Howlin' Brothers: Americana String Band Heads to Nashville and Learns How to Dance
On Nashville-via-New York string trio the Howlin' Brothers' debut record, Howl, the band doesn't "re-create" a specific moment in Americana music so much as run wild and wooly through great big landscapes of it. Recorded by Brendan Benson (the Raconteurs, The Maine) for his Readymade Records imprint, Ben Plasse (upright bass, banjo, vocals), Ian Craft (fiddle, banjo, vocals), and Jared Green (guitar, harmonica, vocals) create something truly exciting with Howl, something that takes in and synthesizes elements of bluegrass, country, blues, gospel, and New Orleans jazz, presenting it like a widescreen show, a survey of Americana.
Joshua Black Wilken The Howlin' Brothers get jumpin'.
We spoke with Green about moving to Nashville, recording with Benson, and teaming up with Warren Hayes of the Allman Brothers/Gov't Mule on the song "Big Time."
Up on the Sun: Your debut record, Howl, touches on a variety of American styles -- bluegrass, gospel, country, New Orleans second line music -- which keeps the record from sounding like a lot of other Americana records. You know, slavishly devoted to one style or sound. How did this multi-genre approach develop?
Jared Green: I don't think we had a really clear thought on doing the album a certain way. I think the way we [Plasse, Craft] write songs is kind of different, and they're all good songs. So, we just recorded them all and picked the ones we liked best. They just ended up being different styles of music [laughs]. I think it's because we don't want to limit ourselves to one genre. We just think good music is good music. A string band like us is versatile enough to do different kinds of styles of music.
Was your study of the broad swath of American music done in a classical sense, or more organically, just picked up from listening, collecting, and talking?
I think it's just stuff we've absorbed from records. Our sound is just the combination of the things we like. Blues, old time . . . [things like that]. When we started playing as a string band, we played a lot of bluegrass, but we like a lot of gospel music and New Orleans kind of music. I think [our sound has developed] more through listening, just through records we like. The old-time thing has mostly been picked up from living in Nashville, the country music traditions.
You guys all met in New York, correct?
We all met in Ithaca; we all actually went to school together. That's when we started playing in a band together. Nine years ago.
After the jump: "We've learned a lot of the fun stuff from Southern culture."