The Twangtown Paramours drift to Dream Away
But The Twangtown Paramours — a husband-wife Americana/folk duo who will play tonight at the sylvan setting — aren't hiding their perfectly legitimate affection for one another. Instead, their secret may be their musical chops. Despite being named finalists in the 2011, 2013 and 2016 Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk competitions, singer-songwriters Mike Lewis and MaryBeth Zamer haven't yet established a large following in the folk and Americana music worlds, realms that are under-the-radar themselves. That doesn't mean the band should remain incognito.
"Their harmonies are wonderful. MaryBeth has a spectacular voice," said local songwriting and ukulele expert Bernice Lewis, whose last album was produced by Mike Lewis.
The duo mixes pop-sounding songs with deeper folk narratives.
"Some of our music is kind of upbeat, fun stuff. It's not all necessarily dense and/or poetic," Mike Lewis told The Eagle during a recent telephone interview.
Still, the latter is where the acoustic duo tends to focus. In "Chains," a song off its most recent album, "The Promise of Friday Night" (2012), Zamer describes a traumatic event, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire — and, ultimately, its grip on a person's psyche — from a young New York City police officer's perspective:
"I heard windows breaking, so I galloped down the street/600 factory workers in the fire, smoke and heat/I raced inside, oh, Lord, I tried, but on the topmost floors/young seamstresses were trapped behind the shackled exit doors."
While the Nashville-based duo draws its musical style from its current home, Mike Lewis doesn't feel the country music hotbed inspires its lyrics.
"The music here is for quick consumption," he said, noting that the recent bro-country movement was a consequence, rather than a cause, of the city's current music climate. Lewis isn't a fan of that approach.
"That's not what our music is about," said Mike Lewis, who, nevertheless, often appears as an extra on the TV show, "Nashville."
To stoke their songwriting, Lewis and Zamer look south to Austin, Texas.
"The mindset and sophistication of the Texas writers, many of whom are based in Austin, influences our lyrics more," Mike Lewis said, citing Jimmie Dale Gilmore as a major influence. (Lewis plays upright bass for Gilmore on occasion.)
Mike Lewis devotes much of his time to songwriting. He keeps his pens on the left side of his car and yellow Post-it notes on the other. In addition to impromptu scribbling on the road, he'll set a timer in the morning to make sure he's carving out an hour or two to compose.
"If things start to roll, I'll just be at it all day," he said.
Zamer is more of a part-time writer, but her partner believes that her songs have helped them the most in the Kerrville competitions, which often garner more than 600 entries for 32 finalist spots, and other contests.
"Her stuff is a little folkier," Mike Lewis said.
The duo is currently working on a third album that they're hoping to release in early 2018. Songs from that record and the previous two will be cycled through during their Becket performance, a rare Massachusetts stop.
"They don't come this way very often," Bernice Lewis said.
After Sunday night, maybe more will recognize them when they do.
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