HARPETH RISING’S music is the convergence of a classical education and a passion for folk, Americana, blues, bluegrass and all things acoustic. Named for the small but powerful river in Tennessee, they create original songs that layer rich instrumental arrangements with four part harmonies and lyrics that depict wanderlust, eternal curiosity, class struggle and extraordinary love. The result is a sound that defies category. The four members met while earning performance degrees at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and despite their diverse beginnings (hailing from vastly different cultures and geographic areas,) found in each other a unified musical idea – and a brand new one at that.
Beginning in the mind of Canadian-born Kentuckiana-transplant Jordana Greenberg (violin), Harpeth Rising crawled out of the river when California-native Rebecca Reed-Lunn (banjo), joined Greenberg in a youthful cross-country spiritual quest. Their adventures through the desert and on to Hawaii via the Telluride Bluegrass Festival convinced them that folk music was their path, and Harpeth Rising was truly born when Chris Burgess (percussion), and Maria Di Meglio (cello), came aboard. Burgess’s Kentucky roots and Di Meglio’s ethnic Brooklyn background added new dimensions to their sound, allowing them to both honor and expand musical traditions. Despite the presence of only four instruments on stage, Harpeth Rising produces a profusion of sound generally created by a much larger ensemble. Di Meglio transitions fluidly between providing the bass line and taking the melodic lead, while Burgess constructs a matrix of percussive elements that blend seamlessly into the musical texture. Reed-Lunn’s highly original style of claw hammer banjo–learned mainly by watching YouTube–is both surprisingly lyrical and intensely driving. Greenberg takes on the role of concert violinist and accompanist with equal facility, and ensures that a lead guitar is never missed. Their harmonies, two, three and four-part, run the gamut from traditional Bluegrass to full on Gregorian organum.
Their live performances are high-energy, kinetic events in which both their ability and their love of music are obvious. Harpeth Rising can create a listening room from a rowdy bar crowd, and inspire rowdiness in even the weariest of audiences. After only a few months as a band, they embarked on a self-booked tour of England, which included a performance with The Bath Philharmonia. They were invited to perform at The Cambridge Folk Festival the following summer, and have since played folk festivals across England and the United States. Building their fan base in the tradition of all wandering minstrels, passionately and by word-of-mouth, they now perform to sold-out audiences internationally. They have released three albums in as many years – Harpeth Rising (2010), Dead Man’s Hand (2011) and The End of the World (2012), a collaboration with master wordsmith David Greenberg, father of Jordana Greenberg. They are currently working on their fourth album, which will be released later in 2013.