The AM String band is an unconventional old time string trio featuring tight vocal harmonies, clever lyrics and a diverse, revolving instrumentation including fiddles, viola, banjo, guitar, bass, kazoos, and foot percussion. The group plays original songs along side Appalachian fiddle tunes and ballads, interwoven with elements of New England and French Canadian styles, classical bowing, and strong rhythmic accompaniment.
Violist Michael Willing and guitarist Adam Nordell set their minds to playing old time fiddle music while sorting through the debris of their previous band for something sturdy, old and roadworthy. The two applied for and received a residency at the Montana Artist Refuge and were awarded a grant from the Montana Arts Council to study the genre. They invited far-scattered friends to join them for a month of music and revelry in the one-time silver mining town of Basin, Montana, January '08. Fiddler/banjoist Johanna Davis was among the three who decided the residency was worth a cross-country trip in the dead of winter. After a month of playing together eight hours a day and performing extensively, she decided to stay in Montana and help form a band. Davis' clear voice and sultry fiddle playing proved a rich addition to Nordell's songwriting and guitar work and Willing's strong fiddle and viola style.
While Davis grew up playing her fiddle in the raucous Maine contradance scene, Nordell and Willing followed circuitous paths to wind up whooping and stomping late into the night in the old Basin Masonic Hall turned artist refuge. Both are from Helena, MT, and picked up their first instruments in public school orchestra programs. Nordell quickly drug his stand-up bass across the school to play with the jazz-band, later graduating on to ska and jam bands and always penning some lyrics on the side. Willing stayed on the classical track, and outside of The AM String Band he is in demand as a classical violist, and plays for symphonies and small ensembles around the state. Nordell and Willing first played together as back-up musicians for an exiled Tibetan Buddhist nun, then moving on to collaborate in the folk-rock group The Third Wheels. Still later, a month's full-time focus on old time music allowed Nordell, Willing and Davis to leverage their divergent musical histories into a solid, high energy string band, drawing large crowds to concerts, contradances, and bar gigs alike.