Sassafras Stomp brings ‘fiddle bow flying, boot stomping' music to Moab
by Rose Egelhoff
The Times-Independent
Feb 02, 2017 | 1673 views | 0 0 comments | 225 225 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sassafras Stomp
Sassafras Stomp

The Moab Community Dance Band (MCDB) will host contra dance band Sassafras Stomp and singer-songwriter Sean Oshima for a performance at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5.

Sassafras Stomp is a Maine-based duo comprised of fiddler Johanna Davis and guitarist Adam Nordell, who are touring to promote their newly released album, “Walk These Fields.” Their music features a mix of original and traditional tunes and ballads.

“The concert will be a mix of high energy traditional fiddle tunes and original place-based song writing,” Nordell said.

Davis will fiddle, sing and play the shruti box, an Indian drone instrument. Nordell will play guitar, banjo and French-Canadian foot percussion, a tradition from Quebec that spread to Maine when people came to work in the state’s wood and paper mills.

Nordell, who was raised in Montana, visited Moab for vacations while he was growing up.

“That landscape, it is imprinted in my mind as being just so beautiful, so much fun, but I haven’t been back there since I was a kid,” Nordell said. “Johanna, growing up in Maine, has never seen how beautiful southern Utah is, so we arbitrarily picked that at the start of our tour from Montana back to Maine.”

Sean Oshima will join the duo to perform pop-folk songs.

“It will be a fun little balanced show with a more modern pop-folk sound coming from Sean and a more traditionally oriented folk sound from my partner Johanna and I,” Nordell said.

Oshima and his brother Jamie, known collectively as the Oshima Brothers, recently released a self-titled album featuring original songs.

“I love to write songs and I like them to reflect my life and my thoughts about life. There will be some themes of travel and love and growth,” Oshima said.

Nordell said he is happy to work with the Moab Community Dance Band.

“They’ve got their ears tuned to what’s happening on the national contra dance scene and seem to be really interested in cultivating a strong folk music and dance community and southern Utah,” he said.

In the past, Moab Community Dance Band has brought other well-known contra musicians to town for concerts and workshops.

In Maine, contra is a tradition with deep roots, Nordell said. Grange halls would host dances, acting as important community centers. Today, he still sees contra music bringing people together.

“It’s a really neat nexus of community that happens because anybody can walk in the door and start dancing,” he said. “You’re holding hands with a stranger who might be 30 years older than you are, 30 years younger than you, makes twice as much money as you do or makes half as much money as you do, somebody [that] has the same gender or the opposite gender. It’s a beautiful day where a group of strangers can start interacting and form connections. For me, it’s like a musical metaphor of ... our potential to form really strong welcoming open communities. And it’s fun.”

Sassafras Stomp will teach music workshops for the Moab Community Dance Band and community members interested in becoming members of the band, according to band member Miriam Graham.

The group suggests a $10 donation for those attending Sunday’s concert. More information about the performers is available at: and

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