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Folkfaces frontman Tyler Westcott hosts January residency at The Little 

Raucous roots

When Buffalo-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Westcott isn't busy running an open mic at Rohall's Corner or teaching music lessons, he's performing solo or with one of the five bands that he's in. Introduced to writing and performing music at a very early age, Westcott drew influence from traditional jazz and folk artists such as Django Reinhardt and Woody Guthrie, respectively.

Westcott adds his own new soulful twist to traditional forms of American roots music like folk, bluegrass, and the blues. Fans can witness the multiple facets of his music during “Very Hairy January,” his month-long Thursday night residency at The Little Theatre Café. Each concert of the residency will be followed by a themed open jam, at which the public is encouraged to bring their instruments and join along. The musical style of the jam varies from week to week.

Westcott is quick to point out the contributions of his musical collaborators throughout the residency. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he says. “I've got some extremely talented people playing with me on these Thursday shows, with a lot of love and craft to share.”

The first show on January 3 features Tyler Westcott with special guest Sean McNamara – the guitarist and vocalist for Buffalo-based folk band Mosswalk – followed by a Django-esque jam to cap off the evening. Westcott and McNamara share an intricate musical chemistry: the two take turns playing solos, employing complex rhythms and experimenting with both acoustic and electric feels. The duo will perform originals as well as classic Django covers, creating an accessible platform for those interested in discovering Reinhardt’s smooth brand of jazz.

Six-piece folk band The Observers will perform on January 10, followed by an old-timey bluegrass jam. Think upbeat folk music replete with acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, and harmonica. The Observers – of which Westcott is a member – deliver light-hearted, catchy melodies and modal chord progressions presented with brutally honest lyrics and bursting vocal harmonies. Having just released a new album called “Killing Time” last month, the band balances familiar timbres with new sounds, evoking feelings that are alternately refreshing and nostalgic.

On January 17, Tyler Westcott & Friends will perform a combination of acoustic originals and covers, with a round-robin song swap afterward. Westcott plays a bright and twangy banjo with driving force behind every pluck and strum, howling his vocals over top in a loud, charismatic tone. Often toying with conceptual opposites like "I'm Sorry I'm Not More Sorry," he creates satirical and conversational lyrics about love, nature, and existentialism, accompanied by his friends on various folk instruments.

Banjo Juice Jazz Band will play on January 24, followed by a jam that will incorporate elements of Dixieland, traditional jazz, and hot jazz. A trio comprised of Tyler Westcott on vocals, guitar, and banjo, Kyle Yagielski on brass, and Kyle Ohlson on woodwinds, Banjo Juice Jazz Band leans more toward the roots side of the folk spectrum. Easy-going, smooth Louisiana jazz mixes with roots and blues to make silly and drunken bounce-a-longs. Westcott's passionate voice rings out with soulful regret over the instrumental dance underneath, with the woodwinds echoing his vocal sentiments. Banjo Juice Jazz Band is great party music to drink to, make mistakes to, and wake up the next day singing about.

Tyler Westcott is perhaps best-known as the founder and frontman of the bluesy roots band Folkfaces, which will perform on January 31, with a subsequent open jam, to close out the residency. Having gained adoring fans across the country since forming in 2011, Folkfaces is currently working on its second studio album, and continues to host its annual Folkfaces Fest.

With instrumentation including banjo, kazoo, upright bass, and washboard, Folkfaces mixes traditional folk and Americana with more bombastic shades of ragtime, jazz, and even punk. The band puts on a lively show comprised of rowdy, danceable tunes, with guitar solos competing against sensual saxophone solos and shrieking, growly rock vocals. Singing hearty melodies with occasional falsetto leaps that evoke heartache, Westcott really embodies the blues, as his feelings seem to pour outward into every listener’s soul. Quick-moving lyrics tell stories of love and heartbreak, perseverance and letting loose. Folkfaces is a fun party band with backing vocal shouts and anthemic sing-alongs.

"Music makes me happy,” Westcott says when asked what made him decide to pursue music full-time. “It's a release of energy and emotion that is important to my mental health."
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