Already, at about 7:45pm when I arrived at Norwich Arts Centre, there was a palpable feeling of occasion with the venue feeling full, busy and with a sense of excitement. I knew little of Rising Appalachia beforehand so was impressed at how many people had excitedly gathered here and sold out the gig, and I was quickly struck by the obvious devotion of the mixed crowd. They obviously mean a lot to a lot of people who were demonstrative in their love for Rising Appaclachia. Coming onstage and starting a cappella before playing as a full four-piece band those standing moving nearer to be closer to the band and to dance. Despite it being a seated event on a Tuesday night event there were no worries about the atmosphere, generally I prefer standing gigs for that reason but that was not a concern for them and who had a very responsive and enthusiastic following at this, one of only a handful of UK dates outside of their recent Boomtown appearance the Arts Centre. Both sides of the seating area a throng of dancing and appreciative enthusiasm. In one of a couple of onstage straw polls the sisters Chloe and Leah asked how many of us were experiencing Rising Appalachia for the first time. From the hands raised I would guess around half or so, who soon became converts. Those long in the know about Leah and Chloe were having a blast with the advantage of evidently being more familiar with the songs and the messages and the clearly had a good connection. Special mention to the excellent backing from Biko and David too, on percussion and guitar, we even had a David Attenbrough-style English accent impression from David whilst the girls mimicked their airport larkings around. During some of their playful routines they rather put me in mind of a folksy Let’s Eat Grandma. They confided one of their favourite Brit words was “Manky”. Good choice, but made me wonder why are so many of our best words negative slang adjectives? Makes one think …
Being almost entirely unfamiliar with their work I could not offer much advice with another straw-poll as to how to label their genre. One of them suggested “Krunk Folk” but although the songs were from and inspired by influences from all over the globe, for me the old time-y style mountain music really hit the spot, and those of their home state Georgia, and ones inspired by their temporary home of New Orleans (“We went there for a few weeks after Katrina, to contribute in the only way we know how. Music. We stayed there seven years”, they added that’s it such a musical city and full of buskers but noted that Norwich was too.) The song that closed the first of their two hour-long sets prompted scenes I have rarely seen at an NAC seated gig and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like as a full standing gig, they really made people want to dance, and dance they did.
After that poll, for which they asked us to write the suggestion on a £20 note, which could also buy one of their vinyl albums. The next was: “Does anybody still own a CD player? If so, we have CDs, which are cool, but we also have vinyl, which is way cooler!”
Throughout the musicianship, vocals, sublime harmonies, chemistry, energy, and audience engagement were spot on. The songs and sound are beautiful and evocative, their connection to their fans truly special and spiritual. Like other American acts I have seen over the past year or two, such as Rainbow Girls, and Courtney Marie Andrews (here next week), they are spreading the word of kindess and compassion and trying to heal the world through spreading the message of getting us all to collectively raise our vibration and energy. I felt it. A lovely gig, and so heartwarming and encouraging to see people so connected by music and the messages. A very mixed audience shared something beautiful in the same way and this can only be a positive thing.
Rising Appalachia play their next UK date at the beautiful Bush Hall in London this Thursday evening (16th).
“an overall outstanding work of clever musicianship. A tour of world sounds that could be scattered and disjointed is very skilfully executed with a pleasant flow. Leah and Chloe’s vocals are the centerpiece here; though present on every track, they are never overpowering, even over the softest and sweetest notes.” – No Depression
“Rising Appalachia is the aural divinity of two sisters seeped in the deep south flair of harmony, resistance, and poetry” NPR
“Green Album of the Year” The Huffington Post
Rising Appalachia brings to the stage a collection of sounds, stories, and songs steeped in tradition and a devotion to world culture. Intertwining a deep reverence for folk music and a passion for justice, they have made it their life’s work to sing songs that speak to something ancient yet surging with relevance. Whether playing at Red Rocks or in rail cars, at Italian street fairs or to Bulgarian herbalists, this fiercely independent band has blazed a unique and colourful path across the globe. 11 years into their movement, Rising Appalachia believes that the roots of all these old songs are vital to our ever-evolving soundscape.
Led by the collective voice of sisters Leah and Chloe, and joined by their beloved band – percussionist Biko Casini and bassist/guitarist David Brown – Rising Appalachia is a melting pot of folk music simplicity, textured songwriting, and those bloodline harmonies that only siblings can pull off. Listen for a tapestry of song, clawhammer banjo tunes, fiddle, double bass, acoustic guitar, djembe, barra, bodhran, spoken word, and a wealth of musical layering that will leave you called to action and lulled into rhythmic dance simultaneously. It is both genre bending and familiar at the same time. Proudly born and raised in the concrete jungle of Atlanta, Georgia, sharpening their instincts in the mountains of Appalachia, and fine tuning their soul on the streets of New Orleans they have crafted a 6-album career from the dusts of their passion.
In 2015, Rising Appalachia founded the Slow Music Movement, to help maintain an independent musical spirit in the face of such a fast-paced world. They are creatively committed to keeping their work accessible at the local street level as well as expanding to larger audiences abroad, and have continued to maintain autonomy by self- managing, recording, producing and creating, and directing their work.
They are greatly honoured to do the work that they do.
“Music is the tool with which we wield political prowess. Melody for the Roots of each of us…spreading song and sound around the globe. Music has become our script for vision- not just for aural pleasure, not just for hobby, but now as a means to connect and create in ways that we aren’t taught by mainstream culture. We are building community and tackling social injustice through melody, making the stage reach out with wide arms to gather this great family. It has taken on its own personality, carrying us all along the journey. Heres to poetic observations, social change, lyrical messages, political focus, symphonic coercing, ferocious bantering, bicycles and train tracks, primal will, fresh air, harmony, flow, and beautiful noise.” Leah Song.