Having played more than 400 shows since the release of their first Magna Carta album ("Turn Of The Wheel") in January of 1996, Tempest realizes the best way to keep its enthusiastic following satisfied is by staying on the road and making frequent return visits. "The Gravel Walk" is a great representation of Tempest's live show without being a "live" album. The band has been performing and recording since 1988, playing countless live dates and releasing five CDs. Some have described Tempest as a folk-rock band. Their repertoire is based primarily around traditional folk songs and they definitely rock, so that part is accurate. But the description is stirred up by the fact the Celtic themes are interpreted by a Norwegian lead singer, a Cuban drummer, a bass player from New York, a Bay area guitarist with one foot in the sixties and a mad violinist. Mixed in with the mythology and history are significant doses of traditional Norwegian music, English dance tunes, Irish reels, Scottish ballads and, of course, rock and roll. “We play to a large variety of audiences,” Lief Sorbye states. “In certain areas, we could be playing to a bunch of young punk fans, or in another area we could be playing for a bunch of Deadheads.”
Sorbye, Tempest’s founding member, was born and raised in Oslo, Norway. He formed Tempest after spending eight years touring and recording with the acoustic band, Golden Bough. With Tempest, Lief’s goal was to meld folk influences with the early 1970’s electric music he had loved. The intensity and the structure of both styles are very similar in many ways, and in the hands of Tempest, they get thrown into the world music blender with a remarkable result. Drummer Adolfo Lazo hails from Cuba and his musical background adds texture and dimension to Tempest’s rhythm section. Guitarist Rob Wullenjohn brings the psychedelic sounds of native San Francisco to the mix. Violinist Michael Mullen contributes his spirited stage presence and love of traditional fiddle tunes. Jay Nania rounds out the quintet, adding his experience of playing bass with such diverse artists as Alice Cooper and Anita Baker to the mix.
Lief sees Tempest as a way to combine his fascination with the past and his love of traditional music. The band is a vehicle to update the music in true folk tradition. Traditional tunes mix easily with rock intensity throughout the album. “Traditional music tells stories, whether it’s mythology or actual events that have happened in the past,” Sorbye says. “A lot of that is really relevant to modern society. People still have the same problems when it comes to getting along.” Norwegian influences shine through on two tracks in particular; ‘Sinclair’ is a ballad of war sung in Lief’s native tongue while ‘Trip Across The Mountain’ is a suite for fiddle and flute based on traditional Norwegian themes. Michael Mullen’s fiddle runs the gamut from old country hoedown to new world classical, often all in the same song. Songs on “The Gravel Walk” even give a nod to life on the road in one form or another. “One For The Fiddler” is described as ‘a small tribute to all the great moments we’ve had sweating, tired and happy in some warm venue at the end of a long road’. “Buffalo Jump” is the story of a buffalo hunting trap devised by the Plains Indians in Alberta, Canada.
Produced and recorded by respected producer and musician, Robert Berry, "The Gravel Walk" can be truly defined as a "party" album assuming that the party consists of Irishmen, Scotsmen and Vikings bent on celebrating like there was no tomorrow.
released August 26, 1997
LIEF SORBYE – lead vocals,
acoustic and electric mandolins and
octave-mandolas, flute, pennywhistles
ROB WULLENJOHN – electric and
acoustic guitars,harmony vocals
MICHAEL MULLEN – acoustic fiddle and
five string electric violin, harmony vocals