KEARNEY — Ian Craig looked to his flock of chickens when he picked a name for his band.
“We play a lot of American roots music and I have a flock of chickens and we have a jug player — you throw that all together and you get the Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band,” he said. “I live in the middle of Lincoln where you’re allowed to have a few chickens as long as you don’t have roosters. Actually, I have a backyard filled with chickens.”
Craig works with a rotating list of musicians. He promised to have a full band when the Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band plays at 7 p.m. Sunday at Sonotorium at Harmon Park as part of the Concerts in the Park series presented by Kearney Area Arts Council.
Admission to the performance is free.
“It’s really a floating group,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that play with the band. As far as going on the road with us, I’m trying to think who will all be at the show in Kearney. The number varies a lot. I’m not even 100 percent sure who will all be there for the show. Typically we have a banjo, drums and guitar. A lot of times we’ll have a tub bass, or a jug — or maybe both.”
Sometimes a couple of performers will show up on guitars along with horn players.
“I think our sax player will be with us in Kearney,” Craig said.
It’s all good.
The Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band plays the kind of music that lends itself to “joining in.”
“We don’t play anything too crazy-complex,” Craig said. “Sometimes we get into some old jazz standard stuff, but nothing really avant-garde or hard to follow. We play the kind of music that most musicians can fall right in line and join in with us pretty easily. That’s the point. We want to make it fun and accessible.”
Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band puts the folk in folk music.
“I think the communal aspect of it is great,” Craig said. “We play simpler music but it’s really about making music together. We do take solo breaks but it’s not show-offy kind of music. It’s all folk based.”
Craig plays with other bands in the area but Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band lets him feed that side of his musical life that just wants to make music with friends, even though the style might reside slightly outside of traditional musical groups.
“We do a lot of interesting gigs that we would never have gotten with a rock band or something like that,” Craig said. “A lot of time people who hold unique events are looking for unique groups to play. We get called for all kind of weird things. A concert in a park isn’t too terribly strange but we’re playing a barbecue fest the night before in Imperial.”
The band often performs at farmer’s markets.
“We go busking a lot, too,” he said. “We’ll go play for tips somewhere. You have to make your own gig, when you can.”
The most important reason to get Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band on stage? Having a good time.
“Just to have fun,” Craig said. “That’s the main thing for us. We make sure we have a good time doing it. That’s the best reason to make music. We hope its entertaining for everyone else, too. At least for us, we have a good time when we perform.”
Beyond the fun, Craig understands the importance of spreading the word about Americana roots music. With influences from the likes of Big Joe Turner, Tampa Red, Dixieland Jug Band, Charlie Poole, Fats Domino, The Band and Elmore James, Craig and his performers understand the importance of perpetuating roots music.
“Keeping that stuff alive, as much as we can, and sharing it with a new generation of folks, that’s important,” he said. “Most of my taste in music is pretty old. I like playing old, obscure stuff that wouldn’t be heard otherwise. There are a lot of cover bands out there but most of them are just playing the radio hits, your classic rock kind of stuff. We have some original stuff we do, too, but we like to dig a little deeper and pull out some hidden gems.”