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Steve Brown and the Bailers

Folkabilly is new rockabilly for Fairbank's band Bailers
FAIRBANKS -- Musical labels are always shapeshifting as styles and genres merge to forge something new. Fairbanks' Steve Brown and the Bailers are right there on the cusp of something new: Folkabilly.

The sound is just what the name suggests: A combination of the original folk-oriented three-piece acoustic band and the newer electric elements of guitar and drums. But rather than follow the driving beat of rock, the stronger songwriting elements associated with folk come into play.

"We've blended the acoustic and electric. It's now a fine blend of Fairbanks folkabilly because we are getting more into a rockabilly sound with some of our songs," Brown explained during a phone interview. He was in Girdwood where the band had a day off on the Alaska tour promoting their debut CD release, "How Things Start."

"It's the name of one of the songs, but it's also a nice way to say we're at the beginning of this thing, just getting started and feeling good about it," Brown said.

Songs from the album, which was recorded locally at 10th Planet Studios, feature Fiddlehead Red fiddler Rachel DeTemple, Alex Clarke on lap steel and electric guitar, Eric Graves on dobro and electric guitar, Danny Berberich on banjo and dobro and Slim Pickins vocalist Greta Myerchin.

Steve Brown and the Bailers formed in Fairbanks about two and half years ago when Brown and fellow acoustic guitarist and vocalist Robin Feinman started jamming together. Upright bassist Todd Denick soon joined and the trio began showcasing in coffee shops and at festivals. At many of the gigs guests would join them on stage and "after awhile people just stick," Brown said with a laugh. "And we want them to stick around, so the band has grown."

The current line-up now features, in addition to the trio, mandolin player Matt Johnson and Gangly Moose members Kliff Hopson on drums and electric guitarist Dave Parks. Brown said adding the other members changed the style of many of his songs, but since they're all original, "they can change in the flavoring depending on who's playing with us. We're really pleased to have these new people here playing with us because we have a lot to draw on."

It also opens the band up to more free-form improvisation, something a bit uncommon with folk or rockabilly, but not with the relaxed attitudes of Gangly Moose.

Brown said another surprise is a move in a bluegrass direction, compliments of Johnson. Originally, he said, his songs weren't even that folk-driven, but looked more toward the song structures of Tom Petty, Jay Farrar with Son Volt and Wilco for influence. It was having a chorus in the songs that attracted Brown, but also opened him up to any number of possibilities.

"I'd say I'm more influenced by the songwriting of someone like Tom Petty than traditional folk artists. There is such an emphasis placed on the chorus. That set the standard for what my songs were going to sound like. I've tried to get a memorable line that stands out in my arrangements," he said.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via The Associated Press
Published: June 17th, 2009 07:31 PM