Hometown Boy Drifts into Town with The Farewell Drifters

Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 1:48 PM
Hometown Boy Drifts into Town with The Farewell Drifters by Ryan Bartosek
Contributed by The Farewell Drifters

A new music scene has been growing recently, and ironically, it’s one that’s based on old traditions. 

Many young music fans have been enjoying a “roots revival” of sorts with indie-folk, newgrass, and alt-country music creeping further and further into the mainstream. And this scene is alive and well here in Erie with hipsters, hippies, and rockers alike have been piling into the crooked i to hoist their Pabst Blue Ribbon pounders in appreciation to bands such as The DEFiBULATORS, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, The New Familiars, and Cabinet.

This eclectic and inclusive crowd will have the chance Sunday, March 20 to pile together and raise their pounders when the crooked i introduces The Farewell Drifters.

The Farewell Drifters, on tour from Nashville, are a five-piece acoustic string band that dubs their sound: Harmonic Roots Music. They are comprised of guitarist Zach Bevill and mandolin player Joshua Britt, both are the band’s primary song writers. The Drifters also feature Clayton Britt on guitar, as well as Dean Marold on standup bass. Finally, The Drifters round out with Christian Sedelmyer, the band’s fiddle player and an Erie native who has lent his playing to several local bands, such as The Jungle and Shotgun Jubilee and will be featured on Shotgun Jubilee’s upcoming album.

The Farewell Drifters draw from a variety of influences. They’re sound is right at home with bands such as Nickel Creek, who share similar characteristics both vocally and instrumentally. The guitars, bass, and mandolin do a fine job of creating a base rooted in the bluegrass tradition. However, Sedelmyer’s approach to the fiddle is more fluid and jazz-oriented, as opposed to the sharper attack more common to the bluegrass or old-time style. Instead of simply having specific solo or instrumental breakdown sections, both the fiddle and mandolin weave melody lines in and out as each song progresses.  This allows the band to be a bit more musical, not having to rely on the “awe” factor that many traditional bluegrass bands use.

The song writing itself is akin to that of Paul Simon, painting vivid pictures of places and experiences, as well tapping into various emotions making the lyrical content easy for listeners of all ages and walks of life to relate to. Elements of vocally driven bands such as The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, and Nash are evident. This, joined with Bevill and Britt’s ability to put together memorable melodies so that the songs stick with the listener, make the girth of the band’s material catchy and easy to sing along to.

“We're certainly inspired by the vocal harmonies present in the folk rock movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s, as well as the folksier bluegrass songwriting approach from legends like John Hartford,” says Sedelmyer, the Erie native. “We're also super excited about what bands like Fleet Foxes, The Avett Brothers, and Mumford and Sons are doing.”

The band clearly draws from all of these influences, resulting in an Americana sound that is truly their own. Sedelmyer concurred and explained that, “because of the unique backgrounds of the band members and the fact that we didn't all grow up listening to Bill Monroe and Patsy Cline, our music might end up sounding just a little bit different. We're certainly not a bluegrass band in the traditional sense, nor are we a country band. We are influenced in some ways by those traditions, but we're also influenced by many other traditions that, in other ways, are very unique and different.”

Each song on their 2010 album “Yellow Tag Mondays,” which debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard bluegrass music chart, is warmly inviting. Songs like “Virginia Bell” evoke visions of dancing around a campfire in the forest during an old-fashioned pickin’ party. Others such as “Please Dream Of Me Tonight” have the feeling of sitting on a porch swing in the summer with a cold glass of lemonade. The Farewell Drifters also have pop sensibility, with songs like “Everyone Is Talking,” which could easily find its way onto Top 40 country radio.

Erie audiences should expect to hear many of these songs as well as some new material.

“We just finished a new album, ‘Echo Boom,’ with an awesome producer named Neilson Hubbard in Nashville,” Sedelmyer said. “We'll be playing lots of tunes off the new album that is officially to be released on June 7.” He added that this will be the first tour that the album will be available for pre-purchase as will copies of the band’s previous albums.

Working on the new album with an outside producer has breathed a new life into The Farewell Drifters sound that has carried over into the live setting helping the band become a stronger live act. “Neilson has more of a rock background and he was really great at capturing a lot of the raw energy of the band,” Sedelmyer said. “We've been working really hard to deliver that energy at our live shows.” It seems to have been working, as the band has been consistently drawing larger numbers at their local Nashville shows and have embarked on several successful tours. 

This current spring tour finds The Farewell Drifters visiting various major cities in the northeast such as Buffalo, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and even New York. However, Sunday’s Erie show completes the “band hometown puzzle,” with the quintet having finally played a show in each band member’s former stomping grounds. This is something that Sedelmyer ensures the entire band is looking forward to: “we are so excited to finally be playing a show in Erie. We've heard nothing but great things about the crooked I, and we can't wait to perform for an Erie audience.”

Clearly things are lined up for quite the homecoming for Sedlemyer and the rest of The Farewell Drifters Sunday, March 20 at the crooked i. Local acts East Clintwood and Tommy Link are slated to open the show, which is set to kick off at 10 p.m. The Farewell Drifters will take the stage around 11:30 p.m. Admission to this show is just $3. Anyone interested in getting a taste of what’s in store from The Farewell Drifters may visit the band’s website as well as http://thefarewelldrifters.bandcamp.com for a preview and free download from the upcoming album “Echo Boom.”   

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 25
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A wildlife photographer captures Presque Isle State Park at dawn.

An account from the front lines of the North Dakota protest

 

Questioning the nostalgia of Rogue One

 

Get some holiday ink in exchange for donations

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