Country Conversation

Fiddler Jerry Moxley holds up a photo of his Wayward Jerry bandmates Nicholas Leahy, Shaun Elley and Tracy Cheeseborough – seen working on 2020 Dolan Fire clearance.

“I have a bit of a double life,” admits Jerry Moxley, old-time fiddler and the eponymous Jerry of the group Wayward Jerry. By this, he is referring to his two passions, the two ways he spends time – music and science. By day, Moxley is a marine conservation ecologist; by night, he can be found playing folk tunes with the Wayward Jerry crew, rock-n-roll with a new rock-n-roll group, or fiddling in the ever-evolving Big Sur band Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us.

These may seem like fairly distinct pursuits, and for a while, that’s the way Moxley saw it, too.

“Previously I kind of kept the two [interests] relatively well firewalled,” Moxley says. “The scientists I was working with wouldn’t know necessarily about the square dance I was playing the night before. And I was hiding my fiddle under my graduate student desk.”

But then: “I received some pretty good mentorship… that suggested that those two passions of mine, science and music, are probably motivated from similar spaces and I should consider them more in tandem.”

What that cross-pollination could look like in the future remains to be seen – maybe it will include the sonification of scientific data, for example.

But what it looks like now can be heard Friday, March 17 when Wayward Jerry (the core of which is made up of Moxley on fiddle, Nicholas Leahy on mandolin/banjo and Tracy Cheeseborough on cello) plays an album release/St. Patrick’s Day concert at Fernwood in Big Sur. The music is traditional country and folk tunes, “well-sanded” songs that strike a familiar chord, even in novel arrangements. It’s hard not to dance. Each member of the band comes from a different place and a different musical background, Moxley says, so each brings something unique to the music in a way that folk music welcomes.

“There’s a fluency in this language,” Moxley says. “Playing that music is as much of a conversation as you and I might have right now in English. You can sit down with someone and explore their unique qualities and the interesting ways they might approach a tune you’ve played 1,000 times. And you can just bat that musical ball back and forth.”

Hearing the band do just that is sure to be a joyful experience.

WAYWARD JERRY 10pm Friday, March 17. Fernwood Resort, 47200 Highway 1, Big Sur. Free.

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