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Filthy Dirty South

Rising Appalachia
Rising Appalachia

Rising Appalachia adds an intoxicating recipe of banjo, blues and hip hop to old-time mountain folk. Front women and sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith are two songbirds (or swamp fairies) who poetically confront social, environmental and political injustices — all the while sticking to their filthy, dirty Southern roots. 

Song and Smith got their start jamming on front porches in the muggy heart of Atlanta, Georgia. The front-porch sessions looked like “sitting in thunderstorms, drinking a glass of wine and playing tunes,” Song says. One day, the sisters recorded an album for kicks with no intent of ever starting a band. 

“Twelve years in now,” she laughs, “we’re starting to figure out how to steer a little bit more.”

Long after those porch days, Rising Appalachia now tours as a four-piece, releasing its seventh album, Wider Circles, in 2015. David Brown (slide guitar, upright bass and some mean banjo) lays down heavy folk strings for the band while Biko Casini (percussion) creates a thick stew of rhythm. Song and Smith chime in with dancing harmonies that reach a level of grace only achieved by people who share DNA. 

“I say very often that we’re sisters, so it’s sort of like cheating,” Song says.

Rising Appalachia strives to keep traditional Southern folk music thriving as an act of gratitude to its roots and “to have a space where a lot of traditional music can live,” Song explains, “because pop music doesn’t have a lot of space for traditional music.” 

The band intentionally treads a balance between blunt politics and an easygoing mood into their music. “Music can be this place for catharsis, where you can really let go and just dance and sing,” Song says. “It really gets you out of your head.”  

Song and Smith create political awareness through lyrics. “Filthy Dirty South,” from 2012 album Filthy Dirty South, is one of many songs in which they call out environmental injustices, like big oil and fracking companies in the South. The sisters bite at the issues with a raw intimacy and an undoubtedly rich sense of pride. 

“It has this jab that says, ‘Yes, I love my filthy, dirty South,’” Song says. “It’s filthy, it’s taken advantage of and I still love and hold onto it.” 

Come get down and dirty with Rising Appalachia and beat-boxing soul folk artist Dustin Thomas 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 12, at McDonald Theatre;  $18.50 adv., $23 door. All ages.