There are plenty of ways to tie Arborea to the freak folk and new American guitar movements that emerged in the early 21st century. Though the Maine-based husband-and-wife duo of Buck and Shanti Curran presented a halfway point between otherworldly female vocals à la Joanna Newsom and deeply disciplined guitar playing à la Jack Rose, the sum total was something altogether removed. In large part, the Currans belonged more directly to the lineage of musicians who grew out of the late-'50s folk revival, seeking to connect current music to ancient traditions, as opposed to using it as a vehicle for strictly personal expression, without sounding the least bit like revivalists.
Buck Curran served time in the Navy before settling in Norfolk, Virginia and getting a job at local guitar shop Ramblin' Conrad's. The store also acted as a local folk center and booked performances by musicians like Bert Jansch (of Pentangle), Mike Seeger (of the New Lost City Ramblers), and others. Curran mixed sound there, learned to become a luthier, and played in local blues bands. Following the marriage of Buck and Shanti Curran, the two moved to Maine, where they raised two children, and Buck worked building and repairing guitars. After more than a half-decade of marriage, in 2004, Buck purchased a banjo for Shanti, which came in a minor tuning, and the two began to make music together, quickly creating a small repertoire that blended Buck's studied chops with Shanti's haunting voice. They named themselves Arborea and, in 2006, self-released Wayfaring Summer.
The two began to tour extensively, preferring to play house shows and other more musician-oriented venues conducive to intimate performance. Using MySpace, they connected with the national network of bands that had found an audience in the wake of Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom's successes, including the Philadelphia label Language of Stone. Their sound broadened to include other instruments, including harmonium (played by Shanti), electric slide guitar, and ukulele. Buck produced a pair of compilation albums. Leaves of Life benefited African charities and featured Devendra Banhart, Alela Diane, and others. We Are All One, in the Sun was a tribute to guitarist Robbie Basho. Arborea, meanwhile, recorded several more albums, including 2006's House of Sticks and 2011's Red Planet, sometimes in collaboration with Espers cellist Helena Espvall. ~ Jesse Jarnow