Archived Story

Bearfoot to imprint Acorn Theater

Published 3:21pm Friday, December 30, 2011

Bearfoot graces the stage at the Acorn Theater, 107 Generation Drive in Three Oaks at 8 p.m. Jan. 13. Tickets are $20.

The post-bluegrass band formed in Alaska in 1999 as Bearfoot Bluegrass and has since released five studio albums and won the 26th annual Telluride Bluegrass band contest in 2001.

The band’s name was shortened as its music evolved to include Americana, post-bluegrass and string instrument-based pop. Its latest release is American Story on Compass Records.

Following the success of Bearfoot’s 2009 Doors and Windows, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart, American Story introduces three new members, showing off their distinctive voices and the impressive level of integration the quintet’s already achieved.

Lead singer, songwriter and guitar player Nora Jane Struthers is the best known of the additions, having already released one album highlighting her thoughtful songwriting and cool, clear voice-and having won the tough Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2010 with the Bootleggers, a group featuring the second new member of Bearfoot, bass player P. J. George. (The original Bearfoot lineup won the same title in 2001).

Rounding out the revamped lineup is guitarist/vocalist Todd Grebe, previously known for his work fronting the acoustic honky-tonk group, Todd Grebe & Cold Country. And while the group claim it is settling into the new sound, one listen to American Story offers compelling evidence that the band members are being more modest than accurate.

With veteran producer/engineer Brent Truitt at the helm, Bearfoot hits the ground running on the new project with the Struthers-penned opener, “Tell Me A Story.” With its restrained prologue and keenly rhythmic body, the song dishes up a healthy serving of the band’s strong points: a winningly intimate lead vocal, tight harmonies and an arrangement that weaves together a multiplicity of musical strands, from the string band and bluegrass music that made up Bearfoot’s earliest sounds to a unique take on the acoustic pop influences whirling around the group’s East Nashville home.

“This song, and in some ways, this album, is really about escapism,” Struthers says. “We all have different ways of removing ourselves from reality, and I get myself lost in stories.”

From there, it’s a swift, satisfying run through a dazzling array of sounds and stories to the easy, good-time lope of Grebe’s closing “Mr. Moonshine.” Along the way, there are stops for hard-core bluegrass (“Midnight in Montana” with help from guest Charlie Cushman on banjo), a sly and sultry come-on (“When You’re Away,” written by the entire group), the poignant and ominous portrait of a trapped woman in “Eyes Cast Down” (written by Struthers and Claire Lynch) and more true stories and tall tales, but always with real people and situations at their center.

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