Out of Office
Photos and text by MEREDITH FORREST KULWICKI
Published August 11, 2023
Editor’s note: This is another installment of "Out of Office," a new series highlighting UB faculty and staff who pursue interesting hobbies, community engagement and other endeavors outside of their day jobs.
A UB couple is bringing their love for “rowdy folk” music to stages around Western New York.
Following the recommendation of a mutual friend, Lainie Reid joined the band Yellow Jack in March 2019. She bonded with founding member Dennis Reed over their similar last names and their common employment at UB, as well as their love of folk music. Their passion for collaborating on original music and performing has endured as well and they were married this year in June.
“The best feeling is when people are dancing,” Lainie says. “When little kids are getting up and dancing, you know you’re doing something right.”
They enjoy bringing the older folk songs and traditions to the next generation. Last month, the band played at Old Man River in Tonawanda.
Lainie says most of the band’s music dates to the time of their great-great-grandparents, when barn dances were popular. Their music — what she calls “rowdy folk” — is not the same as the folk music that was popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
“My primary goal in playing a lot of the older stuff is keeping it alive, making sure people know about it,” Lainie says.
A dispatcher with University Police, Lainie first learned to play the violin at age 8. She was trained in classical music, but her older brother would challenge her to play contemporary music, figuring it out by ear. When she learned her violin teacher ran a summer fiddle camp, she asked her mother to enroll her.
“I fell in love with fiddle music from playing every summer,” Laine says.
Dennis Reed, a web designer with UBIT, plays the guitar and provides much of the vocals for Yellow Jack. He says the concept for the group began with his desire to bring some of the older songs to light, as well as new songs that he writes with the same sound and tradition.
“That’s where Yellow Jack started,” Dennis explains. “Then Lainie took it to the next level with her virtuosity and her knowledge of the form well beyond what I was aware of.”
Dennis writes most of the group’s original material. A self-described local history buff, he likes to create music that speaks to real events, including the building of the Erie Canal. He says he often writes the chords, lyrics and a basic melody. He credits Lainie with being an important contributor in finalizing the songs with her fiddle contributions.
“I trust her to make it better,” Dennis says.
As for the band’s name, Dennis says he came across the yellow jack while studying a book on diseases. The yellow jack flag was flown in a port to indicate an infection or outbreak. Dennis says the term became synonymous with yellow fever.
As for how he chose that to be the band’s name: “Nothing’s more old-timey than a completely curable disease,” he says.
Yellow Jack has recorded two albums, and band members hope to return to the studio to record another in the coming months.
Dennis would focus a future album on songs about the Pan American Exposition; Lainie prefers that it be more family friendly.
“We’ve talked about doing a kid’s-type album,” says Lainie. “Not necessarily children’s songs, but songs that children would like, as well as their parents.”
Visit Yellow Jack’s website for information about upcoming performances.