Joe Jencks didn’t grow up in the turbulent Sixties, even though the way he wears his hair — curly and very long — might give you that impression.
“I grew up in the Rust Belt in the 1980s,” said Jencks, who will share the stage with Pat Wictor and Greg Greenway when Brother Sun performs Saturday at the 8th Step at Proctors.
“As a young person growing up then, when [Ronald] Reagan was president, my hair was very long, although not curly like it is now, and I think it was pure rebellion. It was my refusal to conform to the general consensus of what manhood was supposed to look like. Now, I just like it that way, and it’s a visual asset. If you’re a performer it’s good to be distinctive and be recognizable from a distance.”
Jencks has been playing folk music and its many variations for 20 years now, the last six as a member of Brother Sun with Wictor and Greenway. The trio has been called “as warm as a campfire” and as “stirring as a gospel church,” and while the three have known each other for a while, they didn’t really get the opportunity to play together until 2009.
“I had met Pat at a convention in the Catskills in 2002, and I met Greg at another folk music convention in 2003,” remembered Jencks, who grew up just outside of Chicago.
“We all ended up at the same festival in 2009 and had the chance to make some music together and there just seemed to be a lot of magic there. What we had was something greater than the sum of our parts. We all had solo careers going but we all felt like we were on to something. It took us from the summer of 2009 to January of 2011 to get everything on the same page, but we’ve been touring together ever since and we’re keeping pretty busy.”
WHERE: The 8th Step, GE Theatre at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $26 in advance, $28 day of
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
The three — Wictor is from Brooklyn and Greenway from Boston — are accomplished musicians who thoroughly enjoy producing wonderful three-part harmonies. They perform a variety of folk music, most of it their own, but also play some traditional tunes as well as music written by other artists. For Jencks, his major influences were Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.
“Those two influenced me very much, and I was also influenced by Cat Stevens,” he said. “I also enjoyed listening to classical musical as well as singers like Paul Robeson. I think my band mates would say the songwriters from the 1960s, like Joan Baez, and then James Taylor. I know Greg really liked Richie Havens, and Pat was very influenced by lot of jazz artists.”
Jencks said there is no leader of the band. All three men share equally in every part.
“It’s a collective effort, and we are all equal artistically and administratively,” he said. “There is no front man for the band. It’s always been a collaboration, a cooperative ensemble.”
The group has recently produced its third album, “Weights & Wings.” Among the instruments used on the CD are guitar, slide guitar, piano, ukulele and bouzouki.
“About 95 percent of what we do is original, but some traditional stuff will sneak its way in there, along with some music written by some friends and colleagues,” said Jencks.
“Some of their songs speak to us deeply, and we feel inclined to share that music. We feel like we have a responsibility to play some music other than our own.”
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]