These Nashville-based Telluride Band Contest winners feature twin fiddles, fast-picking mandolin and guitar, upright bass, and beautiful vocals in their acoustic bluegrass music.
Call it "new-timey", call it "post-bluegrass", call it "string band music for the 21st century" ...whatever the name, there's a revolution under way where string band traditions meet youthful creativity; look right to its center, and that's where you'll find Bearfoot. The quintet, originally formed in Alaska, have already made a mark with four strong releases, including their 2009 Compass Records debut, Doors And Windows which instantly hit the top of Billboard Magazine's Bluegrass Album chart. Now, as they enter their second decade with a new Nashville home and a new lineup, Bearfoot have taken their place among the best and brightest of a new generation of musicians reshaping American roots music.
A mere two years after their initial meeting teaching at their namesakeâ€™s bluegrass camp for kids, Bearfoot earned one of roots musicâ€™s most prestigious awards â€“Telluride Bluegrass Band Championsâ€“ an honor they share with artists Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek. Soon, they were touring extensively during summer breaks and became regular crowd favorites at prestigious festivals including Wintergrass, Grey Fox, Strawberry Festival, and seven consecutive years at RockyGrass. The original band members (Norris and Oudean) had known each other and played together in various combinations in Alaskaâ€™s small but vibrant music scene and the community of musicians, fans, parents, and friends rallied around the fledgling band. "We wrangled some support from them in the form of mileage and airline tickets," says Norris. "People wanted to see us succeed and travel. Very few bands in Alaska, particularly young bands, get the opportunity to do that so the community was excited about it and jumped onboard with us. Those same people still go to our shows now."
The original band name was "Bearfoot Bluegrass" but as the band evolved, they dropped "bluegrass" from the name. Bearfoot has adopted the Americana moniker to describe their music but havenâ€™t left their bluegrass roots behind. "Even if itâ€™s not a bluegrass song, itâ€™s not too hard to see where it all came from," Norris points out. "You can definitely tell that we play bluegrass by how we structure our phrasing, our instruments, and how our harmonies are set up." With ten years, major festivals, and four albums under their belt, Bearfoot has managed to make quite a name for themselves whilst growing and changing continuously as a band. With previous lead singer Odessa Jorgensen moving on to pursue her own solo indie folk music career, Bearfoot has welcomed singer/songwriter Nora Jane Struthers as their newest addition. Her recent self titled solo album sparked the interest of Bearfoot members Oudean and Norris, as well as the press. Bluegrass Unlimited says, "Youâ€™ll probably hear the name Nora Jane Struthers in conjunction with bluegrass awards for top female vocalistâ€¦and she writes with a clear-eyed traditional sensibility typically seen only in writers like Gillian Welch and Tim Oâ€™Brien, her songs sound immediately like pre-modern classics." Oudean and Norris had recently been spending a lot of time playing music with Nora Jane in Nashville, and thought it only natural to join forces with such a good friend. "Weâ€™re really looking forward to having some fresh new music to add to the Bearfoot repertoire. And I just love the way our voices sound together," says Oudean.