CROWDFUNDING RADAR: New Heroes, New Roots Give Artists Solid Ground to Grow
Staci Griesbach (photo by Kim Thiel)
The Carter Family. The Louvin Brothers. Bill Monroe. Those are among the artists you hear most mentioned when you talk about “roots music.” But as newer generations of artists come along, the definition, and the breadth, of roots music has to change. After all, roots are, at their core, origins. Just as artists like Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris looked to those legends, later generations bring their own musical “roots.” In the recent rock-oriented offerings by Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, and Margo Price, I hear the classic rock radio hits that poured from my own Gen X car stereo. Millennial artists like St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Sarah Jarosz, and Punch Brothers have all covered Radiohead, one of the more influential acts of their own formative years. Future generations of roots musicians may take influence from Billie Eilish (Jarosz has already covered her) or Cardi B (I don’t know who is going to brave the first Americana cover of “WAP,” but my money is on Larkin Poe). This week, I’m featuring three roots music projects with influences outside the Boomer-centric traditionals.
Staci Griesbach – My Shania Twain Songbook (click here to view project)
In the interest of fairness in my challenge to update the definitions of roots music, I should admit that I never liked Shania Twain. Her brand of pop country wasn’t appealing to my John Prine-saturated ears. But as the 25th anniversary of The Woman in Me rolled around, I discovered just how many people loved her, and continue to. One of those people is Staci Griesbach, whose jazz interpretations of Patsy Cline I featured in a previous column. Now she’s doing a jazz rework of Twain’s catalog. In her Kickstarter video, she talks about those evolving roots, calling Cline the soundtrack of her childhood and Twain her “coming of age.” The backer perks for this campaign include signed copies of both the Twain and Cline albums, a shout out on Griesbach’s website, a Zoom song performance of your choice, or a full private virtual concert.
Morsel – Untitled Debut Album (click here to view project)
Few genres have clung so tightly to their traditions as bluegrass. So it’s not surprising that, like a stereotypical preacher’s kid, young bluegrass artists have shown some of the most radical rebellion, from Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to New Grass Revival. The bluegrass subgenre most willing to color outside the lines is jamgrass. Taking as much inspiration from The Grateful Dead and Phish as from Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs, jamgrass has constantly found new ways to spin old traditions. Young jamgrass act Morsel hails from the jam incubator of Colorado and is currently Kickstarting its debut album, produced by another jamgrass disciple, Infamous Stringdusters’ Chris Pandolfi. Backer perks include the album in digital, CD, or vinyl formats; a signed poster; two tickets to a future Morsel show; a “puppy playdate” with band member Adam’s husky Walter; and a camping trip with the band featuring a weekend of acoustic music.
Lonely Oak – Wolves (click here to view project)
Songwriter Mark Reimer, who uses the musical moniker Lonely Oak, started out like many young people, with a gifted electric guitar and dreams of rock and roll stardom. And like most other people with those dreams, he spent his adult life doing responsible adult things like working at a “real job.” But at age 50, Reimer has the chance to live his rock-and-roll, or Americana, dreams. He’s being helped by a group of Nashville musicians who know more than a little about kicking down the boundaries of roots music: Emmylou Harris’ Red Dirt Boys. Phil Madeira is producing the record and the rest of the Boys are providing instrumental support. From the rough mixes he has on his Bandcamp page, it sounds like Reimer has carried more than a bit of that “knockoff Les Paul”-wielding teenager into his roots music present. This Kickstarter project is more of a preorder than a traditional campaign, as the album is the only backer perk, available in digital, CD, or vinyl.