Everything may be bigger in Texas, but on July 7, the Penns Valley area will get a Texas-sized sampling of old-time country, bluegrass and swing, as the Austin’s Carper Family will perform at the Elk Creek Café in Millheim.
In three-part harmony, the trio — Melissa Carper on vocals and bass, Beth Chrisman on vocals and fiddle, and Jenn Miori on vocals and guitar — will entertain with renditions of country standards and original compositions.
Musically, they’ve combined their talents to create something unique.
“We all played music with our families off and on growing up,” Chrisman said. “Both Melissa and I played classical before we got into the old-time and bluegrass. And Jenn got into the old-school honky-tonk when she moved to Austin.”
Known within the band and around her hometown as “Daddy,” Carper grew up in Nebraska playing country music in a family band. By age 10, she was taking classical bass lessons. After spending some time in the Ozarks of Arkansas and in New Orleans, Carper began to discover some of the musical styles of the region, including bluegrass, old-time, country blues and swing.
“Melissa really loves Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers; the really old stuff,” Chrisman said.
Although there may be a hint of Kentucky roots coming through in her voice and fiddling, Chrisman’s main influence is more reminiscent of the tight-knit picking community of Alaska, where she grew up and absorbed a wide range of American country music traditions. “For me it was mostly the local musicians in Alaska,” she said.
Chrisman made her way to Austin in 2006 and began fiddling with local bluegrass and honky-tonk groups. She is now well-known for her sit-in and studio work with local and touring artists.
Born and bred in Houston, Miori, like Carper and Chrisman, grew up playing music with her family, learning guitar from her dad and harmony singing from her mom. She enrolled at the University of Texas, Austin, and fell in love with old-time country music. After playing with a number of local musicians, she put together her first country band, the Corn Ponies, quickly becoming an important part of that blossoming country scene.
Originally formed in 2010, The Carper Family took a weekly residence at the legendary Hole-in-the-Wall, although each member by this time had gained a significant following with their voice and instrument with some of the best local acts.
That same year the group released their debut album “Come See Yer Ol’ Daddy.” In 2011, the band released its second album, “Back When,” winning the award for best country album by the 11 Independent Music Awards in 2012.
The trio’s latest album “Old-Fashioned Gal,” contains a wider range of musical styles as compared to their previous releases, including a cover of Neil Young’s “Comes a Time.”
“We do acoustic country basically with a fiddle, guitar and bass; and three-part harmonies on almost every song,” Chrisman said. “It’s mostly simple straightforward arrangements and lots of energy. But every now and then we throw in something new, including some old blues and even jazz too.”
Still playing primarily in Austin and in clubs all over Texas, the band is steadily gaining a following across the country and somewhat on an international level.
“We’ve played at little honky-tonks in Austin, at concert halls on the East Coast, and even big festival stages in Norway,” she said. “The largest audience we played to was the Country Fest in Norway. There were thousands of people out there.”
Of course, what could be even bigger than Texas? The world.