now I'm here," Jarosz said with a smile.

Mia and Ariel Friedman are sisters from a very musical family.

"I started playing violin when I was six, mostly classically," Mia said. "And when I was 12, I saw this incredible concert of all fiddlers called 'Child's Play,' and right after that I started taking lessons with a Celtic fiddler and going to fiddle camps all over the country."

Ariel grew up playing classical music on cello and piano from a very early age. With the influence of her sister Mia, she started exploring the fiddle when she was 18 and went on to attend NEC.


Making Of Music

Sail Away Ladies is very much an egalitarian venture.

"One of us will have a song that we love," MacAdam-Somer explained. "We bring it in, and we just work it out together. It's a really great communal experience."

"We mostly work by ear, do our arrangements by ear," she continued. "We could write out charts and occasionally we have, but mostly we just work out our pieces together and work out our harmony parts together."

The members of Sail Away Ladies all have their individual projects and tours, but they manage to weave together the separate strands.

"We write a lot of our own material separate from this band and even separate from each other. And then we'll have original music that we think would work with the band so we bring it in.," Ariel said. "It's a wonderful platform to create a beautiful, new arrangement. Even if it's something we do with our other projects, to bring into this one always creates a unique and different sound."

Sample Of Songs

"Fourteen Miles" by Eden MacAdam-Somer:

A cover of "Blackbird," originally by The Beatles:

"Starry Crown" and "Johnny Court The Widow," both traditional Appalachian tunes:

Sail Away Ladies will be performing at Club Passim in Harvard Square in Cambridge on Wednesday, November 7 at 8 p.m.

This article was originally published on November 07, 2012.

This segment aired on November 7, 2012.