Every sound that sits on the singular stylistic plate of Harpeth Rising is geared toward advancement.
That translates into advancement of visibility, something this Nashville quartet is continually attuned to, having recorded and released four independent albums in the first four years of its existence. But advancement also applies the music itself, the product of a novel instrumental makeup (violin, banjo, cello and percussion) and a wildly broad spectrum of stylistic influences (classical, folk, Western swing, jazz, Latin and more).
So it’s a touch ironic that the band’s best description of its very forward thinking sound and career is best revealed through a backward glance.
“The truth is, we’re making original music,” said violinist and co-founding member Jordana Greenberg, who will perform with Harpeth Rising on Sunday at Natasha’s for a performance designed to celebrate the release of its new Tales from Jackson Bridge album. “In that sense, there is no way to really define it right now. That definition comes further down the road when you’re looking back at something.
“Right now, the best thing I can say about what we do is ‘original.’ Definitely we’re interested by a variety of different genres. We have very strong classical backgrounds but we also grew up listening to folk music and blues and rock ‘n’ roll. So these are all things that are incorporated into our writing to create our brand and our own sound. We’re just not exactly sure what to call it.”
With numerous Nashville area awards to its credit, the band has taken its eclectic string-and-percussion music to such esteemed gatherings as the Cambridge Folk Festival and the London Folk Festival as well as to the Lexington produced airwaves of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Greenberg, a California native now living in Bowling Green, planted the seeds for Harpeth Rising by performing as a folk duet with banjoist Rebecca Reed-Lunn. From there, very specific ideas surfaced regarding where the band’s sound should go.
“We started by playing old time music and traditional bluegrass,” Greenberg said. “From there, we began writing our own songs. Once we really delved into original songwriting, we realized we wanted to fill out the sound with a full group. We knew that what we wanted to go along with our instruments would be cello and percussion. From there we just got very, very lucky because had wonderful friends who happened to play those instruments. So at first the changes were intentional. Then it became a matter of luck.”
Nashville cellist Maria Di Meglio and Memphis percussionist Chris Burgess complete the band lineup. But their additions triggered another avenue of exploration for Harpeth Rising – specifically, a vocal harmony sound every bit as audacious as its instrumental voice. On Tales From Jackson Bridge, that extends to jazz phrasing on Burn Away Your Troubles, California-flavored folk-rock on Ghost Factory to the barbershop quartet accents on It Don’t Really Matter.
“We love to sing so much, and writing harmonies is, for all of us, one of our favorite things about being a musician and writing original music. We all studied our instruments for so many years – 16 or 17 years – before we even started singing or writing. So the harmony writing is still very new and exciting.”
In the end, however, all of Harpeth Rising’s adventures have to be countered against the reality that this is still a young band that works independently and tours constantly just to be heard. That keeps the collective eyes of its players very much on what is ahead of them.
“We don’t have a record label and we have no big money behind us,” Greenberg said. “So it’s all a matter of getting the people who love our music to tell other people about it. Right now, that’s starting to happen in more exciting ways than it ever has before.”
Harpeth Rising performs at 8 p.m. Nov.24 at Natasha’s Bistro 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $7. Call (859) 259-2754 or call www.beetnik.com.