The Dark Holler Pop of Mipso raucously invades RLC Bluegrass Thursday! Hazel Ra starts things off at 8pm after the open bluegrass jam at 6pm.
Americana’s jailbreak from sleepy town squares and the scratchier bands of the AM dial has been a welcome development in American music. And the renegade traditionalists of Mipso — Jacob Sharp on mandolin, Joseph Terrell on guitar, and Wood Robinson on double bass — are doing their part to take three-part harmony and Appalachian influences into new territory. The three North Carolina songwriters have wandered off the path blazed by Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson to find a new clearing for their southern string band sound.
In the process, they’ve kicked up a fuss. IndyWeek heralded the band’s role in the reemergence of southern roots music in North Carolina, crediting Mipso with “expanding the vocabulary of common touchstones” for bluegrass. WUNC hosted live previews of the band’s second album, Long, Long Gone. And all over the southeast, Mipso has been busy playing raucously fun live shows that veer from up-tempo original melodies to madcap acoustic covers of Michael Jackson. The group puts all the energy of a college club show into a form of music that predates clubs. And most colleges.
For their October 2013 release, Dark Holler Pop, the group enlisted local hero Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange as producer and proceeded to assemble a team of other North Carolina mainstays in the studio: members of Chatham County Line, Town Mountain, and Megafaun add a dash of virtuosity to a rich and well-crafted release. Mipso will join other North Carolina luminaries on stage to support the album, such as four-time Grammy winner David Holt, as well as the recently Grammy-honored Steep Canyon Rangers. While making waves across their home state, it’s clear Mipso will be keeping good company.
The idea for Mipso arose out of freshman year daydreaming at UNC Chapel Hill. After the usual band-making delays — Jacob took a year off to study winemaking in New Zealand, Joseph detoured to Argentina for Tango guitar lessons, Wood earned his chops in the Carolina jazz department — Mipso quickly went from idle picking to a campus staple. By junior year, UNC’s Chancellor was a regular guest on keyboard. By graduation, Mipso sold out Carrboro’s legendary Cat’s Cradle — four times.
Now, after a whirlwind tour through Japan’s bustling bluegrass scene and a host of sold-out shows across North Carolina, Jacob, Joseph and Wood are making the happy adjustment from local favorites to global emissaries for a decidedly new sound. As for the name of their particular sound, well, they call it Dark Holler Pop.
Hazel Ra is a collection of the art, music, and adventures of Hazel Rickard and her collaborators.
Since 2008, Hazel Rickard has biked across the country and worked as an artist in residence at Elsewhere in Greensboro, NC and Art Farm in Nebraska. She pieces together chance encounters and stories from those journeys in The Shadows, the first studio album by Hazel Ra. Hazel’s songs, at once haunting and comforting, intimate and distant, evoke the storytelling of the great American songwriters—weaving together mythologies, histories, and voices that have become distant over time.
The Shadows features a large cast of experienced musicians—violinists, banjoists, guitarists, horn players—each of whom lends a unique personality to the minimalist, modern chamber arrangements. Lush orchestral moments and wispy, soul-wrenching female harmony highlight the songs, which sees traditional folk through the lens of indie rock. The album captures a special and intense sonic moment: the album was recorded at Materials to Outlet in Portland, OR, where engineer Jake Kelly recorded fine talents such as Kimya Dawson, Vikesh Kapoor, and St. Even.
Born and raised in Arcata, CA, Hazel spent her early days wandering through the Redwoods and singing into the wind. When she relocated to Portland, OR in 2006, she connected with the area’s old-time folk music scene. She spent much of her time researching and interpreting American folk music, and performed regularly with the Dapper Cadavers, a dark country band. She also worked on her solo music project, developing a process and a body of work that led to her work as a bandleader for Hazel Ra.