Blowin’ with the wind
A night with the ever-changing Windy Valley Boys

Review and photo by Molly McCluskey

It is impossible to say, really, who the Windy Valley Boys are. When I asked several people gathered at the Haven on Saturday to see the Boys perform, there were several inevitable concentrated gazes and the same vague answer.
“Sure,” says Jeff Mull, when asked if he knew who these guys are. “They’re the Windy Valley Boys.”
“No,” I clarified. “Did he know who they are? Their names, first and last, their instruments, how long they had been playing together.
He gave it a second shot. “Um,” he said, “That’s Sidney. And Jose in the middle. And the guy with the fiddle is Jake. And Tony Scott Pierce plays with them sometimes. And there was Adam, but I think he’s gone for the winter.”
This is a band that doesn’t have a CD. Doesn’t come up on Google and whose audience, attending just to see them play, can’t identify the members with any conviction. And yet, they apparently need no introduction. None was given.

The Haven version of the band: Sidney Shaw on mandolin, Jose Pomales on guitar, and Jake Beckwith on fiddle.

And so Jeff’s information was, for the moment, all I had to go on. And it seemed that it was all I really needed to know. So I was content to just sit back and enjoy the show.
But for those of you who missed Saturday’s performance and need to know more, here it is.
The Windy Valley Boys were originally brought together, loosely, by Tony Scott Pearce in April of this year. They played at the Red Onion throughout the summer, the Fjord Fest and the Hurricane Relief Benefit. The group, in various arrangements, depending upon who was in town, was usually Pearce, Sidney Shaw, Jose Pomales, Jake Beckwith, Adam Record, Daniel Papke, and, according to Meg Hahr, Shaw’s wife, “some guy who sat in on occasion but didn’t get any of the tips.”
Regardless of who the Boys are, who they’ve been, or who they’ll be in the future, Saturday evening the Boys were Shaw, Pomales and Beckwith. And although there were only three of them, they more than made up for any band members who might have been absent.
With Shaw alternating between mandolin and guitar, Pomales on guitar, and Beckwith on fiddle, with all three singing at times, the Boys played an eclectic mix of old-time, tango, Irish traditional, Appalachian and Sunvolt, with original music by Pomales thrown in for good measure.
They stopped occasionally to talk over the next song. They stopped to switch instruments, make adjustments to sound. But once they were playing, the music flowed with a barely perceptible nod from one band mate to another. With the exception of Pomales’ original song, the pieces played were all covers. But to call the Windy Valley Boys a cover band would be to deny the fact that each song they played became distinctly their own.
There were approximately 12 people in the audience, clustered around two tables and one individual knitting quietly on the love seat. Billy Strasser, his foot tapping and head nodding, said, “I really like being able to support the music in the community, especially in the winter, when there doesn’t seem to be as much opportunity.”
Mull agreed, “It is so fantastic having live music in the dreary days of Skagway.”
The band will continue its evolution. Pomales is heading off to Fairbanks for school and to spend time with some of friends, also musicians.
“I came to Skagway because I felt I needed inspiration,” he said. “This place has brought it.”
He’ll return in the spring, and says, “I hope these guys will take me back.”
It’s unclear where the Windy Valley Boys will play next, but one thing is certain, their performance wasn’t the last at the Haven this winter.
Owner Susan Jabal says she’s committed to increasing arts and entertainment in the community during the winter.
“We love having local bands and artists in here,” she said. “Things get so hectic during the summer that to have a night like this, with good music, some good friends, really reminds us why we live in Skagway.”