The T-Mart Rounders
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The T-Mart Rounders, Jesse Milnes, Kevin Chesser and Becky Hill were brought together by their mutual love for the old-time music and dance traditions of West Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The three started playing together in 2012 in Elkins, WV, at social gatherings and square dances, and their friendship has evolved into the T-Mart Rounders. The trio consists of clawhammer banjo, fiddle, guitar, voice, and foot percussion, re-envisioning Appalachian clogging and flatfooting as its own instrument within the band. Their arrangements of traditional old-time tunes use percussive dance as the primary rhythmic accompaniment, akin to a drum-set. All three collaborators have spent significant time in West Virginia learning from and interviewing master elder musicians and dancers. The goal of the project is to celebrate the traditions of Appalachian music and dance, while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of those traditions. The T-Mart Rounders released a full length album in 2017, and promoted it with a summer tour around the region. Performance highlights have included Wheatland Music Festival, FestiVall, Purple Fiddle, Floyd Country Store among others.
Jesse Milnes grew up in the world of West Virginia old-time music (his father is fiddler and folklorist Gerry Milnes). Although he is widely known as a fiddle player, Jesse’s first instrument was a guitar, and he has developed a personal style of finger-picking, drawing on influences from blues to bluegrass to country. He has played fiddle and guitar with many country, old-time, and bluegrass bands over the years, including the Sweetback Sisters, a country band for which he was also a main songwriter. Jesse has won many local and regional fiddle contests, including the WV State Folk Festival in Glenville, WV, and the Ed Haley Fiddle Contest in Ashland, KY. Jesse and his wife, Emily Miller, live in Valley Bend, WV and recently toured their first album in Australia and California.
Kevin Chesser is a musician and writer living in Elkins, WV. He performs regularly on banjo & guitar at square dances and community events around the state. In 2016, he took first place in old-time banjo at the WV Open Fiddle & Banjo championship, and has also won prizes for his playing at the Vandalia Gathering & the WV State Folk Festival. He tours regularly with Traveling’ Appalachians Revue and the T-Mart Rounders.
Becky Hill is a Michigan native and a accomplished and highly sought after percussive dancer, Appalachian square dance caller, and choreographer. Becky has worked with Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Rhythm in Shoes, Good Foot Dance Company and studied with an array of percussive dance luminaries. Together with noted folklorist Gerry Milnes, she produced a documentary film on West Virginia dance traditions, Reel ‘Em Boys, Reel ‘Em and currently serves as the Events Coordinator for Augusta Heritage Center. She has won several dance competitions in Appalachia. She performs regularly with the T-Mart Rounders alongside Jesse Milnes and Kevin Chesser. In 2017, she directed and danced in her first full-length music and dance work inspired by Appalachian traditions, Shift and this work was performed at Wheatland Music Festival this past September. In Fall 2018 she was selected as a fellow for OneBeat, a U.S. State Department Cultural Diplomacy Program. As an avid organizer and teacher of folk traditions, Becky’s work is deeply rooted in the connections between music and community.