Rising Appalachia will play at the Chautauqua Auditorium on September 3, 2022

As world travelers for nearly two decades, Appalachian Rise merged several global musical influences with their own southern roots to create the inviting new folk album, Ley lines. Remarkably, the band independently built their legion of listeners – a self-made success story that led to major festival appearances and sold-out shows at venues across the country.

Founded by sisters Leah and Chloe Smith, the band established an international fanbase through relentless touring, tireless activism and a stubborn degree of independence. However, for the first time they opted to bring in a producer for the new album, teaming up with the legendary Joe Henry on the sessions. These are also their first recording sessions outside the South. For 10 days, the six band members lived and recorded in a castle-like studio in Marin County, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As a result, a sense of unity and immediacy can be heard throughout their seventh album, Leylines.

“When it comes to recording, we’re creatively open, but we’ve often preferred live recording elements. I mean, we’re folk musicians at our core,” Leah explains. “The experience of playing music together in a room, watching each other, is the foundation of what we do and how we grew up with music. I think Joe felt that too. He was very clear at the beginning that he was going to encourage us to have as many elements of a live recording as possible.

Although Leah and Chloe Smith consider their vocals their primary instrument, Leah also plays banjo and bodhran on the album, while Chloe plays guitar, fiddle and banjo. They are joined on Leylines by longtime members David Brown (bass, baritone guitar) and Biko Casini (world percussion, n’goni), as well as two new members: West African musician Arouna Diarra (n’goni, talking drum) and Irish musician Duncan Wickel (violin, cello). The sonic textures of these two cultures are woven into Leylines, enhancing the stunning blend of folk, world and urban music that has become Rising Appalachia’s calling card.

“Our writing is also tied to these traditions,” says Chloe. “With some of our original songs, it’s a reflection of the times. We’re folk singers and we consider this album to be a folk album, so there’s a lot of stuff in there. There are words about politics, about being women in the music industry, as well as about our lives on the road.

Indeed, Rising Appalachia has circumnavigated British Columbia by sailboat, crossed the United States and Europe by train, and engaged in immersive cultural exchange programs in Bulgaria, Ireland, the South from Italy, Central and South America – not to mention the countless miles traveled by van. Tour highlights include: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco; Music Hall Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York; Boulder Theater in Boulder, Colorado; and the Showbox in Seattle, Washington. The band consistently sells between 400 and 1,500 tickets wherever they play, which is a testament to their loyal fan base.

Leah and Chloe grew up in the city of Atlanta as the city’s hip hop scene began to flourish. They absorbed these rhythms through the music they heard in school, then traveled with their families to fiddle camps throughout the Southeast on weekends. The young girls were not at all interested in the game of old, but their parents were incredibly dedicated in their study and practice of Appalachian music.

After high school, Leah decided to postpone college and travel overseas. Feeling homesick while living in southern Mexico, she sought a connection to her past and taught herself to play the banjo. “I realized I wanted something from home that I could share, something that would tell people a bit more of the story where I’m from, other than the news,” she recalls.

A few years later, when Chloe came to visit her overseas, Leah offered her banjo clawhammer lessons. They didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, but a musical partnership had been established. Upon their return to the United States, they recorded an album, which they considered an art project, to sell whenever they sang at farmers’ markets. They printed 500 copies, thinking it would last them a lifetime. However, when a local college professor heard them sing at a Christmas party, he booked them as part of a Celtic holiday concert in Atlanta. After two performances, every CD had been sold.

Surprised and overwhelmed, they pondered careers as full-time musicians, then realized that the show might just be one part of a larger overall vision – one that includes advocating for social justice, racial justice, environmental justice and indigenous rights.

“We are able to filter so much of our passions into this project,” says Chloé. “We do a lot of activism work. We do a lot of outreach. Leah is a visual artist and she can channel her visual eye into the project. I love to write, so it fits. Here is a great container and a canvas for our life’s work. Music is one of them, but there are plenty of other creative vehicles that drive Rising Appalachia.

Special guests on Ley lines include folk hero Ani DiFranco, soul songwriter Trevor Hall and jazz trumpeter Maurice Turner. The title of the album alludes to the concept of invisible lines meant to stretch around the world between sacred spaces, linked by a spiritual and magnetic presence. This deep sense of connection is essential to understanding Rising Appalachia as a whole. “Rising Appalachia was born out of this idea that we can take these traditions of southern music – that we were born and raised with – and we can come out of it, creating all these different bridges between cultures and histories to make them feel alive.” said Leah. “Our music has its foundations in heritage and tradition, but we create music that also reflects the current times. That has always been our job.

APPALACHIANS ON THE RISE

CHAUTAUQUA AUDITORIUM

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Doors: 6:30 p.m. | Show: 7:30 p.m.

Tickets on sale Friday, May 6 at 10 a.m. HERE

$28.00 – $41.00 General admission tickets and reserved seating plus applicable service charge

All ages

James C. Tibbs