Americana Roots: The Sweet Lillies

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.  From Boulder, Colorado is the string-Americana trio The Sweet Lillies, who sound like Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss on a cross-country road trip with the adventurous soul of John Hartford riding shotgun.

Name: The Sweet Lillies.

For Fans Of: Infamous Stringdusters, Emmylou Harris, Elephant Revival.

Hometown: Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Band Members: Becca Bisque (viola, vocals), Julie Gussaroff (bass, vocals), Dustin Rohlder (guitar, vocals)

Website: https://www.sweetlillies.com/

Discography: ‘Sweet Lillies’ (2016), ‘A Lighter Hue’ (2018), ‘Common Ground’ (2021)

Background: After years spent accompanying other artists and writing songs for other band leaders, Julie Gussaroff, a classically-trained vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, made the decision to create a project in which each band member would be an equal participant in terms of songwriting, singing, and creative input.  That vision first took shape when Gussaroff met classically-trained violist Becca Bisque at bluegrass jam in Boulder, Colorado.  The two found much common ground musically, and their encounter added another layer to Gussaroff’s vision, as she saw the potential for a “female vocally led-group.”

The two began playing as the Sweet Lillies with a line-up that was in flux for a few years.  During that time they recorded two albums, their self-titled debut in 2016, and the follow up, 2018’s ‘A Lighter Hue’, produced by Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman.  That same year guitarist Dustin Rohlder joined the band.  Bisque and Gussaroff had met Rohlder the year before at the Hangtown Ball Music Festival in Placerville, California at a late night camp-ground jam.  The three played for what they all remembered was “ten magical hours.”

Rohlder’s addition would solidify Gussaroff’s vision of a musical collective that relied on the individual strengths of each band member to benefit the whole group.  Songs and arrangements are collaborative efforts, and the diverse musical backgrounds of Gussaroff, Bisque, and Rohlder combine to create a bluegrass-based, roots-orientated style that can just as easily move from the traditional to something new.  This chameleon-like ability to meld styles is on full display on their upcoming album, ‘Common Ground’, produced by Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone and due out later this year.  On Common Ground the Sweet Lillies traverse a musical landscape that finds them crisscrossing the terrain of American roots music as they subtly meld all their diverse influences into a sound the band calls, “string-Americana.”

For the Sweet Lillies even as they incorporate all the sounds that cross their musical doorstep, at their soul they rely on the simple power of their acoustic instruments.  “String band music is compelling,” says Gussaroff.  “What makes it so universally appealing is the way it lends itself to effective fusion of diverse styles, skill sets and conceptions.  Whatever a musician’s background, she or he has an arrow to add to the string music quiver.  Some musicians learn from teachers, some learn from family members, and some are self taught.  Some musicians are classically trained, some come up through folk, some draw from multiple springs, from hip hop through pop to bebop.  In the Lillies’ all of these skill sets are valuable, relevant, and appreciated.”

What They Do Live:

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About Tim Newby 47 Articles
Author of books, writer of words, enjoyer of good times. Often found barefoot at a festival somewhere. Author of 'Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin' Sound & Its Legacy' (2015), 'Leftover Salmon: Thirty Years of Festival! (2019) Follow him on twitter @Tim_Newby9 .

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