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Harpeth Rising brings its particular brand of steampunk bluegrass to Springville Center for the Arts

Harpeth Rising
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SPRINGVILLE — If the words “bluegrass music” conjure images of old men in overalls and flannel and women wearing aprons over housedresses, Harpeth Rising is here to challenge those preconceptions, with a sound that takes bluegrass, classical, rock and blues and throws it in a Gypsy-jazz blender, to create a sound that is truly unique.

Voted “Best Local Band in Nashville” by the Tennessean, the four classically trained musicians of Harpeth Rising met at the Indiana University School of Music and were united by their love of music, both classical and Americana.

Violinist and lead singer Jordana Greenberg can harken back to her rural Indiana roots for the bluegrass sound that forms Harpeth Rising’s basis. Greenberg’s father was a bluegrass singer and songwriter, so she grew up marinating in those sounds, from the beginning of her musical exposure.

“I grew up listening to my dad sing and play,” Greenberg said. Until she was 8, her family lived in Ontatio, Canada, where she heard Canadian folk from the likes of Stan Rogers and his ilk. Although she studied classical music at IU, Greenberg found herself drawn to bluegrass, as time went on.

“I began to feel more and more like I wanted to explore that style,” she said, of her musical evolution. That evolution took Greenberg and her fellow musician friend Rebecca Reed-Lunn to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where Reed-Lunn became interested in the banjo.

“Rebecca began teaching herself the banjo after that, and we realized that making music together was our true calling, our passion. We started touring more and more, and it sort of became a full-time job,” Greenberg explained.

But the band that was to be Harpeth Rising, named for an obscure river outside Nashville, did not come to fruition until Chris Burgess, on percussion, and Maria Di Meglio, on cello, joined the duo.

Burgess’ matrix of percussive elements; Di Meglio’s balancing act between providing a grounding bass line and dancing melodic lead; Reed-Lunn’s claw banjo techniques, parts of which belie her training on the viola, and Greenberg’s concert violinist stylings that often take the place of lead guitar, rounded out the sound the quartet debuted in 2009 in Nashville, at Music City Roots.

From there, Harpeth Rising launched into an international touring schedule, spending the past four years at such venues as the Cambridge Folk Festival, The London Folk Festival, Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour, The Frome Festival and ROMP Music Festival, among others.

“Think of it as folk-infused original Americana,” Greenberg said, struggling to fit the band’s sound into any one genre.

The band’s influence list is extensive and includes Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and many others, from across the genre spectrum.

The band’s fourth album, “Tales From Jackson Bridge” dropped in Oct. 2013, hitting No. 6 on the International Folk Charts that same month. This latest album wanders from the group’s bluegrass beginnings into the realms of blues, Latin, Texas swing and Gypsy jazz, which creates what Greenberg said can often be a surprise, for audiences.

“We give a really dynamic, high-energy show and people are sometimes caught off-guard by our fun, wacky combos,” Greenberg said. “We love to tell stories and get the audience talking, and hope people get really involved.”

So who are those people?

“Our youngest fan is 1 [year old], and we really span the ages,” Greenberg said. “Our audiences are really diverse, and that’s what makes it fun. We have the typical bluegrass fans, but we also have people who love rock, who love jazz, who love everything. It’s really everyone.”

In addition to their original music, which plays with three- and four-part harmonies, Greenberg said that Harpeth Rising loves throwing out covers arranged in new and exciting ways, which show audiences not only their unusual sound, but the roots where that music came from.

The quartet will be playing a CD release concert in Springville on Feb. 7 at the Springville Center for the Arts, located at 37 North Buffalo St. Local singer-songwriter Bethany Fonda will be opening for Harpeth Rising, beginning at 8 p.m.

Tickets are available at the door or in advance, by calling 592-9038. More information is also available at www.springvillearts.org.
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