Spirit Family Reunion is part of a long line of musicians based in New York City while playing the music of rural America. Like Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan and The Holy Modal Rounders before them, Spirit Family Reunion brings youthful energy and enthusiasm to antiquated sounds; screeching fiddle, unschooled harmonies, quavering mandolin and chugga-luggin’ freight train rhythms blend with the production value of a band busking on a Brooklyn sidewalk.
“I Want To Be Relieved,” from their 2012 release No Separation, recalls the gospel inspiration of The Band; the youngsters opened for The Band’s Levon Helm in 2012. The title-track from the same record digs deeper into the old-time church-revival sound. Album opener “Green Rocky Road” settles nicely into a foot stompin’ backbeat, compelling enough to get everyone up and dancing around the barnyard.
While one segment of contemporary pop goes deeper into the bleeps and bloops of electronic music — evermore consumed with beat culture — another has rediscovered acoustic sounds, believing, I’m sure, what they do to be more authentic than the DJs, making a statement against vocoders and the sterile production value of the mainstream.
And when Spirit Family Reunion is hot, running on all cylinders as they were at 2012’s Newport Folk Festival, they make a pretty compelling case that strings, wood, steel and folks harmonizing around familiar tunes will have its place in popular music for years to come.
Spirit Family Reunion plays 8:30 pm Wednesday, May 8, at Axe and Fiddle in Cottage Grove; $5.