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Lief Sorbye

Tempest's founder, Lief Sorbye, was born and raised in Oslo, Norway. He picked up the guitar at the age of seven after discarding the idea of entering the priesthood.

Lief faithfully studied Bob Dylan's songbook, page after page, until his fingers bled. By the time he was in his early teens he was fronting various 'garage bands', playing the Youth Club circuit, in and around Oslo. Songs like "All Right Now" by Free and The Guess Who's "American Woman" were the hits of the day, and he belted them out with his thick Norwegian accent.

One day, an older friend he much admired (who sported hair down to his waist and smoked those illegal jazz cigarettes) turned him on to an LP by Scotland's mystical folk group "The Incredible String Band." The record was called "Liquid Acrobats As Regards The Air," and Lief was never the same again. His ears had opened up to the sounds of the oud, the sitar, celtic fiddling, penny whistles and running waterfalls. He began to introduce mandolins, banjos, autoharps and other unusual instruments to his rock-and-roll band mates.

Around the same time he discovered the noble profession of 'busking', (performing on the street for tips.) Lief was quick to note that after playing, strangers would buy him drinks and throw money into his guitar case and the girls just wouldn't leave him alone! He decided then and there that he would never take a "straight" job, (and he didn't!).

After having been arrested for performing without a permit on the streets of Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London, Geneva, Venice and Corfu, he bought a one-way ticket to New York in 1978.

Lief then spent the year busking his way from coast to coast and writing traveling songs. When he returned to Europe at the end of a year, he settled in Galway in the west of Ireland. Obsessed with jigs and reels and pints of Guinness stout, he thought he had found his 'earthly paradise.' But the busking was slim, the weather was cold and wet and he soon decided to return to sunny California, this time for good.

One evening, during the Christmas season of '79, Lief wandered into San Francisco's "Plough and Stars": Paul Espinoza and Margie Butler were on stage performing Incredible String Band cover songs. Needless to say, they instantly hit it off and Lief soon joined Paul and Margie in forming the Celtic folk band 'Golden Bough.' Their professional relationship lasted for eight years, six albums and countless tours, both in Europe and America. To this day, Lief and Golden Bough remain close friends, and from time to time perform together in reunion concerts.

When Lief left Golden Bough to form Tempest in 1988, he had a dream; to combine the folk music experience with the passion of rock-and-roll: the rest is history. Today Lief lives in Oakland, California with his dear wife Patricia and their intelligent cat, Maddy. When he is not on the road with Tempest or playing duo shows with Caliban, he runs the Tempest management office. To Lief, Tempest means 10% traditional music, 10% rock-and-roll, and 80% phone calls and emails!

