Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers swears his middle name really is Pepper. Wendy Sassafras Ramsay's middle name on the other hand, is a little suspect. Real or not, Ramsay clearly adds sweetness and variety to Rodgers' technical prowess, and together they serve up quite a show. Pepper and Sassafras Duo will perform at the Ripton Coffee House series on Saturday, Feb. 3. It's the first time the two have performed together at this series, but both have warm feelings and strong ties to Vermont. Rodgers grew up skiing and hiking in Vermont as a kid. Ramsay cites Rutland musician Phil Henry as her first strong musical connection to Vermont. "I met Phil Henry at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. I heard him play at the family stage when Vance Gilbert critiqued his performance. ... After that it was a series of degrees of separation," Ramsey said. She also saw a band called Bread and Bones at Falcon Ridge and became fast friends with the musicians who also happened to be part of the Ripton Community Coffee House team. On Henry's suggestion, Ramsay came to the coffee house first as a listener. She fell in love with it and returned to play one of the prestigious opening, or open mic, slots. "It was so much fun and everyone made me feel so welcome. After the concert, a group of us hung out and shared more music and stories at the inn." Rodgers is equally enthusiastic about the area and series. "Every town should have something like this. It's a combination of the room and the people and their clear love for music," Rodgers said. Rodgers speaks with authority when discussing music and music scenes. As the founding editor of Acoustic Guitar Magazine, he has traveled to many venues and interviewed everyone from obscure artists to the likes of Jerry Garcia. His book, "The Complete Singer-Songwriter," is in its second edition, offering his own advice supplemented by quotes from everyone from Joni Mitchel to Dar Williams. A big fan of the Grateful Dead, Rodgers has developed a workshop he will be leading the day after the Ripton show in Middlebury. Whereas Rodgers has admittedly been obsessed with all things guitar, Ramsay plays a handful of different instruments, including accordion, clarinet and flute. She adds a harmony to many of Rodgers' songs and the two work together on arranging the songs they perform. Ramsay was on Rodgers' last album, "Almost There," and while the two have not formally co-written a song, they work closely together on a number of projects. "Jeff and I have a very different way of writing songs," Ramsay said. "Jeff is much better with crafting words. I am more melody/ harmony driven...We have talked about co-writing in the future and have an idea in the works, but I am sworn to secrecy about it." Who knows what secrets may come out when they take the stage this weekend. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the Ripton Community Coffee House. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. with an "open mic" set. The featured performers usually start between 8:30 and 9 p.m. The room tends to fill up early. Tickets are only sold at the door and are $10 or $15 for "generous admission." Children 12 or under are $3. More information can be found at For additional text, pictures, audio and video, as well as information on how to sign up for Rodgers' workshop, visit:

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