More People Really Should Know About: Rising Appalachia

One of the challenges about this feature is figuring out whether an artist is both sufficiently known and unknown to pass the test for inclusion.  Rising Appalachia is an act I like enough to have seen them play twice on consecutive days yet a search on the AUK website shows they’ve never been covered here.

Rising Appalachia is a band which at times comprised and is currently based around sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith.  They grew up in Atlanta, raised by musician parents who took them to fiddle camps in southern Appalachia where they took in traditional music which blended with the music they heard in the city.

When they were older, they took off to New Orleans, post Katrina, where they engaged with the local music scene and fused what they brought with what they found into a diverse mix of styles which in turn became their own.  Along the way they added additional musicians who extended the range of instrumentation and influences.  Current members include David Brown (guitars and percussion), Duncan Wickel (fiddle, cello) and Biko Casimi (djembe, calabash, percussion).

Rising Appalachia’s music is based around traditional instruments and the sisters’ vocals.  The banjo and fiddle are prominent but one of the first things you notice is the rhythms which don’t simply underpin the songs but take them places quite a lot of americana doesn’t.  And the rhythms are there in the banjo, fiddle, guitar and strings as well as the percussion.  This broad palette has enabled the band to embrace also electronica and hip hop; the latter regarded as modern-day front porch music.  Their repertoire is made up of traditional songs drawn from a range of genres as well as band originals.

They are also activists promoting their environmentally-conscious ‘slow music movement’ described as “our effort to take the glitz and glam out of the music industry and bring performance back to its roots- that of public service. A service where musicians are not just part of fast-paced entertainment world, but instead influence the cultural shift as troubadours, activists, storytellers, and catalysts of justice”.  Their Resilient project promotes social good, environmental justice and human rights. They recently launched Catalyst their own 2-day music, art and education festival. Rising Appalachia has an active Patreon.

To date they have released 8 studio and 2 live albums, all self-released and each different in its own way.  Their most recent release, ‘Live from New Orleans at Preservation Hall’ (download only), is the audio of the online show they performed during lockdown at New Orleans’ Preservation Hall for which they added a horn section.  The song selection crosses their career to date and highlights the musicianship, connection to the music and joy at the heart of it.  And you not only can dance it, you’ll find it hard not to.

About Richard Parkinson 148 Articles
London based self-diagnosed music junkie with tastes extending to all points of big tent americana and beyond. Fan of acts and songs rather than genres.
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