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WITF Music: Tanjo & Crow Project

Musical empathy, controlled chaos and vegetables.

  • Joe Ulrich
Tanjo and Crow perform for WITF Music on Jan. 17, 2023

Tanjo and Crow perform for WITF Music on Jan. 17, 2023

Tanner Bingaman was at a bar in Bloomsburg on a night that Allan Combs II happened to be playing there. Tanner offered to join him with his banjo and, after a few years of staying in touch via social media, the two have formally joined forces to combine their blend of roots, blues and Americana. The result is the Tanjo & Crow Project. In WITF’s studio they were joined by Eric Avey (upright bass, vocals) and Brian Maag (saxophone).

Listen to the radio feature:

On musical empathy

Bingaman: It’s hard to describe if you don’t play music, but as a listener you can hear it for sure. Sometimes you meet someone … and you play together and you generally know if things are gonna click or not … As a player you have to be almost an even better listener … Actually playing the song and then just the vibe of the song, which [are] two different worlds.

Combs: Serve the song. That’s what we do. If it’s Tanner’s song, we crowd around Tanner, and support him and then vice versa … and it’s just about being patient and I think it’s being respectful to the person’s music. Tanner didn’t just write it in two minutes, it obviously means something to him. I’m not going to write a guitar lick in two minutes and expect it to be perfect. You gotta really listen and take your time.

A song that propelled you to play music

Combs: “634-5789” by Wilson Pickett. That’s a really good tune. And the horns and everything. I love that stuff. That’s the one that brought me into music.

On the joy of playing music

Combs: You know that feeling when you’re on a rollercoaster and you get to the very, very top and it doesn’t fall yet, but you’re gonna fall. That feeling. Like your first kiss or something, that nervous excitement, the childlike wonder. It’s fun. When you hit something really nice, the first thing I can think of to do is laugh.

Bingaman: The best music always seems like it’s gonna fall apart, and it doesn’t.

Combs: Controlled chaos?

Bingaman: Yep. I have a tendency to get myself in a little bit of trouble with that. I love that so much. A lot of times when you’re playing unfamiliar music to you, it’s not gonna go the greatest for the listeners, but for you, it’s a great feeling to immerse yourself in something that feels foreign at the time.

Tanner Bingaman performing with Tanjo & Crow Project

Jeremy Long / WITF

Tanner Bingaman performs with Tanjo and Crow for WITF Music on Jan. 17, 2023

What’s inspiring you right now?

Bingaman: I’m on a very big modern/punk/country [kick] is how I’d describe it.  So bands like Pine Grove. Evan Stevens Hall is one of my favorite songwriters. There’s a lot of really good bands that I consider in that vein right now that are modern bands. And I consider a lot of my writing to be in that world of music for sure. I look to that world for inspiration a lot. It reminds you of something super nostalgic, but it’s very modern.

What do you do outside of music?

Bingaman: I definitely went on an adventure kick for a while. Lived out of my car to rock climb every day for a short spell. I worked on the Lehigh River as a guide for a season. I spent the past four, five seasons as a farm hand. I’ve been pretty involved in the small farm scene in Pennsylvania for a number of years. This will probably be the first year that I’m not, but yeah, I like growing vegetables. It’s not a sustainable career choice as a farm hand unless you’re born into that world. But it’s a cool rabbit hole to go down as far as an education.

Combs: I do play a lot, like 200-250 times a year. I love it. It is definitely my life. But I do have a family as well. And any of my free time goes to them. Any and all of it. Being dad is awesome.

Alan Combs II performing with Tanjo & Crow Project

Jeremy Long / WITF

Alan Combs II – Tanjo and Crow perform for WITF Music on Jan. 17, 2023

What are you reading?

Bingaman: One of my favorite books is Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. And there’s another book that comes to mind by Kurt Vonnegut’s son. His name’s Mark Vonnegut. It’s called The Eden Express. And it’s a journey through insanity and mental crises, that sort of thing.

Where did “Tanjo & Crow” come from?

Bingaman: It’s Tanner plus banjo. [There were] five or six different groups of separate musicians that didn’t know each other from different parts of the US that had given me the nickname Tanjo. And at some point it started sticking.

Combs: I have some pretty cool friends that come out to see me play and they just started yelling “Cacaww” at shows when I was playing and it stuck. I got a logo made. And it’s a thing at my gigs now, people just yell “Cacaww”.

Bingaman: We want to be able to make a 12 piece band if we want to at some point. And so we stuck “project” on there just so we could do whatever we want with it.

Tanjo & Crow Project is performing on March 26 at the The New Cumberland Collective‘s March installment of The Wind Down at West Shore Theatre.

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