Cincinnati’s Willow Tree Carolers are a wandering bunch of barefooted young folkies with the spirit of Leadbelly, Pete Seeger and Odetta in their hearts; their reinterpretations of the road-worn American Folk songbook, complemented with their own original tales of hitting life’s highway make-it-or-bust style has won them plenty of applause from audiences as divergent as Chicago biker gangs, celebratory hometown dive bar crowds, and plenty of good folks gathered at various public parks and street festivals during the daylight hours. You name it, and they’ve strummed, plucked and played to please just about anyone’s ears.
Legend has it, the Carolers began as a sort-of family band, sometime around 2014. Brothers Josh (banjo) and David Sparks (drums) soon joined ranks with burgeoning singer/songwriter Brandon Martin (guitar/banjo-uke) whom is also their cousin, then reached out to their buddy “Moose” (a sweet fellow, but don’t cross him – hence, the nickname) to bring along his upright bass. As if that wasn’t enough, they somehow convinced the lovely and talented Dawn Weast to turn in her violin for a wicked fiddle: on stage, she gives the boys a run for their money that you have to see to believe.
It wasn’t long before the Cincinnati-based group became regulars at every spot worth playing – and plenty that weren’t – around town and answered calls to hit the road. They’re undeniably one of the Ohio River Valley’s most lauded Folk acts, nominated for a 2016 Cincinnati Entertainment Award in that very category, and veterans of multiple fests, including the Whispering Beard Folk Fest, where they shared the stage with the likes of The Tillers, Possessed by Paul James, the Bottle Rockets and many more.