The title of Taarka’s 2013 album, Adventures in Vagabondia, wound up being a little too autobiographical when David Tiller and Enion Pelta-Tiller, the couple forming the band’s core, lost their home in Colorado’s devastating floods that fall. Which might be why they went with Making Tracks Home for their March 24, 2015 release. After an experience like that, home becomes even more special — though they’re also making tracks to many other places on their upcoming tour.
For a couple whose main instruments are violin and mandolin and who draw musical influences from Romania and Appalachia, the notion of travel is anything but foreign. And they like bringing it forth in song; weaving their bluegrass, Celtic, classical, pop-rock and gypsy-jazz explorations into a unique sonic quilt best characterized as indie folk.
The Nashville Scene describes it as “a distinctive, moody sound.” The Source Weekly of Bend, Ore., offers an even livelier assessment: “The Colorado grass-fiends known as Taarka sound like a collective of train-riding pranksters trained in classical music by gypsy wolves in the foothills of the Appalachians.” While the closest either one got to training by wolves was studying Prokofiev, mandolinist Tiller, who also plays tenor guitar and bouzouki and sings, was born just outside of Washington, D.C. and raised in the National Historic Landmark district of Waterford, Va., a region rich with bluegrass history. Pelta-Tiller, a classically trained five-string violinist and vocalist, was born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, Calif., where she began studying violin at 3½. Now making their home in Lyons, Colo., the pair met in 2001 in New York, where they busked in the subway and became members of Brooklyn Browngrass before forming Taarka. Their touring band includes bass master Troy Robey and guitar prodigy Mike Robinson; on Making Tracks Home, their accompanists include guitarists Ross Martin and Grant Gordy and bassist Sam Grisman.
Originally an instrumental string band, Taarka has evolved into an act with two lead vocalists; the pleasant contrast can be heard on “Heart and Song,” which features Pelta-Tiller, and “Old Waterford Town,” featuring Tiller. As befits a pair of vagabond musicians (they’re raising their already-performing son, Aesop, on the road), the couple simply likes to go where the music takes them.
“We just go as deeply into the music as we can and see what happens when we come out the other side,” Tiller tells Boulder Weekly. They don’t fear getting lost, but if they should, they know they can follow their well-laid tracks right back home.