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Enjoy Magazine

Buckhorn Mountain Stompers

04/22/2016 02:15PM ● By Jon Lewis

Mountain Folk

May 2016
Story and Photos by Jon Lewis

The Buckhorn Mountain Stompers have rambled down from the hills of Trinity County to dispel the myth that bright lights and big cities are the prerequisites for showbiz success. 

It’s not that this eclectic, genre-bending, salt-of-the-earth ensemble is on a mission to defend the small-town way of life; it's just that these Stompers all happen to hail from towns so small that they don’t have stoplights, much less any bright lights.

Perhaps it’s that infrastructure-free background that makes their music so down-homey, fun and accessible. The proof is now in the digital pudding as the Stompers have greeted the spring and summer festival season with their first recording, the appropriately named “Strut Your Stuff” on the Redding-based Miracle Mile Records label. A CD release party is set for Friday, May 13, at The Dip in downtown Redding.

The Stomper-in-chief for this quartet is Weaverville native Taylor Aglipay, the very definition of a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, bass, piano, organ, accordion, harmonica, saxophone, clarinet, flute, drums and percussion) who also serves as music director, band leader and chief recording engineer.

A lifelong musician who grew up with parents who played piano and trumpet, Aglipay set his sights on a career in music at an early age. He washed cars to earn enough money for his first guitar and later picked up the saxophone to earn a spot in the Mt. Hood Community College jazz band.

While playing his baritone sax for various reggae and ska bands in Portland, Aglipay hooked up with the March Fourth Marching Band and ended up on an 11-year ride that took him to stages all around the world. He was joined for the final two years of that tour by his wife, Danyel, who he first met as a teenager while backpacking in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area.

Danyel is the fiddler in the group, an instrument she first picked up at age 14 and then put back down in a fit of frustration. She tried classical violin as a 19-year-old student at Reed College and again surrendered. After earning a law degree from Lewis & Clark College, she worked in the Oregon Attorney General’s Office for three years, and then spent two years as a crew member with March Fourth.

Her third and final try with the fiddle was the key. “I got serious about it five years ago after a lifetime of being a wishful beginner,” Danyel says. Overcoming those frustrations has helped her become an empathetic teacher; she now offers fiddle lessons through the Trinity County Arts Council.

Erik White grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where he picked up a harmonica habit and an affinity for the Chicago Blues of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. A job with the now-closed North American Wilderness Academy in French Gulch brought him out west, and he subsequently met up with Michael Kielich, another French Gulch teacher and musician.

Kielich befriended percussionist Stephen “Steve-o” Cantrell, who was playing with the Stompers at the time, and ended up playing guitar at Cantrell’s wedding, where he met the Aglipays. Family and work commitments led Cantrell out of the band; Kielich and White moved on in.

If Aglipay is the musical brains behind the Stompers, Kielich is the band’s heart. A banjo and guitar player without any formal training, Kielich brings a passion to the group that he traces to his Lithuanian and Polish immigrant parents and what he believes was a telepathic gift he received from his late brother, Mark, before his brother passed at age 27.

Kielich, a father of two and a home school teacher at Shasta Elementary, credits Aglipay with teaching him how to play in a band; Aglipay, in turn, says Kielich’s “raw, primal passion” is an ideal counterpart to his more structured approach to music.

For his part, Kielich says he wants “to get to the core: music is a catalyst for making people happy.” White, the harmonica player, echoed the sentiment: “We just want to get people up and feeling the music.”

In addition to the Buckhorn Mountain Stompers, Taylor and Danyel frequently team up to perform Gypsy tunes, Irish fiddle pieces and some originals as a duo they call Rainy Day Picnic. Their high-energy quartet, 4 Pounds of Lightning, is on a brief hiatus. The two also supplement their musical endeavors by selling jewelry they fashion from irreparable musical instruments.  

“Strut Your Stuff” CD release party, 

May 13 at The Dip in downtown Redding