Chief’s Songwriter Series presents Americana duo Moors & McCumber
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It all began in 2005, at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Song School. At the campground, a group of about 20 songwriters had gathered in a spontaneous song circle and, one by one, each shared an original tune. When the circle reached James Moors, Kort McCumber’s ears perked up.
“I thought, ‘Who is this guy?’” McCumber said.
He’d never heard the song Moors was playing, but halfway through it, McCumber picked up his bouzouki and joined in.
They later introduced themselves to each other, became fast friends and, in the next several years, performed together here and there: a duo of singer-songwriters playing Americana roots, with elements of country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues. Each musician’s solo career remained their focus, but the clues were there.
“When we’d play as the duo in a bar, people would ask (the management) to turn the TVs off,” McCumber said. “That was better than singing solo.”
McCumber describes the two musicians as having opposite strengths. Moors spent the first part of his career a solo artist with a focus on songwriting; McCumber arranges music and plays a half-dozen instruments, and he shines when he’s playing with other musicians.
In 2011, the duo hosted their first-ever Fans and Friends trip — a guided sightseeing expedition for 22 others across Ireland, sprinkled with acoustic music and pub visits. It was an inspiring experience, McCumber recalled, full of beautiful landscapes, close-knit community and incredibly skilled Irish musicians.
What: Songwriter Series presents Moors & McCumber
When: Doors/bar open at 6 p.m., show at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 7
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: $20 at chieftheater.com or at All That, 811 Lincoln Ave.
“In Ireland, we learned that a lot of (our Americana-folk melodies) were inspired by Irish melodies,” McCumber said. “It was cool to trace Americana back to Irish music and get back to the roots of all the music we love.”
At the same time, the duo found the more traditional Irish sound seeping into its own original songs.
“Irish music is so intense, it forces you to be in the moment,” McCumber said. “It’s taken us to a whole new level.”
By the end of the trip, both musicians were ready to make the Moors & McCumber duo their top priority.
“We realized the duo was so much bigger than what either one of us could accomplish on our own,” McCumber said.
Almost a decade later, they now play about 120 shows per year together, have released seven albums and have returned to Ireland more than 20 times. They also lead an annual Fans and Friends trip down the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River.
Both halves of the duo have influenced the other, as well. Most of their material is co-written, and now, both sing lead and harmony, as well as play guitar, ukulele, mandolin, bouzouki and harmonica.
Moors & McCumber take the stage at the Chief on Saturday, March 7, as part of the Songwriter Series.
“It’s theaters like the Chief that we love to play at the most, with a listening crowd,” McCumber said. “There’s usually some laughing, some crying. That transfer of energy is really something special.”
Tickets are available at chieftheater.com and at All That.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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