The Often Herd just released their first single, 'Inner Peace', from their upcoming debut album, 'Where the Big Lamp Shines', to be out June 3rd, 2022. Their latest offering explores themes of relief and liberation from the perpetual stress and the mundane reality of modern working life through their foot-stomping four and a half minutes of pacey guitar and mandolin, meandering fiddle and warm, engaging vocals.
Composer and mandolinist, Evan Davies, has said of the inspired single 'Inner Peace' is about a much needed moment of tranquility he experienced after being buried in the digital world, with expectation constantly weighing heavily on his mind. A spontaneous road trip led by a pair of nomadic musical acquaintances took him away from the feeling that he needed to be connected to everyone and everything and reminded Davis to embrace the simpler joys of life.
Davis joined a couple of rogue buskers he had just met and they hit the road to Lac D’Annecy. Soon Davis found himself sitting with his feet in a lagoon blue lake, sun beating down, with no-one to answer to but his new companions. It wasn't until their first night that Davis realized he couldn’t charge his phone. With no other choice he let go of that need to be connected to everything and everyone and found just how cathartic it was to 'unplug'. Davis began to sleep naturally, without the bright light of his phone keeping him wired and was waking with the rise of the sun. Without social media alerts or calendar reminders, he found pleasure in just spending time with just three wonderful people, a much needed moment of calmness after a hectic and uncertain time.
The Often Herd recorded the 'Inner Peace' with Tom Moore, whom they have been working with on their upcoming album 'Where the Big Lamp Shines'. The production of ‘Inner Peace’ includes the use of echo and reverb effects, particularly on the fiddle, and seemed to mirror the chaotic tension created by the chords. Noel Dashwood laid down a gorgeous Dobro part which was the finishing touch.
The Often Herd transcend the traditional boundaries of Bluegrass music. Although they might resemble an American string band, complete with driving energy, tight vocal harmonies and dazzling instrumental interplay, their vibrant, transatlantic sound is deeply colored by their surroundings, the striking natural and industrial landscapes of Northern England. This unique approach won them the title of “Best European Bluegrass Band 2018” at the prestigious La Roche Bluegrass Festival in France.
Of course, Bluegrass can claim its own exchange between the US and the UK. The Old World sounds that impacted Appalachia courtesy of the immigrants that came to those realms of the US during the 19th century had a profound impact on the lifeblood of American music. It’s not surprising then that the music that emanates from the American heartland should go full circle and find a home back in the UK. Thus it should not be surprise when there is a great example of this import/export exchange found in the efforts of The Often Herd, a band that makes its present home in Newcastle on Tyne.
Hughes and Davies have known each other since childhood, and they spent their later teenage years busking together on the streets of their hometown. Even after Davies moved to Leeds to study at university, the pair managed to stay in touch and continue to make music together. Davies later met Quintana while in Leeds, and then they began performing together. Meanwhile, back in Newcastle, Hughes had come across Krieger at a local jam session. Eventually all four coalesced as a unit during what they describe as a “ramshackle gig” on the Isle of Mull in 2014.
As they themselves explain on their website, their approach resembles that of an American string band, “complete with driving energy, tight vocal harmonies and dazzling instrumental interplay,” but…”their vibrant, transatlantic sound is deeply colored by their surroundings; the striking natural and industrial landscapes of Northern England.”
Rupert Hughes (guitar) and Evan Davies (mandolin), write songs steeped in personal experience whilst drawing from a wide pool of influences ranging from old-time mountain music to psychedelia. American born fiddler Niles Krieger and jazz bassist Sam Quintana add fiery instrumental skills to the mix, launching the band’s arrangements into the stratosphere. Together, their sound is both boldly contemporary and soothingly familiar, taking time honored traditions to new places with a fresh perspective.
During the pandemic the quartet performed a virtual showcase slot at 2021’s International Bluegrass Music Association conference. Prior to COVID, The Often Herd managed to maintain a busy performance schedule, with extensive gigging up and down the UK. They’ve also performed in Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany. “We’ve done a lot of touring and spent countless hours on the road crammed into a Ford Fiesta with all of our instruments,” Quintana notes. “We’ve been fortunate enough to play at a host of brilliant festivals in the UK and further afield. The UK has a very supportive Bluegrass scene, and pre-pandemic we would embark on a yearly festival circuit that would take us from the Cornish Coastline to the Gower Peninsula. Our most notable appearances have included slots at La Roche Bluegrass Festival, Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival, and Fire In The Mountain.”
“We focus mainly on original material, but also play an array of Bluegrass/old-time material which we enjoy putting our own spin on,” Quintana explains. “We throw the odd cover into the mix too, and we’ve arranged songs by The Byrds, The Beatles, and even King Crimson!” Quintana is also quick to offer that Bluegrass enjoys such international popularity, which he has witnessed from a first person perspective.
From the 1st of May, The Often Herd will be embarking on a UK-wide tour, details of which can be found at their website, www.theoftenherd.com/ This is a band with some serious talent and a bright future combining the combination of virtuosity, enthusiasm, willingness to push boundaries and above all great songs. The band is is both traditional and innovative.
Even though the song 'Inner Peace' was written well before the onset of the pandemic, it’s definitely taken on a new meaning for many, as isolation often made it even more of a challenge to escape from the pressures and expectations of the digital world. Hopefully ‘Inner Peace’ will serve as a reminder to us all to switch off for a few minutes every day and appreciate the simple things around us. To those that think they don’t like Bluegrass this could be the point you change your mind .” My best advice is to flock to The Often Herd, you won’t be disappointed.