Adam Traum, Sonoma musician with deep Americana roots
A story about an accomplished singer/songwriter musician who was raised by wolves in a bubble with no music wafting through his or her environment would be as huge as it would be unlikely. A story about a guy who is now an accomplished singer/songwriter who was raised in a very musical household surrounded by instruments is not surprising.
But local picker Adam Traum’s story is still unusual.
Traum has lived with his wife Becky in the Sonoma Valley since 2003. They fell in love with this glorious place while making occasional visits from their home in San Francisco. They moved here with their household possessions, a satchel full of hopes and dreams, Traum’s camera gear, and a few guitars.
Traum cameras were his tools for his gig as a photojournalist for several well-known publications. The guitars because he “always played music on the side.” Always, in his case, means since about the age of five, but he was surrounded by music since birth.
Traum is part of the Woodstock, New York, Traums. His dad Happy and his uncle Artie have a long and fabled history in the folk music scene of that part of the world. Adam was raised in Woodstock, and according to his dad, Happy, “It wasn’t unusual to have musicians in the house, to have jamming going on… local musicians coming over for dinner and hanging out after and playing music, it was like a normal thing for him.”
Some of those musicians were pretty well-known players themselves. Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Levon Helm and Bob Dylan were part of the crew doing that jamming in the Traum home. Oh, to have been a fly on those walls.
Traum is still involved with his parents, now professionally, with their Homespun Music Instruction, predominantly an online concern. Homespun was founded 50 years ago, historically a music book publisher with an emphasis on acoustic guitar and folk music. Traum provides guitar lessons, shoots and edits videos, and handles most of the technical elements of the business. His dad still handles the creative end of Homespun. His mom, Jane, who was a young, talented actor in New York before getting Happy, now oversees the business end of Homespun.
Adam, 54, is quite consumed by music, both occupationally and with his soul. Traum said, “I do a bunch of aspects of music. Between production and teaching and playing, I am able to scrape out a living. And when the pandemic isn’t raging, I play gigs.”
He also writes and records his own songs. During the pandemic, he used his time wisely and recorded a new CD he calls “Legacy.” Using the home technology that is now so widely available, Traum cut thirteen songs, including 10 originals. Traum enlisted his musical partner Jack Hines to play bass on a few songs and to provide natural “biophony” sounds from Sonoma Valley on one song, “Little Gifts.” His dad, Happy Traum, played guitar on a few cuts. Happy said, “I played on (title cut) ‘Legacy,’ a very personal song for Adam, and on Steve Earle’s ‘Hometown Blues.’ I played a little lead, we traded licks and stuff.”
The arrangements on the CD “Legacy” are sparse and airy, with a open and honest feel about them. Traum’s singing is stronger than ever, and his guitar work remains stellar, with stylistic inspiration drawn from the blues and folk songs he heard as a kid.
One person who remembers Adam as a kid is John Sebastian, of the Lovin’ Spoonful. “Adam’s surroundings were advantageous,” Sebastian deadpanned. Reached by phone at his home in Woodstock, the enthusiastic Sebastian spoke of all the festivals that were held in and around Woodstock, driven by Adam’s dad and his uncle Artie. “Adam was part of all those rehearsals…and it stuck.”
“He is a terrific guy,” Sebastian added. The Traums and the Sebastians have remained good friends over the years and are still regulars at each other’s kitchen tables. Sebastian said, “We call ourselves the ‘Sebastraums.’”
Happy, 82, also reached by phone from Woodstock, said this about raising Adam in that crazy musical house, “To my delight, he always loved the rootsy blues and country styles that I was into, so we never had to put up with head-banging metal or gangsta rap that might be expected from a teenager in the ‘80s. It made his childhood, and our parenting, very easy.”
With pride in his voice, he added this about the music itself: “He absorbed stuff from me, and now he could teach me a thing or two. His musical horizons expanded fairly early, although we have always played together quite well. Almost like father and son.” In fact, the two perform together occasionally at folk music festivals across the country.
Adam said, “I really love playing with my dad. It is one of the things I miss most about the pandemic is playing the shows with him.”
“Legacy” is Adam Traum’s 3rd CD. “I let the first go out of print. My second, ’Just Like Home’ (2012), was a big breakthrough for me. And then there’s the one from (his local band) the Mosey Boys, so I guess I have four records.”
“Legacy” is available on his website, adamtraum.com. Traum will again be seen around town performing with his current band the Straw Wattles, which features Hines on bass and the brilliant Josh Yenne on guitar.
For those of us who remember the “great folk music scare of the ‘60’s,” Traum is a connection to those days and those sensibilities. Traum remembers the “authenticity of the musicians in Woodstock that really rubbed off on me.”
Adam Traum is a humble yet noteworthy musical treasure, homespun, right here in our backyard.