June 7, 2007 issue

Rising Appalachia’s New Fashioned Old-Time World Music

Sister Duo To Play Canyons Wednesday, June 13

Story by David Brewer

Acoustic duo Rising Appalachia combines traditional Appalachian string music with elements of blues and jazz, as well as tribal rhythms. The duo will be at Canyons on Wednesday, June 13.The name came to them in a dream. Their roots music came to them from their parents and also from their travels around the world. Now the dynamic duo is determined to explore the outer realms of their self-created musical reality and transform ideas about where and how it should be performed.

On Wednesday, June 13, acoustic duo Rising Appalachia will perform at Canyons in Blowing Rock. The free show will start at 10:00 p.m.

Sisters and Georgia natives Leah and Chloe have been performing as Rising Appalachia for less than two years but are already redefining their entire method of playing and recording live music—pretty heady stuff for a band that has existed part-time and has a couple of CDs under their belt.

Raised on traditional Appalachian string band music by “a fiddlin' mother and a folk-sculptor father,” the sisters began their musical journey together as young children. But old time wasn’t the only type of music that Leah and Chloe latched on to. Their urban raising exposed them to hip-hop, jazz and much more.

As the duo got older, they traveled far and wide, visiting Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Holland, Spain, Alaska, Hawaii and Vancouver, as well as traversing the United States from East to West. In the process, Leah and Chloe were exposed to roots music of all kinds that now greatly informs their old-time-meets-world-music hybrid.

Listening to Rising Appalachia, you are just as likely to hear the rustic strains of a claw hammer banjo or fiddle as African percussion, trumpet and the normally hip-hop-associated method of beat boxing.

And while the group acknowledges their roots-based beginnings, their grander vision cannot be explained in the simple lyrics of fiddle tunes. Instead, the voices of Rising Appalachia soar in harmony while they poetically pine for social change and abhor material possession.

On stage, the duo frequently employs guests to help flesh out their raw and untamed sound with the aforementioned percussion, horns or whatever appeals to the pair on a particular night. Although not trying to necessarily move away from their mountain music roots, Leah said that the duo performs less traditional material than they once did.

“We do still try to bust out a couple of boot-stomping old banjo tunes,” said Leah. “It’s sort of like Bjork meets the banjo.”

Recently, Rising Appalachia lost Forrest Kelly, the sisters’ resident percussion player who had contributed considerably during his time with the band.

“We went through a small panic when we realized it was going to be just the two of us, but it went away pretty quickly,” said Leah. According to Leah, the recent departure of Kelly has allowed her and Chloe to become an even tighter music force.

“We still want to keep a real hollow sound,” said Leah.

As if trying to color outside the lines musically weren’t enough, Rising Appalachia wants to entirely revamp the idea of what it means to be performing artists. Instead of slugging it out on the tour circuit, Rising Appalachia wants to play nontraditional venues of all kinds.

“We’re trying to set up an alternative company that sets up concerts but not within the music industry,” said Leah. “We’re trying to set up tours and get out of bars. It’s an entirely grassroots production.”

Having themselves been community activists during their travels, Leah and Chloe want their art to also be a source of activism, as well as of cultural development. Their long-term ideology about the band and its deeper purpose is still a work in progress, but is now more than ever at the heart of Rising Appalachia.

To learn more about Rising Appalachia, click to www.myspace.com/risingappalachia.

Want To Go?

Date: Wednesday, June 13
Time: 10:00 p.m.
Location: Canyons in Blowing Rock
Cost: FREE!