At the park with the Carpenter Ants

July 09, 2009|By ABIGAIL YEAGER

The Carpenter Ants are a self-described "four-piece old-style rhythm & blues, gospel, soul and country funk band." Eclectic is the word that comes to mind when considering this band and their unique sound.

The group consists of guitarist Michael Lipton, drummer Jupiter Little, bassist Ted Harrison and singer and saxophonist Charlie Tee.

"I feel like we are kind of journeymen in this," said Lipton, who has been playing the guitar since his early teens. "We've played, at this point, thousands of gigs and still enjoy working together and the work that we do. It becomes a challenge to keep it all fresh, which is part of the fun."

Q&A with Michael Lipton

How did you develop your style?

We've been together now for 23 years and the four of us have different musical backgrounds, but I guess we all appreciate the music that is real. I guess the current term is roots music, but that covers a lot of ground, which is kind of appropriate because we cover a lot of ground as well. But it is all tied together with a respect for melody and harmony and music that is fun. That covers rhythm & blues, soul, country, and rock 'n' roll.


In addition to our original tunes, we cover a lot of older tunes. We don't do (them) like a museum piece. We don't try and stay 100 percent true to the original. The songs kind of evolve. I think largely because we have three- and four-part harmony on a lot of music, it puts our own little stamp on it.

Why do you play the guitar?

Well, I was playing saxophone for a number of years at that point, and (the guitar) just seemed to be an instrument that allowed for more flexibility and expression, and also, I found it relaxing to play. I mean you can sit around and play guitar, but sitting around playing saxophone isn't really relaxing.

What made your band decide on the name 'The Carpenter Ants'?

It's really not a very interesting story. I could make one up that would be more fun. It was one of the ideas that sounded good at the time and you don't think you will have to live with it for 23 years. It was a fun-sounding name, maybe, and we try to be a fun group.

What is your favorite part of performing?

It's fun to play in front of people, it is fun when people get involved. We have played a Wednesday night (gig) in Charleston, W.Va., for pretty much forever, and people tend to take you for granted when you play that long.

Really, kind of one of the marks (of a good band) is if you can still enjoy playing for nobody. And we do, and so when you add a crowd to the mix, it is kind of just a big bonus.

If you go ...

WHAT: The Carpenter Ants perform the first concert of the Morgan Arts Council's Summer Concerts in the Park

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11

WHERE: Berkeley Springs State Park, downtown Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

COST: Free

CONTACT: Go to or call 304-258-2300.

MORE: Concerts continue every Saturday through Aug. 22

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