Jump to Content

Welcome! You’re browsing the No Depression Archives

No Depression has been the foremost journalistic authority on roots music for well over a decade, publishing 75 issues from 1995 to 2008. No Depression ceased publishing magazines in 2008 and took to the web. We have made the contents of those issues accessible online via this extensive archive and also feature a robust community website with blogs, photos, videos, music, news, discussion and more.

Close This

Town and Country - Shorter Artist Feature from Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001


Wide open spaces


For five years, Tandy has been quietly crafting some of the finest music you’ve probably never heard. With the release of their fourth disc, The Bloodroot Transcriptions, on Yellow Slipper Records, the band has discovered a newfound force and grace. The album builds on the promises of past efforts — poetic lyrics, memorable hooks and smart, well-played arrangements — while venturing into terrain more varied than before.

In part, the new sound is tied to recent lineup changes. Since their last effort, 1999′s Lichtenstein’s Oriole, Tandy has seen the temporary departure of cellist Sibel Firat and fiddler Miss Darlene (though Firat played on half the tracks on the new record). A guitarist switch has also brought multi-instrumentalist Drew Glackin (best-known for his recent work with the Silos) to the band. Now as a four-piece, with Scott Yoder on bass and Tom McCrum on drums, Tandy has taken a more stripped-down and straight-ahead approach to its songs.

Once reserved in his estimation of Tandy’s music, lead singer-songwriter Mike Ferrio is lately proud of the band he started with McCrum. “I used to think we were good, don’t get me wrong,” Ferrio says. “But now, I know the music we’re playing can really stand up to the test.”

Tandy (named for a character in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio) has in fact been very good for some time now and has started to build a following beyond regional borders, thanks in part to a gig at South by Southwest in Austin earlier this year and a surprising surge of interest in the band among European roots-music fans. Tandy’s talents also have been noticed by fellow musicians such as Malcolm Holcombe, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel and Dave Van Ronk, all of whom have made appearances on the band’s records.

At the center of the band is Ferrio — or, more to the point, his songs, which call to mind the rambling touch of Dylan, the introspection of Townes Van Zandt or Richard Buckner, and the hooks of more pop-aligned contemporaries. Ferrio claims influences from both the obscure and the popular, including the Reverend Gary Davis and Tom Petty: “In my mind ‘American Girl’ sets the bar for pop songs,” he says of the latter.

Born and raised in a farming community in upstate New York, Ferrio left home after high school when he realized that staying on the farm was taking on a life of debt. At 36, he still exudes rural authenticity, although since leaving home, he’s lived in such urban settings as Paris and Memphis, and now New York City. His songs are loaded with the imagery of his bucolic youth and steeped in sentiments of days long past: in “Pictures Of China”, he recollects: “I remember firing a Remington rifle, and driving a John Deere ‘A’/I remember running down the fence line and playing in the rain.”

A late bloomer to writing and playing music, Ferrio remembers as a child singing along to songs around the house with his mother (Gordon Lightfoot, standards and songs they made up). “It was just part of our language,” he explains.

He spent a number of years in the 1980s as a roadie for bands including the Butthole Surfers, the Saints and the Lunachicks. But even as he got closer to the process of making music, Ferrio still couldn’t see himself onstage and out in front.

During those years, Ferrio would steal away to the tour van and strum around on a guitar to help pass the slow hours. “I would make up words and songs because I didn’t have the ammunition to learn [existing] songs,” Ferrio confesses. “I couldn’t follow the chords.”

Since then, Ferrio has developed a solid but still basic mastery of his instrument, which helps explain why many Tandy songs have the curious habit of building from one place. Where a lot of popular music moves through multi-chord verses and falls into even more chord patterns at the predictably placed choruses or bridges, Tandy often adheres to a different approach. The verses tend to be longer and built with fewer chords, and the choruses can sometimes feel miles apart in a given song. This structure ends up enhancing the things that make Tandy’s music so memorable: the melodies and lyrics, the harmonies, and the masterful, almost atmospheric instrumentation.

“I like music with open spaces, but I’ve never tried to specifically do that when I write,” Ferrio says. “It’s really just a happy accident partly tied to not knowing a lot of chords and the fancy in-between stuff.”

Happy accident or not, Tandy is clearly in its own place right now. Whether it’s a result of Ferrio’s simple but beautiful songs or the natural push-and-pull of a band that’s finding its new pace, no one is making music quite like theirs.

Enjoy the ND archives? Consider making a donation with PayPal or send a check to:
No Depression, 460 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94108


Did you enjoy this article? Start a discussion about it, or find out what others are saying in the No Depression Community forum.

Join the Discussion »

Find out what's going on in roots music. Share concert photos and videos, learn about new artists, blog about the music you love.

Join the No Depression Community »

Originally Featured in Issue #35 Sept-Oct 2001

Buy our history before it’s gone!

Each issue is artfully designed and packed full of great photos that you don‘t get online. Visit the No Depression store to own a piece of history.

Visit the No Depression Store »

From the Blogs

  • Rod Kennedy (1930-2014) and the Kerrville Folk Festival - Interview & Remembrance
    Rod Kennedy’s legacy is incalculable for those who truly love music, he departed this earthly plane on Monday 14th April 2014. R.I.P. The following “warts and all” late May 1986 interview with Mr. Kennedy, the founder of the Kerrville Folk Festival, was the lead feature in the debut issue of the Kerrville Kronikle fanzine sometime around 1988. No serendipity […]
  • Simone Felice - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut (Glasgow - 4/11/2014)
    With his second solo album safely under his belt Simone Felice is rapidly conforming his status as one of the finest purveyors of Americana around these days. Fortunately (for us) he remains somewhat under the mass radar allowing audiences to see him in intimate settings such as the hallowed King Tuts, a perfect space to see and hear his shamanistic offering […]
  • First Seldom Scene Album in Seven Years: Exclusive Look
    Seldom Scene issues its first Smithsonian Folkways album next week with guests including Emmylou Harris. Mike Auldridge passed away in 2012, but the group includes founding member Ben Eldridge as well as Lou Reid, Dudley Connell, Ronnie Simpkins, and Fred Travers. Here is a look at "My Better Years" the Hazel Dickens' tune from the album,  […]
  • MerleFest - Wilkesboro, North Carolina - April 24-27 2014
    While there are quite a few notable festivals that begin earlier than late April, many of us kick off the festival season by trekking to not your normal community college, the Wilkes Community College in the rolling hills of north central North Carolina where MerleFest has been held every year since 1988. Named in honor of Merle Watson who lived nearby, 2014 […]
  • Americana Boogie new releases for the week of April 15th... Rodney Crowell, Bobby Bare Jr, Moot Davis, Secret Sisters, Ray Bonneville and more
    BOBBY BARE JR. Undefeated (Bloodshot) Bobby Bare, Jr. could've phoned in a career. He could've exploited the fact that he s the son of Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Bare, instead, he blazed a path of unique songwriting… […]
  • Five Questions: Kris Orlowski
    With his new album, Believer, Seattle's Kris Orlowski steps forward in two new directions. First, it's a full-length record (after three EPs) and, second, he's a band (not just a singer/songwriter). Listening to the depth and breadth of Believer, both points ring out loud and clear -- it's a solid collection of songs rendered in big sonic […]

Shop Amazon by clicking through this logo to support NoDepression.com. We get a percentage of every purchase you make!

Subscribe To the No Depression Newsletter

Subscribe to the No Depression Newsletter