Wandering spirits

Taarka and Birds of Chicago bring hints of jazz, gospel and Gypsy rhythms


Taarka formed in early 2001 in Brooklyn, New York, when Enion Pelta-Tiller and David Tiller first met. They started writing music together, created a band and became romantically involved. After the twin towers fell in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, the couple moved to Portland, Oregon, and started touring the West Coast with their band. In 2006, the couple settled in Lyons, Colorado.

Originally an instrumental band heavily influenced by world and Gypsy music, Taarka now plays mostly original songs written and sung by the Tillers. Their music incorporates the bluegrass and Americana sounds of their Colorado home, as well as pop-rock, folk, old-time, Gypsy-jazz and Celtic influences. Taarka’s current lineup is David Pelta-Tiller (mandolin, electric guitar and vocals), Enion Pelta-Tiller (five-string violin and vocals), Troy Robey (bass, harmony vocals) and Mike Robinson (guitar, harmony vocals), who is the group’s newest member.

Taarka performs with Birds of Chicago on Saturday (May 6), 8 p.m., at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. Tickets are $10.

Both Enion and David Pelta-Tiller started playing instrumental music when they were young. She picked up violin at the age of 3 1/2. He began learning to play guitar at age 7. They both considered themselves instrumentalists, but after moving to Colorado, they tried their hand at songwriting.

“We had a rocky first two years, but we became songwriters and singers,” said David Pelta-Tiller.

Fast-forward a decade and Taarka has just released its seventh album, “Fading Mystery.” It was recorded live near the banks of eastern Virginia’s Potomac River in a cabin belonging to David Pelta-Tiller’s family that the band transformed into a recording studio. The album’s original lyrics tell stories with salty characters in songs like “Finn McCool Crosses the Rocky Mountains” and “Polyamorous Polly Ann.” David and Enion Pelta-Tiller trade off singing lead vocals and harmonies for a rich listening experience.

David Pelta-Tiller said he is looking forward to playing in Taos. He previously lived in New Mexico and performed with a popular band called ThaMuseMeant when he lived in Embudo and Nambé in the 1990s.

“One of my ideals when we perform is that whoever comes into the show, the rest of the world disappears for them,” David Pelta-Tiller said. “My idea is we transform the room into an altered universe, another experience. The only way I can help that happen … is to go as deep into an emotive and pure experience of the music of the song as possible. ... If I can do that, I know the audience can go there with me.”

Allison Russell and J.T. Nero head up Birds of Chicago. The band’s music is heavily influenced by gospel and aims to strip down experience to its essential components.

Since forming in 2012, Birds of Chicago has toured 200 nights a year. “Real Midnight,” the group’s second release, features 11 tracks written and performed by Russell and Nero, with Nero as the primary writer and Russell interpreting.

The album was produced by Joe Henry (Emmylou Harris, Rhiannon Giddens, Carolina Chocolate Drops).

For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-1900. For more information about the artists, visit and


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