Rockin’ Acoustic Circus
This post originally appeared on my Posterous blog
I saw Rockin’ Acoustic Circus at the Philadelphia Folk Festival in August. I hadn’t heard of them before but their their Sunday workshop was incredible enough to warrant sitting in the rain to see. They offer a fresh take on traditional bluegrass, though to to tag them with a specific genre doesn’t really do justice to what they do. While bluegrass grounded, the band experiments with a variety of genre-bending sounds, covering such diverse performers as Melanie (“Brand New Key”) and Dylan (“You Ain’t Going Nowhere”) and offering their own, original tunes. Their sound wanders, seamlessly, from expert and tight bluegrass, to jazz, folk, pop, classical and a little bit of rock and roll.
Although both RAC and Crooked Still are unique in incorporating a cello into their bluegrass tunes, RAC’s sound is its own. This is no Crooked Still copycat band.
What is also noteworthy about this band is the ages of its members: Music veteran (and retired fire chief) Rick Morton is the senior player and is surrounded by teenagers, ranging in ages from about 16 to 20. “Dawg-inspired” mandolin player Sterling Abernathy is joined by fiddler Eric Dysart, cellist Emma Hardin, and stand-up bassist Zac Hardin (Emma’s brother). Each of the teen players are accomplished musicians and, in the Hardins’ case, classically trained. While the band shares vocal duties, my favorite songs are those that feature young Emma Hardin’s gorgeous voice.
I recently purchased their latest CD (and the only CD currently available), “Lonestar Lullabye.” It is a great album but I have one complaint: It doesn’t include Emma’s rendition of “Brand New Key.” Here are the cuts on that album:
1- Lonestar Lullabye
2- Skatin’ In The Rain
4- Take Me
5- I Gotta Run
6- Cello Medley (Whiskey Before Breakfast, Jerusalem’s Ridge, Lee Highway Blues)
7- The Tracker
8- Money In The Bank
9- Wolf Tone
10- You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
11- Opus 38
12- It Flies
13- Song For The Rabbit
Rockin’ Acoustic Circus is one of my favorite personal discoveries of 2010 (bands that are at least new to me). Others include the Delanos (my favorite, which is featured in my November entry), Lake Street Dive (which I plan to blog about soon), and April Smith.