Seattle folk string band The Blackberry Bushes perform in Avon |

Seattle folk string band The Blackberry Bushes perform in Avon

Caramie Schnell
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

Jakob Breitbach was bribed.

At age 3, he picked up his first “fiddle” – a copy of “The Hobbit” and a wooden spoon. The bribery came later, when it came time to use a real instrument.

“He spent lots of family time busking with his parents and sibling in front of the Galena, Illinois candy shop, where his developing skills translated directly into sweet rewards,” said Jes Raymond, the lead singer of The Blackberry Bushes, an alternative folk string band from Seattle, Washington that will perform at Agave in Avon Wednesday night. Tickets are $7 at the door and the music starts at 10 p.m.

“The trio sticks to string instruments and their music is deeply rooted in traditional American music, but they liberally blend in more contemporary sounds,” said show promoter Crawford Byers. “The result is refreshingly modern and danceable, but can still tug at your heart strings.”

Indeed, the music is emotional, and Raymond’s voice is, above all, quite joyful.

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“We try to identify with themes that everyone can relate to by being true to what moves us,” Raymond said. “We try to make the music we want to hear.”

The band needed a name, and one day when Raymond showed up at practice covered in scratches from blackberry bushes, they found it. At least that’s the story she told the Vail Daily.

Raymond first started singing in a church children’s choir in her hometown of White River Junction, Vermont. Her parents were avid bluegrass fans, but it was in North Carolina where she was a music major at the University of North Carolina that she found her own love for the “mountain sound.” She picked up a used guitar, and has continued to follow where it leads.

When he was 8 years old, Breitbach was called onstage to play a tune with the grandfather of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. Clearly he was hooked. He earned his degree in jazz violin from Cornish College of the Arts and continues to study with his mentor, Paul Anastasio. In 2008 he toured with The Asylum Street Spankers out of Austin, Texas. Afterwards, he returned to Washington, and joined The Blackberry Bushes. The band has been a “professional” endeavor since 2009, Raymond said.

The third member of the trio is upright bass player Taylor Kent who plays bass in multiple folk and jazz groups in Seattle Wash., in addition to being a member of both the Spokane and Yakima Symphonies.

The Blackberry Bushes are no strangers to Colorado. They’ve competed in a few bluegrass competitions, including Telluride’s famed event. Though this is the first time the band has performed in this part of Colorado – they’re on a tour that had them in Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and Winter Park earlier this week and in Steamboat Springs and Carbondale on Thursday and Friday respectively – the band hopes to make it a tradition.

“We love Colorado,” Raymond said. “There are such wonderful musicians and music fans in Colorado. We find ourselves here at least once a season and we hope to continue to do that, since it seems to be a good match for us.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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