"Press On," a collection of songs traditional and original, is the first solo recording by Will Branch. The album draws on the vibrant tradition of American old-time music, along with Branch's ability as an experienced songwriter. The material is the result of mixing with other local old-time musicians, who were the source of many of the songs. The end result is a powerful album that rewards repeated listening.
Branch is joined on "Press On" by a cast of some of the best Milwaukee acoustic musicians. Dave Fox contributes old-time fiddle and his unmatched washboard skills to several tracks, including "Baltimore Fire" and "Empty Hands." Local legend Ken Haferman makes a rare studio appearance - his banjo leads off the track "Baltimore Fire." Susan Jeske-Dermody and John Nicholson, better known as the acoustic duo Frogwater, are featured on fiddle and guitar, respectively. Nicholson also plays banjo on the title track. Lil' Rev, a successful and popular regional folk musician as well as an award-winning harmonica player, plays harmonica and mandolin on the recording, along with contributing some background vocals on the Henry Thomas song, "Don't Leave Me Here."
The title song, "Press On," is a classic song from the folk revival of the late '50's and early to mid-'60's. Branch learned the song from Ken Haferman, who in turn learned it from its author, musician Luke Faust. "When I first heard it, I thought it was an old Civil War tune," Branch says. The complex lineage of this single song is shared by the album's other traditional tracks. all of which have distinguished pedigrees.
As a professional musician, Will Branch has played about 2,000 shows in the past ten years. He believes in his role as a "street-level" musician, someone who is a part of a community and is able to perform for different audiences in different situations. With his musical partner Dave Fox he has appeared, as Fox and Branch, before folk audiences all over the midwest and on the east coast. Sing Out! magazine claims, "Dave Fox and Will Branch are the best kind of musicians, making everything they play their own while acknowledging the tradition from which the music comes."
The original songs on "Press On" owe a large debt to Utah Phillips, master songwriter and raconteur. Along with his midwestern compatriot, Larry Penn, Phillips was an inspiration to pursue simplicity in songwriting. A visit to Utah's home in Nevada City, California in late 2001 - two weeks after the terrorist attacks on the United States - made a lasting impression on Branch.