May 23, 2013

Wadhams Waddlers wander

'Third-best band' meanders through North Country

By ALVIN REINER Press-Republican

---- — WADHAMS — Calling themselves the “third-best band in Wadhams,” the Wadhams Waddlers infuse humor with their mix of old-time fiddle, new-time banjo and bass lullabies.

Officially, the quartet wants to be known as “Wadhams’ third most popular four-member old-timey string band.” In addition to the North Country, they claim worldwide renown — having traveled the world via Skype. 

“Probably the best description of the band would be: ‘Two married couples that like to hang out together and need a hobby to fit in between meals.’ We picked music instead of bowling. It turns out that some people wanted to listen to our music, so we played for audiences in the greater-Wadhams metropolitan area,” Waddler Kevin Bouchard-Hall said, joking about the tiny hamlet. 

“We even have some original songs that we’ve written,” he said. “Sometimes we just shout and dance around.” 

And, of course, they interject their prattle between virtually every song. 

Rangy and gnarly, Kevin strums his banjo and warbles on with lamentations of his life. Kevin has a serious side, though — by day, he is a physical therapist at Elizabethtown Community Hospital’s Physical Therapy and Sports Rehab Clinic. 

Of his wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Bouchard-Hall, who moonlights as a nurse, Kevin said, “Liz is an awesome bass player but very sleepy. She plays the upright bass because she has to stand to stay awake. We know that rehearsal is over when Liz and the bass are both on the floor. It’s probably because she works the late shift.”

Lisa Henry, who plays guitar, is “the quiet philosopher” until she takes a solo, and then she is known to shout with excitement, Kevin said.

Most of the time, however, she said she is thinking about how to reduce her life’s possessions into one car so that she can become a “national park nomad. 

“It’s more formal on that side (Vermont’s) of the Lake (Champlain),” said Lisa, who currently teaches piano lessons in Charlotte, Vt., and mostly limits herself to the guitar with the Waddlers, though she’s been known to stray and liven things up with the fiddle or bass.

The band’s fiddle player, Chris Gribnau, sees an instrument, steps back, looks it over for a minute, picks it up, and the next day he is giving performances to eager crowds. Music teacher and trumpet player in his professional life, Chris fronts the Waddlers with fiddle, vocals and a seemingly infinite supply of jokes. When he isn’t playing music, he’s trying to convince his wife, Lisa, to stop selling all of their possessions so they can live out of their car, but it’s really a halfhearted attempt.

Occasionally, others, such as Joan Crane, will join in on the merrymaking. In fact, one and a half years ago, Joan was approached by Kevin to teach Liz how to play guitar and gave the consummate musician a check for $100. Basically, Liz decided on the bass, and Joan returned the money. 

“But then Kevin found out I also play the claw-hammer banjo, so he decided to take lessons. He took the banjo and ran off with it. Through encouragement and hard work, they evolved into a string band. They have an attitude of not taking things too seriously, and this is contagious with the audience. They are so creative,” said Joan, who added with a smile, “I never did get that check back.” 

They have a bass at each side of the lake, as transporting the musical monstrosity in a small SUV posed a problem.

“We’re just having fun playing. None of us had any idea what we were going to end up with or what type of music we would play. If we stop playing this type of music, it will disappear. There are so many talented people in the Adirondacks,” Kevin said.

“This gives us an excuse to hang out in the Adirondacks,” Chris said. “Kevin and I have known each other since we were 10 or 11, until he crossed to the dark side of the Adirondacks. This has opened up the world for us. We find others like us on YouTube.” 

The group experiments with different instruments. 

“It’s so great. People come out of the woodwork around here, and we jam,” Lisa said. “We started playing the bones. They’re a lot harder than you think. And the good thing about playing this (her guitar), it’s acoustic, so we don’t need power. We just play around. Chris is getting into Irish fiddle tunes, so we have a wide variety of music under the folk umbrella.” 

Perhaps the most popular of their original songs recounts the tribulations of the Bouchard-Halls in purchasing their farmhouse, which was filled with the less-than-pleasing aroma and staining left by the former feline residents. 

Of their old-time classics, the Waddler’s repertoire covers the ABCs of the genre — “The Arkansas Traveler,” “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” “Careless Love” and “Cripple Creek” — and continues as far as they can recite the alphabet.

Though they have been building up a reputation and started to fill up their summer weekends and evenings, Liz reminds the group: “We won’t be quitting our day jobs any time in the near future.”     

Email Alvin Reiner:

IF YOU GO WHAT: Wadhams Waddlers Summer Kick-Off Fundraiser. WHERE: The Whallonsburg Grange Hall, 1610 Route 22, Whallonsburg. WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday. ADMISSION: $5 adults, $2 students. CONTACT: or 962-8992