Roots Under The Snow

Winter is my favorite time to listen to roots music.

As you can see, in this month’s print edition of The Current, the end of January has consistently proven to be an opportune time for folk music. (That link leads to our recent feature on the 40th Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival, happening in a couple weeks, but we’re really here to talk about Red Tail Ring’s upcoming performance at The Ark).

So, anyway, I’m warmed and contented, on this arctic mid-winter Michigan afternoon, by the earthy buzz of Red Tail Ring’s gliding strings, the rustic resonance of violin interweaving with acoustic guitar, the bonfire crackle of two human voices at mellowed intonations, streaming and circling each other like knotted wood.

This Kalamazoo-based duo debuted on Seth Bernard’s Earthwork Music label back in 2011. Singers Michael Beauchamp and Laurel Premo harmonize their hearty voices, while they let blossom the crisp and quaint jangles of banjo, mandolin, and fiddle. They released Fall Away Blues, their fourth full-length collection of tunes, last September, and on Thursday the 19th, they’ll join with Misty Lyn Bergeron for a performance at The Ark.

As I said, these days of lower temperatures and diminished sunshine sends us shuttling quicker down the icy sidewalks and often leaning in close with our walking partners, seeking any source of warmth as we slide to into the sanctuary of a venue or in to a not-quite-defrosted auto. I personally can put away my synth-heavy dance tracks with hyper BPM’s and glacial-toned flurries of blips and drones. I long for a rustic sound, something that feels elemental, I long for songs like “Fall Away Blues,” the wobble and bounce of “Visiting,” the soothing radiance of “Love Of The City,” and the goosebump-grazing melodic sway of “Come All Ye Fair & Tender Ladies.”

With the arrangements of Fall Away Blues being pared back for peak reverberation from its subtle and stately instruments, an abundance of emotions, sentiments, and storytelling dramatis can swell to the surface; each violin saw sounds like the unique saunter and warble of a new character, each verse and lyric aches with world-weary evocation, while the banjo acts as a tinny percussion and sustained interlocked-thrum and jangle of those strings thaws away the frost of our outside world. This is the kind of music, timeless yet edged with a contemporary creativity, that leaves one needing to take a deep breath in upon each song’s succession.

So, that’s my take. Exceptional roots/folk/Americana music warms my through, body and soul, during the winter months, and hopefully Red Tail Ring’s done some melting of your collective hearts, while you’ve been reading this…

Find out more on Misty Lyn Bergeron, (who leads The Big Beautiful), here.

In the meantime, keep your eyes and ears peeled for three notable album releases from Michigan favorites, like Fred Thomas (releasing Changer on Jan 27 via Polyvinyl Records), NOMO (releasing Ghost Rock, produced with Warn Defever), and Stef Chura (releasing Messes on Feb 4 via Urinal Cake Records). I don’t want to overload you with music in this column, but expect to hear more about those albums next week. (You can preview a single from Fred Thomas here, and check out Stef Chura’s latest, here). Meanwhile, click here for info about NOMO’s upcoming Blind Pig show, Jan 21, with Minihorse.

After that, we’ve got Timothy Monger talking to us in next month’s issue about his latest album, and then we’ll likely be humming about Frontier Ruckus’ forthcoming Enter The Kingdom. More local music on the way!

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Jeff covers music for Current, posting weekly show previews and highlighting new bands in the area.

Jeff Milo
Jeff Milo
Jeff covers music for Current, posting weekly show previews and highlighting new bands in the area.

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