BEARFOOT, “American Story,” Compass Records. 10 tracks
Bearfoot’s roots go back to the late 1990s when a group of students at music camps in Alaska got together to play bluegrass.
The youngest was 14 then.
Soon, folks in the Lower 48 discovered that ’grass does grow in Alaska. And Bearfoot was making waves at such festivals as Wintergrass, Grey Fox, Strawberry and RockyGrass.
In 2001, the band won the Telluride bluegrass band contest, a contest previously won by the Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek.
There have been a lot of personnel changes since then. Angela Oudean and Jason Norris are the only founding members left.
Now located in the warmer climes of Nashville, Beargrass has added singer-songwriter Nora Jane Struthers, Todd Grebe and P.J. George to its ranks.
The band has also shifted from a string band-bluegrass focus to more of an acoustic pop sound. The instruments include violin, viola, electric bass, tambourine, accordion and drums.
But there’s still bluegrass in Beargrass’ repertoire. Grebe’s “Midnight in Montana” with Charlie Cushman guesting on banjo, plays it straight.
Struthers wrote or co-wrote five of the songs. Grebe added three and the whole band wrote “When You’re Away.”
“Eyes Cast Down,” written by Struthers and Claire Lynch, tells about a woman trapped in an abusive relationship — “There’s no easy life to live, as long as he’s around/You give it up and take what he will give.”
“Billy” is a great a capella song about a girl who “ain’t never gonna marry” the boy and tells him it’s better if he doesn’t come around. But she sure sounds like she wants him to.
“Kill The Rooster” is a fun song about a rooster that wakes her too early and days with too much work to be done.
“The Dust” tells the story of a woman whose husband leaves her on a burned out Oklahoma farm with “a rusty plow and in her belly, one more hungry mouth.”
It might not all be bluegrass, but it’s good music.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.bearfootband.com.