Lief’s Complete Discography

GOLDEN BOUGH Golden Bough (1981) GB Music, Cs
GOLDEN BOUGH Boatman's Daughter(1983) Kicking Mule, Lp, Cs,CD
GOLDEN BOUGH Flight Of Fantasy (1984) Kicking Mule, Lp, Cs, CD
GOLDEN BOUGH Winter's Dance (1985) Kicking Mule, Lp, Cs, CD
LE RUE  Le Rue (1985)  self- produced, Cs
DINAH LE HOVEN Raggle-taggle (1985) Swanharp, Cs
LIEF SORBYE Songs & Stories (1986) self-produced, Cs
GOLDEN BOUGH Winding Road (1986) ARC Music, Lp, Cs, CD
LIEF SORBYE Springdans (1987)  ARC Music, Lp, Cs, CD
LE RUE  Deal Your Card (1988) Un American Activities, Lp
TEMPEST  Celtic Rock (1989)  self-produced, Cs
TEMPEST  Keltia, sampler (1990) Dirty Linen, Cs
TIPSYHOUSE Old Foundations (1990) self-produced, Cs
GOLDEN BOUGH Golden Bough with bonus tracks(1990)   ARC Music, Cs, CD
TEMPEST  Bootleg (1991)  Heyday Records, Cs, CD
MICHAEL LONGCOR Drunken Angel (1991) Firebird, Cs, CD
LIEF SORBYE 20 Best of Today's Folk Music sampler (1991)  ARC Music, Cs, CD
TIPSYHOUSE Virtual Audio sampler(1992) Heyday Records, CD
GOLDEN BOUGH Best of Golden Bough  (1992) ARC Music, Cs, CD
TEMPEST  Serrated Edge (1992) Beacon Records, Cs, CD
TEMPEST  Live From Studio A, sampler (1993)  WCBE, CD
TEMPEST  Sunken Treasures (1993) Firebird, Cs, CD
LIEF SORBYE Across The Borders (1994) Firebird, Cs, CD
MERCEDES LACKEY Shadow Stalker (1994) Firebird, Cs, CD
HEATHER ALEXANDER Wanderlust (1994)  Sea Fire, Cs, CD
TEMPEST  Surfing To Mecca (1994) Firebird, Cs, CD
TEMPEST  Frog Pest, sampler (1995) Magna Carta, Cs
MICHAEL LONGCOR Dangerous Heroes, (1996) Firebird, Cs, CD
MICHAEL LONGCOR Norman & Saxon (1996) Firebird, Cs, CD
TEMPEST  Turn Of The Wheel (1996) Magna Carta, Cs, CD
LIEF SORBYE To Cry You A Song, Jethro Tull Tribute (1996)  Magna Carta, CD
TEMPEST  To Cry You A Song, Jethro Tull Tribute (1996)  Magna Carta, CD
TEMPEST  Volume 26, sampler (1997) Total Guitar, CD
GOLDEN BOUGH Boatman's Daughter with bonus tracks (1997)  GB Music, Cs, CD
TEMPEST  The Gravel Walk (1997) Magna Carta, CD
CALIBAN  Caliban (1998)  Magna Carta, CD
TEMPEST The 10th Anniversary Compilation (1998) Magna Carta, CD
LIEF SORBYE Folk Music from Norway (Re-issue of Springdans) (1998) ARC Music, CD
WHEEL OF TIME Interactive Software (1998) Legend Entertainment, CD-Rom
TEMPEST Live At The Philadelphia Folk Festival (2000) CD
ROB WULLENJOHN Blue On Green (2000) Monkey Palace Records, CD
TEMPEST Balance (2001) Magna Carta, CD
ROBERT BERRY Wheel Of Time (2001) Magna Carta, CD
Philadelphia Folk Festival 40th Anniversary Box Set (2001) Sliced Bread Records, CD
Sonic Residue From Vapourspace (2001) Magna Carta, CD
TEMPEST Shapeshifter (2003) Magna Carta, CD
TEMPEST 15th Anniversary Collection (2004) Magna Carta, 3CDs
MICHAEL MULLEN Fiddler's Creed (2004) Wise Cat Records, CD
LIEF SORBYE 'Northern Lights' Music of Scandinavia Sampler (2005) ARC Music, CD
TEMPEST The Double-Cross (2006) Magna Carta, CD
ROBERT BERRY Prime Cuts (2006) Magna Carta, CD
GOLDEN BOUGH 25th Anniversary Reunion Concert (2006) CD
GOLDEN BOUGH Live at the Freight & Salvage (2006) DVD
TEMPEST Live at Karfluki Fest (2006) DVD
TEMPEST, CALIBAN & GOLDEN BOUGH Lief's Birthday Bash (2007) Magna Carta CD
TEMPEST Prime Cuts (2008) Magna Carta CD / DVD
TEMPEST Another Dawn (2010) Magna Carta, CD
TEMPEST Let's Live For Today (2010) Magna Carta, 7" single
TEMPEST The 25th Anniversary Concert (2014) CD
TEMPEST The Tracks We Leave (2015) Magna Carta, CD
TEMPEST Thirty Little Turns (2018) Magna Carta, CD

Lief at the Cropredy Festival
Lief at the Cropredy Festival, UK 1997

Lief with his new MandoGuitar made by Andy Manson, 2007.

Lief's Mando Madness

Lief's Mandolin Family The Black Electric The Acoustic Mandola The Acoustic Twin Neck The Acoustic Mandolin The Blond Electric
Lief's arsenal of custom made instruments. Used with Tempest on stage and in the studio.
Click on each instrument to learn more about it.


Custom built by John Knutson In Forestville, California. This is the first "Sorbye trademark dbl. Neck mandolin" Made in '89, and rebuilt in '98. Mandolin tuning on the top neck, and an octave lower on the bottom neck. Pickups by Alembic, and custom painted strap by Vicki Berndt.


The Black Electric

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The Acoustic Mandola

Custom built by Andy Manson in Devon , England, In '84. Tuned GDAE(D). Pickup by Sunrise.

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Lief plays the Acoustic Twin Neck

Lief plays the Acoustic Twin Neck at
The Freight and Salvage


The Acoustic Double Neck

Custom built by Andy Manson in Devon, England, in '99. Stained Spruce top, Figured Maple with Australian Redwood inlays on the back and sides. Mandolin tuning on the top neck, and an octave lower on the bottom neck. Custom mandolin pickups by Jim Kaufman at Sunrise Pickups. Strap by Allen and Lezley Gray at Sun Leather.
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The Acoustic Mandolin

Custom built by Andy Manson in Devon, England, in '85. This instrument has no pickups, and is used exclusively for studio work.
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Lief playing the Blond at the Chicago Celtic Festival, 1999

Lief and his Blonde at the
Chicago Celtic Festival, 1999
The Blond Electric

Custom built by John Knutson in Forestville, California in '95. Figured Maple with Redwood Inlays on sides and back. Mandolin tuning on the top neck, and an octave lower on the bottom neck. Pickups by EMG.

This painting of Lief playing his "Blonde" was done by the artist, Majid Kahhak, on stage during a live performance at Carbondale Mountain Faire in Colorado, July 2000. By the end of the show the painting was sold to a fan.
Painting of Lief playing his Blond

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