Hometown: Atlanta, Ga./Asheville, N.C.
Fun Fact: The group lives on the road in a biodiesel-fueled bus.
Why It's Worth Watching: The harmonious singing and instrumentation between sisters Leah and Chloe Smith paired with old-time lyrics feel like a step back, then forward.
For Fans Of: Gillian Welch, Ani Difranco, The Be Good Tanyas
Rising Appalachia stands for everything that tends to get swallowed up in a slick and shiny society. It’s the rise of a past lifestyle that is still rooted to the land. Drive up to one of the group's shows in a fancy car, and you’ll want to leave on foot. And that’s the goal. By resurrecting and reinventing their parents’ nostalgic old folk and mountain music, sisters Leah and Chloe Smith pave the way back to lost simplicities and social responsibility.
“We eventually want to have a whole section [of the music] dedicated to
alternative fuels and political activism and human rights,” Leah says.
But as focused as the young women have become, they’d never planned
to be an official group. They didn’t even have a name when they
recorded their first album a little more than a year ago, which was
done as a Christmas present for friends.
“The reception to [the first] album was really strong," Leah
recalls. "People wanted us to perform all the time. It just kind of
took over. It’s been a blessing because we were all very scattered and
it’s like we’ve been guided.”
As activists stumbling onto such a captivated audience, the only
choice was to keep going and use the music as both a channel and a
platform. “This is such a huge tool," Leah says. "If we go ahead and
work hard on our music, then our politics come back and we fill them
Rising Appalachia just wrapped up a second album, Scale Down,
which will be out on March 18. It builds on the first, but this time
only half the songs are traditional covers. The six original tracks,
while remaining steeped in the sounds of banjo, fiddle, jaw harp,
washboard, empty bottles, spoons and myriad other folk instruments, are
also heavily influenced by political hip-hop, spoken word, vintage jazz
and roots music. Percussionist Forrest Kelly brings additional
influences into the fold, such as fire spinning, beatbox and junk
percussion from the thriving indie-folk scene of his hometown,
Asheville, N.C. Storytelling is also becoming a bigger part of the
band's live performances.
While the group wants to remain open to evolution and new
influences, Chloe says that its very important to her and her sister to
remain rooted with an underground aesthetic. Currently, the trio lives
on the road in a biodiesel-fueled bus, which Leah feels is important to
staying in touch with the objective. “We’re essentially using the road
to figure out where we’re going," she says. "It’s a little intense
right now, but I have to believe we can reach some people.”
[After March 18, you can purchase Scale Down at Rising Appalachia's official website.]