by Len Lear
They are not as old as the Rolling Stones, and their music is a lot more mellow, but the members of the Edge Hill Rounders, a local quartet who will be playing this Saturday night, Nov. 14, at Alma Mater, the new college-themed restaurant/bar at 7165 Germantown Ave. in Mt. Airy, are old-timers with as much energy and fun as musicians in their 20s.
Paul Mamolou, 60, Roslyn, sings and plays guitar; fiddler/guitarist Chuck Brenna and singer/mandolin player extraordinaire Tim Cheney are both 56 and Glenside residents. Percussionist Bob, 57, lives in Abington. The band plays “Acoustic Americana Revival,” a tasty gumbo of folk, traditional country, old-timey string band, bluegrass, Americana and Cajun music.
The band got together in December, 2012. Tim had been playing guitar in a commercial country band which had broken up, and Chuck’s blues band had come to an end. “We decided to get together and instead of playing what we thought other people wanted to hear,” said Tim, “we would play this music that we had a soft spot for. We knew Paul liked the same music, so we immediately dragged him in. We added Bob on percussion this year to give the band more range.”
Paul, Chuck and Tim have all written originals for the band. Sometimes it’s an individual work, but often it’s a collaborative process. “Maysville Ferry Blues” is a murder ballad Tim wrote that’s set in 19th century Kentucky, for example, while “Eastern Line” is a song written by Paul inspired by the recent Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia. Chuck’s song, “Change’s Comin’ Round,” is an edgy metaphorical ballad.
What musicians have influenced them the most? “Gram Parsons is a huge influence on us,” said Tim. “He is a huge figure in Americana and is considered by many to be the godfather of alternative country. Traditional country artists such as the Louvin Brothers with their tight two part vocal harmonies are another great inspiration. David Bromberg was another who made a big impression on us back in the Philadelphia folk boom of the 1970s.”
The band rehearses at least once a week, sometimes more. They rotate between each member’s basements, garages and living rooms. How did they come up with the name Edge Hill Rounders, and what does it mean? “Edge Hill is an actual hill in Glenside where Washington had his artillery during the battle of Germantown, and ‘Rounders’ just seems to fit the type of music we’re playing. A bit old-fashioned but jaunty.”
Why are guys their ages shlepping around with their instruments since they certainly are not making enough to put a down payment on a Mercedes (or a Ford)? “Anybody who comes see us perform will figure that out pretty quickly. We have a lot of fun playing together, and it does show. It’s probably the big smiles that give us away.”
Needless to say, since the quartet have 10 children all told, they all have day jobs. Tim is a research analyst or “data whisperer” and has been at the University of Pennsylvania over 20 years. “It may sound boring,” he said, “but this job has taken me to Asia (China), Africa (Ghana, Senegal, South Africa), Europe (France, Germany, Poland) and South America (Brazil). The work in Africa was with PBS History Detective Tukufu Zuberi when he has wearing his demographer hat.” (Tim’s wife, Judy Lewis, is a copyeditor at Rosetta Marketing Group in Hamilton, N.J. “Once she got a hold of one of my set lists and copyedited it, so now I don’t leave them out where she can find them.”)
Bob works IT for Urban Outfitters. Chuck is a Director of User Experience at a marketing agency. Paul has his own company which makes and installs decorative glass, including replacement stained glass windows. For example they did the glass in the church that the Waldorf School just moved into in Germantown.
The band gets gigs the hard way, by contacting venues themselves. They have a bunch of original songs and are looking forward to recording a CD. If the band could have any musical experience imaginable, what would it be?
“I would love to be back in the ‘60s and ‘70s in San Francisco,” said Tim, “and have a chance to play with all the great musicians who were part of that scene.”
If Tim could meet any musician who is now deceased, who would it be? “I would love to meet Bill Monroe, who created bluegrass. How many people have ever single-handedly created a new genre of music?”