American Roots Music, is what I am calling what the three artists make whom I will highlight today. I took the classification from American Roots Music, a 2001 multi-part documentary film that explores the historical roots of American Roots music which, in the PBS film, includes Folk, Country, Blues, Gospel, and Bluegrass. Common elements are it is usually played on acoustic instruments, primarily banjo, guitar, mandolin and fiddle, and the inspiration comes from music made prior to the development of the music industry, i.e. 1920.
The term “roots music” is a broad category of music including bluegrass, gospel, old time music, jug bands, Appalachian folk, blues, Cajun and Native American music. The music is considered American either because it is native to the United States or because it developed there, out of foreign origins, to such a degree that it struck musicologists as something distinctly new. It is considered “roots music” because it served as the basis of music later developed in the United States, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz.
The Crooked Jades are on a mission to reinvent old-world music for a modern age, pushing boundaries and blurring categories with their fiery, soulful performances. Innovative, unpredictable and passionate, they bring their driving dance tunes and haunting ballads to rock clubs, festivals, traditional folk venues and concert halls across America and Europe.
Known for their rare and obscure repertoire, beautiful original compositions, inspired arrangements and eclectic, often vintage instrumentation, The Crooked Jades began with band leader/founder Jeff Kazor’s vision to revive the dark and hypnotic sounds of pre-radio music. With this old-time foundation, the band has created the unique Crooked Jades sound by exploring the roots of Americana and interweaving the diverse musical influences of Europe and Africa. Filtering these old-world sounds with universal and ancient themes through a post-9/11 lens, they seek to make sense of the future.
The current lineup of the Crooked Jades is a core trio of co-founders Jeff Kazor (vocals, guitar, ukulele) and Lisa Berman (vocals, slide guitar, banjo, harmonium), with Erik Pearson (vocals, banjos, ukulele, harmonium, slide guitar) often joined by Charlie Rose (bass), and Rose Sinclair (banjo, banjo uke, minstrel banjo, slide guitar).
The award winning Lonesome Sisters, Sarah Hawker and Debra Clifford are known for their spine-tingling harmonies, sparse acoustic instrumentation and soulful lyrics with that lonesome mountain sound. They were voted best acoustic duo by Gibson Guitars 2006, and have traveled extensively with their music. Debra has also recorded with Old Buck, an old-time string band with Emily Schaad on fiddle (Clifftop Fiddle Contest Winner 2012), Riley Baugus on banjo, and Sabra Guzman on string bass. Debra has recorded a new CD with Becca Wintle as a new duo in late 2015, The Farwells.
Cahalen Morrison grew up surrounded by the deep roots of country music; he played in his first country (and ranchero) band as a precocious 13 year old. Leaving New Mexico as a young man, his music began to branch out. “I did what every teenager does, and decided to go down the rock, and whatever road,” Cahalen explains. “But then I came back around to acoustic music, and now back to country. I love the focus on singing and the songs; I love the deep sincerity, the absurd humor… But obviously, overall, I really just love the music.” That full circle journey enabled Cahalen to develop a sound that sets him apart from other country artists.
Exploring acoustic roots music and touring internationally with his acclaimed Seattle duo Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, he learned from the guidance of friends like Tim O’Brien and Kelly Joe Phelps. With his new project, Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer, and his new album, he’s taken all these influences and distilled them into a new form of American roots music, at once literate and profound, but written in the language of the country greats.