Americana Roots: Geraldine

Americana Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US. It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores. Reaching back into time is Geraldine from the storied bluegrass scene in Baltimore, Maryland.  The band’s dedication to bluegrass and country standards while focusing on writing original songs, is clear in how they honour the deep musical roots of an old-time sound while telling new stories in their own distinct voice.

Name: Geraldine.

For Fans Of: Doc Watson, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Carter Family.

Hometown: Ellicott City, Maryland, USA.

Band Members: Josh Anderson (fiddle, mandolin, guitar, vocals), John Bolten (guitar, banjo, vocals), Noah Bowman (bass, guitar, banjo, fiddle, vocals), Jocelyn Haversat (percussion, dance board), Jonathan Vocke (dance board, percussion, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar)

Website: http://www.geraldineband.com/

Discography:  ‘Harvester’ (2019)

Background: Named for Townes Van Zandt’s dog and emerging from the historic bluegrass scene in Baltimore, Maryland is Geraldine, who with their recently released debut album, ‘Harvester’, are keeping alive the rich tradition of old-time music.

Geraldine was formed in 2018 by John Bolten, Ben Lassiter, and Josh Anderson.  Lassister soon left and was replaced by Noah Bowman.  The trio began jamming and playing informally around Baltimore and the surrounding area.  In the summer of that year, Bolten was at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia and entered the NeoTrad competition with his song, ‘Little Bird’.  Bolten did not realize he needed at least three people to be considered a band for the contest.  When informed of this, he scrambled to find people to play with and asked his neighbors back at camp, Jocelyn Haversat and Jonathan Vocke, who he recognized from the regular old-time jams in Baltimore.  There was instant chemistry and upon their return to Baltimore Haversat and Vocke joined Geraldine.  The new five-piece began fleshing out original compositions and incorporating more and more old-time, folk, and traditional bluegrass into their repertoire.  Their debut album followed the next year.

Recorded live over two days in August of 2019, ‘Harvester’, incorporates the same freewheeling organic process that informs their live performances, that often finds the band switching instruments throughout shows, at times even during songs. With no drummer, percussionist Haversat keeps time with a washboard kit and a dance board coated with cornmeal.  “We wanted to make an album with elements of old-time source recordings, country standards, and bluegrass classics that inspire us,” explains primary songwriter Bolten.  Their songs evoke images of the emotional turmoil of the working man.  Like Uncle Tupelo they connect and relate to the simple struggle within all of us.  But whereas Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy growled about bleak Midwestern landscapes, with Geraldine there is a positive turn in the lyrics that are tinged with a hopeful, optimistic outlook even as they tackle tough topics.

At the heart of Geraldine is the songwriting of Bolten, a West Virginia native.  He is an award-winning songwriter, who has placed multiple times in the National Hazel Dickens songwriting contest, and writes songs that sound as if they were recently unearthed after being buried in the Appalachian hills for generations.  Bolten says, “We have collected, studied, and ingested old-time and bluegrass music for most of our musical lives, and we feel that our music carries on these acoustic traditions while bringing something new and exciting, through our songwriting and performing.”  This shows as you can almost hear the crackle of the history woven into Geraldine’s music and the sincerity imbued in each song.  Bolten says that this history and tradition, “has so efficiently guided our hands, heads, and hearts.”

What They Sound Like:

Author: Tim Newby

Author of books, writer of words, enjoyer of good times. Often found barefoot at a festival somewhere. 'Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin' Sound & Its Legacy' (2015), 'Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival! (2019)

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