The Bumper Jacksons
4am; a campfire in Any Backyard, USA; summertime.
The firelight bounces off fiddles, horns, guitars, and the faces of the men and women singing together in the deep parts of the night. They might not know each other’s names, but there they are, pouring their hearts out to one another in song, playing tunes older than their great-grandmothers. A certain magic happens in moments like this, where a common thread of humanity, going back thousands of years, is plucked – and strangers become old friends. Music creates a sort of temporary social apocalypse where the niceties and norms of society are blown away and a radical openness to others is allowed to take its place.
These are the experiences that birthed the Bumper Jacksons. Their new album I’ve Never Met A Stranger is a toast to all the ways in which we humans bridge the divide between our souls.
Like an old-time barn dance in downtown New Orleans, the Bumper Jacksons pull together a vast array of early American traditions into a deliciously cohesive sound that strikes you right in the heart. Hard-swinging grooves and roadhouse drinking songs are valleyed by delicate waltzes of loss and regret. At the center of it all, is an invitation to join in – be it a rowdy dance, a moment of soulful intimacy, or a movement to make a better world.
The Bumper Jacksons will be releasing their new album I’ve Never Met A Stranger at The Hamilton Live in Washington, DC on Friday, May 12. It is their third time returning to this beautiful stage and they’ll be doing so in style and good company: joining them are local artists Letitia Van Sant (country, folk) and Be Steadwell (jazz, folk, queer pop) who will be performing solo and in collaboration with members of the Bumper Jacksons.
The Bumper Jacksons have a steadily rising list of honors: Washington Area Music Awards Artists of the Year, Best Folk Album, Best Folk Group for 2015; Strathmore Artists-in-Residence for 2015-2016; Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Touring Artists for 2016-2017 and others. They’ve also just signed with Opus 3 Artists (among greats such as Yo-Yo Ma, Roseanne Cash, Bela Fleck, & Wynton Marsalis) for their national representation. This success blossomed from their simple beginnings in 2012 as a country-meets-city duet between Jess Eliot Myhre (clarinet, vocals, washboard) and Chris Ousley (acoustic & electric guitar, vocals, banjo) in the backyards, living rooms and front porches of DC and Baltimore. They crafted a sound built from their time exploring the smoky jazz clubs of New Orleans and old-time fiddler’s festivals throughout the southern Appalachians. From the beginning, they focused on honest deliveries and energetic performances.
After Chris and Jess established the roots of the Bumper Jacksons’ sound, it quickly drew in the rest of the Bumper Jacksons members and matured into what you hear today. Dave Hadley (pedal steel), Alex Lacquement (upright bass, vocals), Dan Samuels (drum kit), Brian Priebe (trombone) & Joe Brotherton (trumpet) who masterfully amplify and diversify the tone, rhythm and power that defines the band’s core sound. The success of the band’s last two albums - Too Big World (2015) and Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy Come In (2014)– demonstrate the ongoing refinement of their scrappy-yet-elegant, familiar-yet-reaching sound that explores a full spectrum of human emotion in its goal for the caramel core of Americana.
So whether it’s a packed house in a historic amphitheater or a fireside in the hills of Appalachia, the intimate ballads, growly blues, and fast paced two-steps will call you into another world that’s at once like home and the open road. It’s a truly Americana sound that grabs at your soul and connects you with over 150 years of human passion.
Be Steadwell is a singer songwriter from Washington DC. With roots in jazz, acapella and folk-Be composes a soulful blend of genres into what she calls queer pop.
In her live performances, she utilizes loop pedal vocal layering and beat boxing to compose her songs on stage. Be's self-produced albums feature her earnest lyricism, proud LGBTQ content, unapologetic silliness, and the art of the simple love song. besteadwell.com
Letitia VanSant is a singer-songwriter known for her distinctly intimate voice and sincere stage presence. Whether she is performing solo or backed up by a three-piece band, VanSant's sound ranges from stripped-down indie folk to gritty Americana. Her lyrics ask spiritual questions about human nature and justice.
After the creation of her debut album in 2012, she became a favorite of local Baltimore radio station 89.7 WTMD. Listeners voted her the winner of the Baltimore Band Block Party, and placed her song song "Rising Tide" among the most popular of the year. She won the gold medal for the folk/acoustic category in the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Songwriting Contest.
She is currently in the process of recording her third studio album, Gut it to the Studs.