Being a Vancouverite, (being a Canadian really) there aren’t many instances where I come into contact with bluegrass music. In fact, I don’t think I had ever seen a bluegrass band before last night. Thanks to The Milk Carton Kids, I can now cross it off my musical bucket list. The group that opened for Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, was a good, old fashioned Southern bluegrass Americana musical quartet – The Barefoot Movement. They are so stereotypically southern it’s awesome.
The men of the group had the farmboy beards, the ladies, southern charm. The accents were present, the shyness, the humour and, of course, the music. The Barefoot Movement is an extraordinary mesh of mandolin, fiddle, guitar and upright bass – and even that seems like your average, standard bluegrass group. (They’re not from Kentucky so I guess we can forgive them for not having a banjo). On second thought, I’m not really sure what a standard bluegrass band contains, I just know that I loved their sound. Anything that has a fiddle is automatic like for me. There is nothing I love more than the sound of a fiddle. They also immense poise and presence in spite of their youth – bass player Hasee Ciaccio, the youngest of the group, celebrated her 21st birthday in Seattle the night before their Vancouver show. They are also extremely dedicated. Fiddle player and unofficial band leader Noah Wall had a headache the entire time, and Ciaccio was missing her university finals to be on tour. Wow. Yes, in addition to being a wicked bass player and vocalist, Ciaccio is also a student at Eastern Tennessee State University, studying old time music and Appalachian Folk Medicine. Who says studying the arts doesn’t pay?
While the group is currently based out of Johnson City, Tennessee, only one member – guitarist Quentin Acres, is actually from the state. Wall, and Mandolin player Tommy Norris are from North Carolina, while Ciacco is from South Carolina. Not only was this the group’s first time performing in Canada, it was their the first time in Canada. In fact, before this tour, one member had never been west of Memphis. These cats better get for a whole lot more sightseeing and re-charge those frequent flyer miles. They’re going to need it.
Another thing they have is versatility. They play their own original compositions as well as traditional old-time music. Being from the south, there are songs about chickens and herding sheep, as well as love tunes. There are fast, get up and dance songs, and slower-paced ballads. Tunes infused with country, Americana, folk, Celtic, roots, and jazz all make their presence known to those in the audience. While Norris and Wall are the principal songwriters, their latest album – Figures of The Year – has contributions from all four members. Speaking of the album, it is a fine piece of work, but doesn’t nearly do that band justice. The Barefoot Movement is definitely a band you need to experience live. In fact, it was because of their amazing and upbeat live performance that I bought their album – the first CD I have paid for in over a year. Personally, I feel the stylings of bluegrass lend themselves perfectly to a live performance – not only is there a lot of incredible finger-work to be witnessed, but also an infectious sound that makes one want to fully integrate oneself on a dance floor.
Fantastic skills, harmonies to die for, smiles, lovely lyrics, and a great knowledge that they passed on to the Canadian audience; all of these things were present in their show. They tell stories with their music (and are wickedly funny to boot). The Barefoot Movement is a band everyone should watch out for. Bluegrass may never be for the masses, but with these guys and gals leading the charge, hopefully more listeners will discover its potent beauty.
Figures of The Year will be released June 4th, 2013.
You can visit their website at http://www.barefoot-movement.com
RIYL: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Blues Traveler, Steve Martin.