The Lowest Pair: Double banjo beauty
by Jared Curtis
It’s always exciting when two different established artists find their voice within each other and become one cohesive unit, which is exactly the case with The Lowest Pair. Both Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee have found success as solo artists and other projects, but nothing they have created alone can compare to the beautifully haunting sounds heard on their debut album, 36¢.
The duo — who already has a second album finished and have started on a third — met each other way back in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they joined forces and The Lowest Pair was born.
“We met at a bluegrass festival in 2009 when we were both in bands playing the event, “ said Lee, who was “killing some time” at a Minnesota Goodwill store during our interview. “We kept running into each other at different festivals and events and became friends. Eventually, while keeping in touch through Facebook, we both realized that we were exiting projects at the same time. It truly was fate.”
Palmer eventually made his way to Washington and the two started collaborating immediately.
“It was around January 2013 that we started discussing the idea of collaborating as solo artist and recording a duet album,” Lee said. “So I caught a ride to Seattle with my friends in Pert Near Sandstone and we picked some tunes and it was evident we had great chemistry. We lined up some shows together to play solo, but our chemistry was so amazing and our vocal harmonies blended together like we have been recording for years, we knew we had to work on a project together.”
That project was their debut album 36¢.
“We both knew coming in that we wanted to focus on the writing and Kendl is such a prolific writer it was kind of intimidating getting on the same page. But we both brought our solo material together and was able to make it work.”
The pair recorded the album in Minnesota at Suburban Dad Studios with help from Dave Simonett (Trampled By Turtles).
“I had worked with Dave before and had set up some time in the studio to work with him on a solo project, but I sent him some demos of what Kendl and I were working on and he was more enthusiastic about that project than my solo stuff,” Lee laughed. “Working with Dave was awesome, he is very patient and has a keen ear for beautiful music. He was very gentle with us and was full of ideas to help us when we were working out the kinks or unsure about some things. He even played on the album a bit, so overall it was an amazing experience.”
The duo had less than two months to finish the project, so “36¢”is comprised of completely solo material from each other rewritten into duets. But that isn’t the case for the new album, tentatively titled “The Sacred Heart Sessions,” which features songs that Lee and Winter wrote together and recorded at an old church, the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth, Minn. Lee says the band hopes to release it in March of 2015.
“This album features a lot more collaborative songwriting. We are arranging everything together and have even freshened up some of our older material into something that fits the project,” Lee said. “ ‘The Sacred Heart Sessions’ will be a very different project then our first album. For a while we weren’t even sure if the concept was going to work as were used to a more intimate sound and the church offered a much larger sound. But we got some great feedback on the project and now were excited for fans to hear it.”
The band’s sound sticks out among the plethora of other duos out there thanks to their double banjo arrangements. Both play different styles of banjo’s, which offers a sweet and beautiful sound to go along with their honey-soaked vocals.
“Banjo’s were both our first instruments and its what drew us together,” Lee said. “We both have different approaches to the instruments but it melds together beautifully. We have added some guitar arrangements so I like to say we started with a double banjo concept and turned it into a double banjo band.”
The pair is also currently working on a third album of “old-timey” songs, which they will once again team with Simonett in January. With Winter (who hails from Olympia) traveling to Minnesota to record throughout the year, I asked Lee if he had converted her to a Midwestern or if she had converted him to life in the Pacific Northwest.
“There was a couple of moments that she was thinking about moving here, but then she got a taste of a Midwest winter and I don’t think she really liked that,” Lee laughed. “I didn’t know that Eden existed west of the Cascades, I love the whole area out there and met a lot of nice people, so who knows where either of us will end up.”
No matter where the duo settles, one thing is for sure; you can experience their beautiful duets at The Green Frog on Nov. 19.
“We’re just a couple of weirdos doing something weird with the double banjo sound,” Lee laughed. “Our vocal arrangements are unique and our harmonies are on point. I don’t want to toot our own horn but we are able to mix our two different styles into something beautiful and sweet that anyone can enjoy.”
For more information about the band, see www.thelowestpair.com.
Published in the November 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine