Black Hills duo Jami Lynn & Dylan James met on the street in the summer of 2012. Their fortuitous meeting not only revealed their shared love of folk, bluegrass, and jazz, but marked the beginning of an ambitious duo project harnessing Jami’s powerful vocals and Dylan’s first rate flat-picking skills. After a few weeks of working up material, their hearts were set on a full length album featuring songs written by each. Lynn’s vocal prowess, delicate finger picking, and West Virginia style claw-hammer banjo blend seamlessly with James’s ringing tenor, driving guitar, and old-time fiddling. Their diverse instrumentation as well as their unique arrangements of traditional American folk songs and jazz numbers sets them on the edge of each genre. Both are native South Dakotans and are currently based out of Rapid City, SD.
In a few short years, folk, jazz, and blues songstress Jami Lynn has made her mark on the Midwest. Hailing from the Great Plains of eastern South Dakota, the singer/songwriter began performing folk and bluegrass music at the age of thirteen. It took little coaxing from her grandfather to make the transition from the audience to the stage, where old-time country, polka, and regional folk music reigned supreme. At the age of sixteen, Jami began accompanying herself on guitar and writing her own music. After high school, Jami Lynn attended the University of South Dakota majoring in Vocal Performance. It was during these years that she met up with members of Sioux Falls folk-rock band Snakebeard Jackson, and recorded her first album, Dreamer, as Jami Lynn & The Aquila Band.
Shortly after releasing and touring behind her first album, Jami Lynn spent a semester at Tennessee State University in Nashville to study Commercial Music and immerse herself in the music scene. While the experience honed her performance and songwriting skills, it also heightened Jami’s awareness of her deep connection to the landscape and culture of the Upper Midwest. Upon returning to finish college in South Dakota, Jami Lynn resumed performing with the Aquila Band and began work on her senior thesis, “Early American Folk Music of the Upper Midwest.” What began as a typical “slap-it-together-and-call-it –good” thesis turned into an intensive year of research resulting in academic presentations in museums, libraries, and historical societies, and most importantly, the recording of Sodbusters, her second full length album.
Inspired by stories of her ancestors trek from the East coast to the Dakota Territory, the title track of Sodbusters offers the perspective of Jami Lynn’s great-great grandmother, Lydia Huff. In addition to six original songs, the album features five folk songs from the South Dakota area. A lumbering ballad from the forests of Minnesota, a Norwegian lullaby, an Irish folk tune, and a cowboy ballad from the open range compliment her own artfully crafted folk songs. Sodbusters not only received substantial attention from South Dakota Public Radio programs On Record, Dakota Midday, and Dakota Digest, but also caught the attention of international critics in France and the Netherlands.
While studying classical voice and researching folk music at the University of South Dakota, Jami Lynn also found time to fall in love with jazz. While the gypsy jazz of Django Reinhart first tugged the young artist in that direction, the voices of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone taught Jami her favorite standards. She occasionally fronts the Sioux Falls based Dakota Jazz Collective and the jazz/funk quintet Polyphase, and performs solo jazz arrangements.
Following the release of Sodbusters in 2011, Jami Lynn brought her folk, jazz, and blues to audiences throughout the Pacific Northwest and Midwest United States. In 2012, she joined forces with Black Hills flat-picker, Dylan James, and the two began recording their first album together. Lynn also brings folk music to elementary students through the South Dakota State Arts Council’s Artists in the Schools program and Touring Artists program. Jami is currently based out of Rapid City, SD.
Self-taught flat picker and singer/songwriter Dylan James grew up in a small mining town in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota. Though his mother was a classically trained piano virtuoso, Dylan didn’t take music seriously until his late teens, when he discovered the picking and singing of Doc Watson and fell in love. After a brief time of playing with the bluegrass band, Six Mile Road, he started his own bluegrass band, The Fancy Creek Jumpers. The hard driving three-piece drew on the music of Django Reinhart and eastern European jazz, drawing rave reviews from music lovers across the Black Hills. These days, Dylan makes up one half of a folk and jazz duo with Rapid City singer/songwriter Jami Lynn. The two have a new album in the works, and anticipate releasing and touring behind it in early 2013.