By Kristi Kates
Billy Brandt is a busy man.
Not only does he play with regionally-popular band Grievous Angel, who
keep the dance floor moving at places like Petoskeys City Park Grill, but
hes also had to make room in his den for several Detroit Music Awards,
takes care of various releases through his own record label. Now, he is
also helming a duo, Billy Brandt, Sarana VerLin and the Basement Band,
which will perform several Northern Michigan shows this August.
His work with duet partner VerLin started from what might seem like an
unlikely source for this seasoned performer - the internet.
I met Sarana VerLin on MySpace, Brandt explains. I saw a picture of her
dressed sort of like a gypsy and playing a violin. She looked interesting,
and I wondered how we had not met up in the music scene until then.
Brandt contacted VerLin, met her in-person, and the pair quickly found
themselves in a jam session.
I was surprised to find a great harmony singer as well as a unique lead
vocalist, Brandt enthuses about VerLin. A prolific songwriter and
sensitive accompanist on her violin.
Soon after their first meeting, Brandt and VerLin tried writing a song
together - and the results were instant and effective, Brandt says.
Now dubbed Billy Brandt and Sarana VerLin and the Basement Band, theyve
written over two dozen songs together in the past couple of years, and
have defined a new sound for themselves.
Celticana is what Brandt calls the music he crafts with VerLin, a
combination of influences that blend traditional, familiar Americana music
with folk music hailing from England.
Their self-defined combo has won them many regional awards and the DMAs
(Detroit Music Awards), and have seen them performing everywhere from bars
and nightclubs to educational venues such as the Charlevoix Public Library
(where theyll be on August 22.)
Both Sarana and I have won multiple Detroit Music Awards, Brandt says,
she won this year for Best Folk CD, and won that same award in 2008; and
we won Best Folk/Duo at the 2010 DMAs.
Those familiar with the retro stylings of 60s and 70s folk music -
whether of the stateside or overseas variety - will likely identify with
Brandt and VerLins approaches to translating these sounds to their
We are able to explore a great variety of music in this group, Brandt
says, we both have deep roots in both American and British folk - we can
jump from Towne or Dylan to Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention)-sounding
music. We sing great two-part harmony, and with our full band great
And they most definitely jam, Brandt enthuses: about half of our songs
take off on a jam at the end, he says, every one is a good listener.
Even though they call themselves Celticana, Brandt feels that part of
their appeal is that they are tapping in to an older style of music that
communicates well with their fans.
Audiences are loving the roots revival because it creates a sense of
place, a sense of history, he says, its simple, beautiful music that is
easy to connect to on an emotional level.
More info on Billy Brandt and Sarana VerLin may be found at
www.billyandsarana.com; they will be performing live on August 5 at the
City Park Grill in Petoskey, on August 6 at the Dunegrass Festival in
Empire, and on August 20 at the Perry Hotels Noggin Room in Petoskey.
Additional dates may be found via their website.