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Back pOrchEstra inspired by stay-home orders

Tim Eschliman’s description of his newest band, the Back pOrchEstra, may become a genre before long, if it hasn’t already.

He calls it a “a shelter-in-place-inspired musical outfit.”

“During the lockdown, I couldn’t play with any of my bands,” said the singer and guitarist who now lives in American Canyon in Napa County. “I’ve always been a guy who preferred to have a band to play with.”

A part of the Sonoma music scene for decades, Eschliman, 68, has worked with a long list of bands, including Mystery Dance, New Copasetics, RhythmTown Jive and the Left Coast Syncopators.

He also performed and recorded with the Christmas Jug Band, cofounded by the late Dan Hicks and featuring Country Joe McDonald.

During the pandemic shutdown, Eschliman wanted a smaller group that could record safely at his home studio, so he recruited violinist Candy Girard of Bodega Bay and drummer Bowen Brown of San Rafael to form the “SIP band” Back pOrchEstra.

Because he has played many styles of music, Eschliman was looking for material that would present a new challenge.

“A lot of things didn’t seem interesting to me,” he said.

So he chose to record the Cajun classic “Allons à Lafayette,” or “Let’s Go to Lafayette,” sung in French and first released on a 78 rpm record in 1928.

The recording also features Beau Beaullieau, the bassist from the California Honeydrops and Gator Beat.

“I studied musical history in college, and in my early 20s I loved the old 78s, with Louis Jordan, Tampa Red and Jellyroll Morton,” Eschliman said. “I’ve always had a fascination with older building blocks of music.”

In putting together the Back pOrchEstra, Eschliman wanted to recreate some of the informality and spontaneity of earlier American popular music.

“The idea is not a band so much, but more like a guy playing out on his back porch and a couple of friends come over to join in,” he said.

Going forward, the bandleader hopes to explore a variety of traditional styles, including roots rock, Americana, acoustic blues, Western Swing, jug band and New Orleans music.

“The band draws from new original material as well as reworked classics by Hank Williams, Taj Mahal, Dan Hicks, Big Bill Broonzy, Bob Wills, Bobby Charles and even some Christmas jug band tunes.”

Eschliman and his band also have recorded his original song “If I Ever See You Again,” which features Beaullieau on bass and Vicki Randle on added percussion.

Recently, the Back pOrchEstra has been able to perform in a socially distanced setting at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Sonoma. The group played there Feb. 6 and is scheduled to return at 5 p.m. Feb. 28.

For more information on the Back pOrchEstra, see the band’s website at BackpOrchEstra.com or its Facebook page at facebook.com/BackpOrchEstra, or go on Instagram at instagram.com/backporchestra or on Twitter at twitter.com/BackEstra. To find listening options, visit orcd.co/dvkkbg6.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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