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ORNL FCU/Summer Sessions – 8/12 – Ferd Band / Tillers / Hogslop String Band / Sierra Hull

August 12, 2023 @ 4:00 pm

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FERD (the band) is nearly 15 years in the making. As the former fiddler and front man for the Hackensaw Boys, Ferd Moyse first met East Tennessee banjoist and singer Matt Morelock in 2007 and double-bassist Chris Stevens shortly thereafter. Ferd, Stevens, and Morelock decided to take the trio on the road in 2021 with a singular focus on Ferd’s body of timeless original songs. FERD has quickly gained the attention of fans, musicians, venues, and discerning listeners worldwide with headlining spots at the Rotterdam Bluegrass Festival, Old Tone Festival, Blackpot Festival, and venues, theatres, clubs, and campfires. FERD is set to release their first album, Feelin’ Like the Wind, in 2022. The album is a musical journey into the toils of joy we find while stumbling our way to forgiveness.

The Tillers have been thumping their own distinctive sound of string band style folk music for a decade, riding it all over the country and across the sea. Four studio albums and one live record have won them praise as modern folk storytellers of the national soundscape.

Staying true to tradition while maintaining a bold irreverence is something that rarely goes hand-in-hand, but Hogslop String Band manages to walk that line. With their roots in old-time string band music, and their energy based in wild rock- and-roll; you could almost call them punk purists.

It’s an unlikely combination, but given the talents of singer and fiddler Kevin Martin; guitarist, harmonica player and singer Gabriel Kelley; mandolin player and singer Will Harrison; banjo player and singer Daniel Binkley, and bassist and all-round entertainer Pickle, they pull it off with natural ease. The name alone hints at their wacky ways, but catching them live will give you a true sense of these bizarre, seemingly contradictory descriptions.

They thrive on crossing genres, casting off the confines of straight old-time and bluegrass, delving into a deep repertoire of rock, folk, psychedelic, and original numbers that can only be described as,”The Hogslop Sound.” It’s clear that these guys are going places, and they’ve quickly become one of the most unique and exhilarating outfits in live music today.

In her first 25 years alone, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Sierra Hull hit more milestones than many musicians accomplish in a lifetime. After making her Grand Ole Opry debut at the age of 10, the Tennessee-bred virtuoso mandolinist played Carnegie Hall at age 12, then landed a deal with Rounder Records just a year later. Now 28-years-old, Hull is set to deliver her fourth full- length for Rounder: an elegantly inventive and endlessly captivating album called 25 Trips.

Revealing her profound warmth as a storyteller, 25 Trips finds Hull shedding light on the beauty and chaos and sometimes sorrow of growing up and getting older. To that end, the album’s title nods to a particularly momentous year of her life, including her marriage to fellow bluegrass musician Justin Moses and the release of her widely acclaimed album Weighted Mind—a Béla Fleck- produced effort nominated for Best Folk Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

“There’s a lot of push-and-pull on this record, where in some moments I feel like everything’s happening so fast and I wish I could slow it all down so I can really enjoy it,” Hull points out. “But then there are also times where I’m looking forward to the day when the craziness has died down a bit, and life’s a little calmer.”

Made with producer/engineer Shani Gandhi (Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Sarah Jarosz, Alison Krauss), 25 Trips continues the musical journey begun on Weighted Mind, a body of work that built off Hull’s bluegrass roots and ventured into entirely new terrain. But while its predecessor assumed a sparse and stripped-back palette, 25 Trips embodies a far more intricately arranged sound—an effect achieved with the help of peers like guitarist Mike Seal, bassist Ethan Jodziewicz, violinist Alex Hargreaves, and fiddler Christian Sedelmyer, as well as several musicians that Hull has long admired (including bassist Viktor Krauss, guitarist Bryan Sutton, and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Duncan). Along with integrating electric instrumentation and percussion into her material for the first time, Hull dreamed up the album’s eclectic textures by embracing a free-flowing process that often gave way to lightning-in-a-bottle improvisation.

“There were some songs that we created from the ground up, where I’d go in and play by myself, and from there we’d bring in other musicians to add more and more layers,” Hull says. “It was really wonderful to work that way, where we started from a place of mystery and then just let the song show us what it wanted or needed to become.”

Immediately proving the power of that approach, 25 Trips lures the listener into its unpredictable sonic world on the beguiling opening track “Beautifully Out of Place.” With its shifting tempos and gently tempestuous mood, the song was sparked from words of encouragement spoken by Hull’s husband at a time of self-doubt and confusion. “I remember Justin saying to me, ‘I believe in you, so you’re just going to have to learn to believe in yourself,’” she recalls. “That inspired the first line for me, and the song just wrote itself from there.”

Although much of the album bears a rich complexity, 25 Trips also includes moments of stark simplicity that perfectly showcase Hull’s stunning vocal range. On “Everybody’s Talking,” for instance, her luminous vocals quietly capture the frustration of finding clarity in the midst of constant chatter from the outside world. And on “Ceiling to the Floor”—co-written with Kai Welch, a songwriter/musician known for his work with Glen Campbell and Abigail Washburn—Hull spins a tender metaphor from her longtime fear of heights. “I was telling Kai about how when I was little my dad used to try to get me over that fear by holding me up to the ceiling and saying, ‘Just touch it—I’m not gonna let you fall,’” she explains. Featuring a performance from legendary steel-guitar player Paul Franklin, “Ceiling to the Floor” drifts from memory to real-time reflection, slowly unfolding as a nuanced meditation on courage and love.

One of the most unexpected turns on 25 Trips, “Escape” emerges as a delicate collage of hypnotic percussion, otherworldly electric-mandolin tones, and poetic yet plainspoken lyrics (e.g., “I want to escape to a world that’s not closing in”). “I didn’t even have that song on my list for the album, but I played Shani a voice memo and right away she said, ‘I wanna record that,’” remembers Hull, who penned “Escape” with singer/songwriter Angel Snow. “I was a little hesitant since it’s so unlike anything else I’ve done, but in the end it was really exciting to play electric and come up with something in a completely different vein.”




August 12, 2023
4:00 pm
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Bissell Park
1401 Oak Ridge Turnpike
Oak Ridge, TN 37830 United States
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(865) 425-3450
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