New bands have many difficult decisions to make, including what to call it. Instead of wasting time on discussion, one New England-based band actually did, coming up with a slang term that perhaps defines a group that gambles with many musical styles.
On April 27, the Center for the Well Being will host Portland, Maine, folk music trio Tumbling Bones for the next Acoustic Brew concert.
Tumbling Bones fuses old-time country with old-fashioned blues, a sound in contrast to the youthfulness of the the three men — Pete Winne on guitar, harmonica and vocals; Jake Hoffman on banjo, upright bass and vocals; and Sam McDougle on fiddle and drums.
Originally from Bethlehem, Hoffman grew up on a heavy dose of rock ’n’ roll and jazz.
“I became interested in music through my parents,” he said. “My mom is a ballet teacher and my father was a radio nut and Deadhead, so there was always music in their house.” By high school, Hoffman was falling for jug bands, mountain ballads, Delta blues, classic country and bluegrass.
Although their music is mainly rooted in traditional folk, the musicians mix in the contemporary rock ’n’ roll they were raised on into their original arrangements. While the three musicians were normally used to playing on street corners in Europe, now they are getting more exposure performing in venues across the United States, including a performance on NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor.
In 2011, the band released its debut album, “Risk Not Your Soul,” which reached the top 10 on the Roots Music Report’s folk radio chart. After releasing a second record, “Schemes,” in May, the trio embarked on a summer and fall tour of the Mid-West, East Coast and Ireland. Now the band has taken to the road again with their spring tour, with newest band member Kyle Morgan.
With McDougle recently accepted in a doctorate program in neuroscience at Princeton University, Hoffman and Winne looked for his replacement and found the perfect fit for their band in Morgan.
“We also brought on a fantastic bass player, Steve Roy of New Hampshire, to add that bigger sound which we have since incorporated into our sets with me and Kyle trading off on bass,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said he credits the making of the first record to the formation of the band.
“If ‘Risk Not Your Soul’ never would have happened, then there’d be no Tumbling Bones,” he said. “We got together and threw songs at each other to see what we wanted to play. And because our chemistry and final product were so good, we decided to give it a shot and pursue Tumbling Bones.”
For the band’s newest release, the recording process was much more of a planned project, as compared to the experimentation of the first album.
“ ‘Schemes’ had a lot more pre-meditated construction,” Hoffman said. “It’s got what were our newest original tunes and some of our favorite songs we had been playing for the past year.”
Vocally, the band is heavily influenced by classic R&B and rock and roll, though Hoffman said they usually stay the path of bluegrass, folk, and gospel in their harmonies.
“We bring a little something more modern to our vocal arrangements that we love to throw on top of our old instrumental sound,” he said. “But we also do a fair amount of gospel. The spirituality and weight of a gospel song can speak to the soul whether or not you’re a devout Christian.”
Hoffman said he hopes to inspire people to pick up the traditional music his band plays because it is timeless music that speaks to many eras.
“I feel strongly that we need to keep traditional American music alive,” he said. “One of my favorite things about our audiences is that they’re often heavily multi-generational. We find our music reaches the hearts of all kinds of people whether they recognize our sound or not. I believe that music is a reflection of the time and place in which it is created and at the same time informs the communities that hear it.”