Jami Lynn likes slower, emotional songs. Dylan James likes to play fast, exciting tunes.
When the two met last June on St. Joseph Street in Rapid City, they started playing together almost immediately, finding in each other a perfect musical complement. Now they have released “Cluck & Croon,” a new album of folk and jazz. They will celebrate with two album release shows on Friday and Saturday at the Dahl Arts Center.
“It is a fusion of traditional folk music and gypsy jazz, which came out of Paris in the 1920s,” said Lynn in a phone interview from North Carolina, where the two were on tour.
The album contains traditional folk tunes that have been “jazzed out,” including “In the Pines,” first made famous by Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly.
“We kind of added a jazz element to it and sped up the end and Dylan does his thing on guitar and I do a little bit of scatting. I’m proud of that one,” she said. “We did record one song by Fats Waller that people will recognize (“Ain’t Misbehavin’”). It’s a jazz tune and I play it on banjo. That was fun.”
The album also contains original songs written by Lynn and James. The two recorded much of it at the Historic Homestake Opera House in Lead.
“It didn’t turn out exactly like we imagined,” she said, noting that the opera house was still being remodeled and the acoustics were affected by the tin roof. “But we really like the sound that we got.”
Lynn, a native of Corona in northeastern South Dakota, and James, who grew up in Lead, met last summer when a friend invited them to busk on St. Joseph Street.
“We were the only two that showed up,” Lynn said. “So we met that night and he played my gig with me at Tally’s.”
They found that their styles meshed, and have been performing as a duo ever since.
“We both have the same interests in folk music and jazz, and Dylan’s strong point is guitar and I’m more of a vocalist,” Lynn said. “Our taste in songs is kind of opposite. I tend to pick out songs that are slower, and have more emotion in them. And Dylan likes to play really fast songs.”
But those differences have helped both of them grow, said James, a guitarist known for his flat picking.
“I feel like I’ve grown as a player,” he said. “I’ve learned to play quiet and slow, and I push her to play fast, more exciting music,” he said. “We meld really well. We both play instruments, we both sing, we both write. We can back each other up.”
Lynn and James, who has performed with Fancy Creek Jumpers and the Six Mile Road Band, have become known for their diverse instrumentation and their unique arrangements of traditional American folk songs and jazz numbers.
Besides the shared love of folk, bluegrass and jazz, they also have that South Dakota connection.
“For me, there’s a huge sense of place in my songwriting, always,” Lynn said. “The prairie, especially, and the history and the clash of white people moving in and the Indians being pushed farther and farther west; that’s always in my head.”
Lynn said she has seen another resurgence in folk music in the last 10 years.
“It seems to be an ebb and flow,” she said. “It’s exciting to me, because it’s always been my favorite kind of music.”
The duo’s album is available at iTunes and at cdbaby.com. They have been on tour in Ohio, North Carolina and Tennessee.