Spirit Family Reunion
Spirit Family Reunion
In Americana/Roots Music, there is an explosion of bands. The tradition inspired youth of America has taken the “sound” and embellished it, utilized the unspoken rules of the “folk process”, defied the purity of Bill Monroe, added drums, accordions and free-for-all fun, gas can basses, pretty girls playing washboards, (handsome guys too) and has taken bluegrass to several new dimensions. Enter Spirit Family Reunion, the the ready-to-break Brooklyn band that’s already been booked at Newport Folk Festival and opened for the legendary, late Levon Helm and also the Alabama Shakes. While it’s fairly easy to categorize most Roots bands these days, Spirit Family Reunion concentrates on deep, subtle spiritual lyrics heavily influenced by traditional mountain string band music, with drums, an occasional accordion and lots of soul. Not preachy at all, just tastefully rousing and raucous. Without copying, their music reminds me of a blend of the Felice Bros, Old Crow Medicine Show, and even John Prine.
Their newest recording, No Separation, to be self-released on June 15, will also be accompanied by band songbooks with lyrics and chords. Guitarist/vocalist Nick Panken says, “We write simple songs that anyone could pick up on. There’s a simplicity and universality.”
Reminiscent of Woody Guthrie, The Anthology of American Folk Music, and The Band, the songs are intended to be sung by a wide audience, both at Spirit Family Reunion concerts and beyond. Bassist/vocalist Ken Woodward explains, “In performance, we try to break through the invisible shell that keeps people separated, which is why people say we’re a joyful band.” Panken adds, “Our audience doesn’t just stand there. It’s participatory.”
The songwriting grew from the band’s year-long residency at Lovin’ Cup Café. Panken recalls, “We started playing these old church songs. We thought that we’d take the feeling and make it more universal.”
Spirit Family Reunion drummer Peter Pezzimenti and friend Brian Belott formed a partnership to collect an archive of found recordings when the latter found what would become a staple of the band’s set. A thrift store in Colorado unveiled an acetate of a song called “Give Me Wings” by the mysteriously named Cunningham. “It’s an aluminum disc sprayed with acetate, a ten inch,” recalls Pezzimenti. “He was one of the most powerful singers we’d found and we named him King Cunningham. He was a preacher.”
“We collect reel-to-reels, wire recordings, answering machine tapes, and such, personal recordings made by amateurs, all one of a kind,” says the drummer, who is also an abstract painter. He and Belott hosted WPS1’s Lost and Found Sound show, affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art.
The band took the song, sped it up, and added their infectious harmonies and propulsive percussion, and recorded it for their debut album ‘No Separation,’ out June 15.
Blogs are starting to pick up on what bookers at Newport Folk Festival and Celebrate Brooklyn already know. Brooklyn Vegan posted “I Want To Be Relieved” and hailed the band’s “rowdiness.”
My Old Kentucky Blog posted “I Am Following the Sound,” calling ‘No Separation’ “the fervor of a tent revival with the wallop of a bare-knuckle brawler… hoothollerstampandshout.”
Baeble Music said, “We couldn’t be more excited.”
Spirit Family Reunion has confirmed an album release show at NYC’s Mercury Lounge June 15.
Spirit Family Reunion is Maggie Carson (banjo and vocals), Mat Davidson (fiddle and vocals), Nick Panken (guitar and vocals), Pezzimenti (drums and vocals), Stephen Weinheimer (washboard, drums, and vocals), and Ken Woodward (upright bass and vocals).