Andru Bemis is a traditionalist with a fresh approach and a modern troubadour with deep respect for the roots of his craft. He is a gifted vocalist and instrumentalist. His music speaks to our present condition in language of a gentler past.
This CD is a magic mixture of traditional songs that sound brand new and songs written by Andru that are timeless. "Just Like Huck Finn" is destined to become a musical classic just as its forebear has become a literary classic. His treatment of "500 Miles" shows respect and humor at the same time -- not an easy thing to bring off.
Since early 2002, Andru Bemis has wandered the ends, edges and in-betweens of North America- by thumb, train, bus and motorbike- playing his original songs of love, loss and longing for anyone who will listen. He's traveled more than 100,000 miles- banjo, guitar and occasional fiddle or banjo-ukulele in tow- promoting his first two albums, "Plays Past His Bedtime" and "Singer." In 2005, Bemis collected his favorite tunes learned from these wanderings and put them to tape for the Massachusetts traditional music label, Wepecket Island Records. Now, with a new album of mostly old songs, aptly entitled "Rail to Reel," Andru Bemis is back on track for his most extensive tour yet.
While Andru's travels and lifestyle earn him frequent comparisons to Carl Sandburg, John Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie, it's his unmistakeable voice, inventive self-taught banjo and guitar styles and exquisitely crafted tunes of travel, love and longing which have brought him rapid success and respect throughout the US and Canada. Upon hearing a 2002 performance in Door County, Wisconsin, noted humorist, author and radio host Garrison Keillor commented, "the ability to play such a beautiful song is a rare gift, and a power of which I can only dream." The Birmingham (AL) Weekly calls him a "modern-folk, Midwestern miracle of music ... (with a voice that) is pretty and ravaged, sounding as though 50 Appalachian winters have run him ragged." Critics and audiences alike comment on Bemis' remarkable ability to craft timeless-sounding lyrics and tunes and to perform the songs of others- including Don Gibson, Tom Paxton, Greg Brown and Stephen Foster- as if he'd written them himself.
The songs of Andru Bemis are simple and expressive- spiritually descended from an era when music was made and played to express one's deepest emotions while entertaining the neighbors. His are songs of faith, spirit, patience, and hope in the midst of an uncertain, troubled world. Andru's dynamic voice shifts effortlessly between Erik Darling's plaintive bellow and the spine-chilling intimacy of Iris DeMent. His delicate guitar work and lightning-fast banjo style tie seamlessly with his lyrics and phrasing to make each performance and album unforgettable. His self-produced recordings are played on radio stations throughout the US, Canada, Europe and Australia.
When he's not riding the rails, Bemis lives alone in a one-room shotgun shack in his hometown of South Haven, Michigan. His greatest joys are watching fruit trees bloom, practicing ragtime fiddle tunes, paddling around in little boats and recording himself and others on his old multitrack reel-to-reel.