Ben Traverse is a young person with a very wide hat who commands a wide array of instruments in their mission to bring the finest traditional folk music into the 21st century.
With deep roots in Michigan, Traverse finds theirself in good company as a member of the Earthwork Music Collective using traditional music as a vehicle for education, equity, and environmental action.
Despite not coming from a musical family, Traverse has been drawn to live music since they held their first guitar at two years old – a gift from his grandfather. Ben’s musical journey truly began nearly a decade ago at a collaborative after-school program presented by Earthwork Music and SEEDS celebrating Alan Lomax’s 1938 ethnomusicological expedition in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Always having a keen interest in history, especially from a cultural perspective, traditional music quickly became Traverse’s biggest passion. After moving to Grand Rapids and getting a degree in audio engineering, they quickly became heavily involved working behind the scenes with many West Michigan acts. If you frequent local concerts, you’ve probably seen Ben slinging merch or a poster they hung up!
Since then, Traverse has spent the better part of a decade cutting his teeth playing listening rooms, festivals, and bars. He’s found his passion steeping himself in the rich history of traditional folk music and using folk music as a vehicle for community, collaboration, education, and environmental and social activism.
2021 marked the beginning of Traverse’s chapter as a recording folk artist with the release of Songs of the Lakes, Rivers, and Seas: Shanties, Forecastle Songs, and Other Maritimes Ballads, a collaborative collection of sea shanties with Michael Dause (Moss Manor, Treeskin) under the name Shantyland, bridging the high seas and the Great Lakes.
2022 saw two releases, the solo full length LP Old Time American Music and the EP In the Moment, both efforts aimed at capturing the feel of early Folkways recordings of a person in a room singing songs, intimate and raw.
This year, Traverse will be continuing down their path of collaborative music efforts, this time with fellow Manistee-raised musician Nick Veine with a new album celebrating the music of Ireland fittingly titled Me Grief and Tears to Smother: Traditional Songs and Ballads of the Irish Diaspora. Grief is slotted to release this November, with the first single, “Rocky Road to Dublin,” available everywhere!
Photo by Liz Tiffany