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The Pitzers Keep Playing

By Staff | Aug 26, 2008

Joan and Keith Pitzer are a husband and wife singer-songwriting team living in Preston County. Folk radio stations across the U.S. and Europe play their recordings. They can be heard on the video, “A Vision for a Wild Mon,” produced by the West Virginia Wilderness Coalition and narrated by Larry Groce, artistic director and host of Mountain Stage. Their song “Underneath a Blackened Moon” is included in the audio drama, “When Miners March,” the definitive history of the coal miners of West Virginia in the early 1950s, and was included on the compilation CD “Moving Mountains: Voices Rise Up Against Mountaintop Removal.”

Graffiti: What are your latest projects?

Joan: Our third CD, “Gathering Stones,” was just released late 2007. This was the first recording project that has included an addition from our family with our son, Jake, on mandolin.  Since that time Keith has written two new songs about different aspects of mountain top removal coal mining. Also in the works is some instrumental music to be considered as a soundtrack for a photographer’s presentation of artful nature photography.

Graffiti: You got into the music business later in life. Did you know you both were musical when you were dating?

Keith: It was actually through music that we met, back in our early 20s. I was a bass player in a rock and roll band and Joan would occasionally sing with the band. The band was into rock covers and I wanted to do some acoustic music. Joan and I started working together on some of this original material. I showed her the rudiments of bass while I played six- and 12-string acoustic and harmonica on a rack.

Graffiti: Who are your musical influences? 

Keith: Some of my earliest influences were Dylan, Lightfoot and the Byrds. Later, it was less well known writers like Eric Anderson and Ian Tyson. Into the ‘70s and ‘80s we began listening to writers such as Townes Van Zandt and the great Canadian writer Stan Rogers. Most recently, it’s writers like Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott.  

Joan: Early on I listened to a wide variety of music and styles, but after meeting Keith, I found I was drawn to many of the same influences. I would have to add Joan Baez, Kate Wolf and Emmy Lou Harris as some of my early influences, later adding Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Graffiti: What CDs are you listening to lately?

Keith: Eric Anderson’s 1972 release, “Blue River,” Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” Darryl Scott’s “Invisible Man,” Chris Smither’s “Leave the Light On,” Elyza Gilkerson’s “Land of Milk and Honey” and a young writer from Virginia named Trent Wagler. Also, my good friend from Virginia, Andrew McKnight.  

Joan: Recently, I’ve been listening to a fair amount of music that includes fiddle, as I’m a want-to-be fiddle player. Mark O’Connor is one of my favorites.  

Graffiti: Where in West Virginia do you perform?

Joan: We do occasional house concerts and small festivals. Also, the Tamarack Center, a live broadcast on the West Virginia Public Radio program, Music in the Mountains, the Mountain Stage NewSong Festival, as competitor the first year and as a performing artist after that, as well as some Arts Council events. There’s a great little place called Brazenhead Inn near Snowshoe that is small but feels very warm, almost like a house concert. We also started a concert series in Kingwood, W.Va., performing some and booking other acts from around the mid-Atlantic region.

Contact Tamar at tfleishman@graffitiwv.com