No Longer a Well-Kept Secret
By Steve Desroches
Cape Codder, November 11, 2005
Zoë Lewis cannot only perform as an entire band by herself on stage, she can deliver the whole world with just one song.
The English-born Provincetown musician has been wowing audiences all over Cape Cod for over a decade with her self-described "worldbeat vaudeville" style. She is returning to the Cape this weekend for two shows after running around the country playing to sold out venues from California to Kansas. No longer Provincetown's best kept secret, Lewis is on the verge of a major career breakthrough. Her latest album, "Small is Tremendous," has been picked up by Wildflower Records, a label owned by folk legend Judy Collins.
Her album may have only been widely released a month ago, but the quirky and quick one-woman band has already been on several world tours, so to speak. Born and raised in a tiny fishing village in the south of England, Lewis has an incurable case of wanderlust and has been all over the world. Everywhere she goes she absorbs a little bit of the local music scene and incorporates it, as well as her experiences, into her own musical stylings. Not the traditional traveler, Lewis has jumped box cars, hitched rides on freight boats and hiked to remote villages far and wide. She's played in the London pub scene, played salsa with street musicians in South America and performed with an elephant orchestra in Thailand.
Lewis landed in the United States in 1990 and began performing originals on guitar, piano, harmonica, ukulele, penny whistle, accordion, and her trademark human trumpet in clubs, bars, coffee houses, colleges, music festivals and gay and lesbian pride festivals all around the country. With her upbeat and fast-paced music, Lewis is particularly popular with children and has taught her workshop "Music in our Pockets" at several Cape Cod schools. Lewis encourages people of all ages to redefine their meaning of music by looking for it in unusual places. There's music on the streets, on our bodies, in nature, even in our pockets if only we open up our ears, says Lewis. And she demonstrates how to do so during each concert where she may use loose change and a set of keys along with the help of African calabash, Jamaican steel pans, gourds, coconuts, trash cans, thumb pianos and conch shells to make music.
In 1992, Lewis washed ashore in Provincetown and made it here home quickly becoming a local favorite. In addition to her solo work, Lewis occasionally performs with other Provincetown musicians under the name "Zoë Lewis and her Rubber Band," backed up by bassist Kate Wolf, percussionist Sylvie Richard, and Roxanne Layton on recorder.
Lewis' music leaves audiences amazed as her eclectic tunes jump from location to location just as quickly as Lewis does in real life. At one moment you're in Piccadilly Circus in London and the next your on Bourbon Street in New Orleans having visited Bangkok and Buenos Aires in between.
But of all the places she has traveled to, and will take you to, it's something about Provincetown that provides an anchor for Lewis. Maybe its that Provincetown reminds her so much of her home in England.
"Provincetown is very much like the fishing village in England I'm from," Lewis said this past summer. "But back home, we have little old ladies with tiny poodles; here in Provincetown, it's the men with the poodles."