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Tempest

Tempest has a band name that might suggest a group of sneering, leather-wearing, head-banging metal heads, but the group's music is less threatening and more expansive than its name suggests. Tempest plays traditional Celtic music with a rock & roll intensity that's accented by a wide range of influences from the blues to American country music, Cajun 2-steps, and Arabic music, with some old-time San Francisco psychedelic flair. It's a mix bandleader Lief Sorbye calls "Celtodelic". The band's music, live and on record, aims for a blend that's half-traditional and half-contemporary. Sorbye is an amateur folklorist with a wide knowledge of Irish, Norwegian, and other Celtic and related traditions. He knows that if nobody sings the old songs, they'll die, but if a band only plays the old songs, the music gets stale, so Tempest hews close to the honored ethos of folkies everywhere by playing the old tunes in new ways, using traditional melodies for the basis of new songs and composing songs so steeped in older forms that they sound traditional.

Sorbye was born in Oslo, Norway, and started teaching himself guitar when he was seven. He played in rock cover bands in high school and continued to be a rocker until his early twenties, when a friend played him an Incredible String Band album. That vision of folksy psychedelia captivated him. He researched traditional Irish music and played jigs, reels, and ballads, fascinated by the truth and beauty of the old songs. When he couldn't convince his bandmates to "go acoustic," he spent years singing for his supper on the streets of Europe and America before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area.

In Oakland he met Paul Espinoza and Margie Butler, who were also big Incredible String Band fans. The trio started performing as Golden Bough and became a major attraction at folk festivals all over American and Europe, with Sorbye's prowess on guitar, mandolin, and other stringed instruments being one of the bands major draws. After eight years and six albums, Sorbye left Golden Bough and created Tempest, intending to merge the power of Celtic traditions with the drive of folk-rock. The band took its name from an old Irish dance tune "The Tempest Reel." Tempest played their first gig in 1988 and after a few personnel shifts settled down with Sorbye on lead vocals, bouzouki, and electric mandolin, Cuban-born drummer Adolfo Lazo on drums, Rob Wullenjohn on guitar, and Ian Butler on bass. The band's first three self-released albums -- Bootleg (1991), Serrated Edge (1992), and Surfing to Mecca (1994) included compositions by Sorbye, Butler, and Wullenjohn, in addition to traditional Irish tunes. On Surfing to Mecca, Lazo began adding Arab and other world music rhythms to his percussive attack. Sorbye also invented a double-necked electric mandolin/mandola to give his solos more range and power.

With a challenging tour schedule, Tempest quickly progressed from a well-known California folk-rock act to an international draw on the folk festival circuit. The band usually logs more than 200 gigs a year at clubs, colleges, and folk festivals. In 1996, fiddler Michael Mullen joined up and the band signed with Magna Carta, a logo distributed by WEA International. The deal helped Tempest raise their international profile. Turn of the Wheel (1996) showed the band adding a metallic attack to their sound, but they returned to a more traditional folk-rock sound on 1997's The Gravel Walk. Throughout its history, the band has experienced many personnel shifts, with Sorbye, Lazo, and Mullen being the most consistent players. Still, their albums and live gigs retain a high level of musicianship marked by the group's inventive arrangements. Balance (2001) added a bit of prog rock to the mix, Shapeshifter (2003) saw them playing some traditional American music alongside their blend of Celtic and Norwegian folk-rock for the first time, and The Double Cross (2006) found tunes from Finland and Scotland on the menu. On 2010's Another Dawn, the band made a crossover move with a cover of the Grass Roots hit "Let's Live for Today" while staying true to their traditional roots with "Jomfru," one of oldest songs in the Norwegian vocal tradition.

Sorbye still plays occasional reunion dates with Golden Bough and also appears with various fiddlers as Caliban, a duo that explores the acoustic side of traditional Celtic and Norwegian music. Since 2006, the band has also been hosting their own Celtic music and arts jamboree, the Karfluki Fest. The 2010 event was put on hold however, due to the American economic downturn of 2009. ~ j. poet, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Boring and unoriginal
ARRRRRRRRRRR R R good music
BTW, whatever happened to Na Cabarfeidh?
Sweet! Wish I'd heard them when they were Golden Bough. I do like what Nordic people bring to celtic music ~ a whole new vision and spirit!
Celtic & didgeridoo music should NOT work together, but OH YES THEY DIDGERI----D O , & it's FANTASTIC!!! Thank you, Tempest, for that startling juxtapositio n - - - & thanks to Pandora---ag a i n ! ! ! :-D
Bad a** stuff. Brilliant lads!
magpinch
I agree! The Wicked Tinkers would complete this genre on Pandora.
Now if I could just get Wicked Tinkers on Pandora life would be complete!
Love the didgeridoo!
Very good
awesome!
Zachery....a late 60's model Pontiac...
Really cool music! :D
If so let me know. Follow me lol.
Omg these guys are the bomb I love their music. I wonder if they like Hawaiian gals? My name is Kinipela.
zachary.nors t e d t 8
Tempest has a band name that might suggest a group of sneering, leather-wear i n g , head-banging metal heads, but the group's music is less threatening and more expansive than its name suggests.

Uhh, okey dokey Don Carlton. Seems like you need to get out of the 1950's if you think Tempest sounds threatening, or even metal. If you were to take even a brief look at the bands here in the 21st century, or even those in the late 20th, you'd know what metal names actually sound like.
I like ETH better
Dkm does better bagpipes and so does ETH
Good ;)
absolutly adore it
Loves it
The bagpipes and digere-doo are a guest appearance from Aaron Shaw and Wicked Tinkers.
meadowshire
Thanks Pandora for introducing me to Tempest. Love their music. They make bagpipes jam!
steven.murph y 4 2
I object to the metal head comment!!! I like metal, celtic, and CELTIC METAL!
powerful
jtucker42
Powerful & wonderful! Discovered these guys on Pandora. What a find!
Mm....meh.
Great power & presence live. you can tell they love what they do. Lief rocks the double neck and has fun doing so... they r real people you can chat with after the show as well.
I have known Lief since his days in Golden Bough. Reconnected after some 20 years, and I am qutie impressed with his music now and Tempest. Bravo!
Great musicians for sure!
pandora80255 0
The version of "Queen of Argyll" by this band is awful, the singer is flat, nowhere as good as Wolfstone's version, which I can't find on Pandora... wanted to thumbs-up it to show that I love the song, just not Tempest's version. They keep popping up in my playlist, seem like a weak imitation of Wolfstone to me. There are better similar Scottish bands that I also can't find on Pandora.
They are amazing live and Sorbye is just the sweetest guy ever
duaneschroed t e r
Love their music--remin d s me of early Wolfstone.
jeannesmagic a l m u r a l s
CAN'T LISTEN TO TEMPEST WITHOUT MOVING YOUR FEET!
trevordhylan d
They're coming to Pittsburgh in April, the day before my birthday! So excited!
I've seen them about 100 times and hung around with the band at Philly Folk Fest. I was raised on something like this.
Great stuff.
Much as I like '70s era rock acts like Jethro Tull, Led Zep and so forth, these guys are the real deal. Proper technical skill and their heart in it, too. If you like them, check out Flogging Molly, for a more punk-oriente d band with the same spirit.
I saw them yesterday at a festival in Fair Oaks! They were awesome!
madameravyn
Love it!
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