The Barefoot Movement: Oldies and Originals, All Foot-Stomping Good
It would be too easy to say that The Barefoot Movement is a shoe-in for the most intriguing new Bluegrass band of recent years. So, we'll just give that idea the boot.
Seriously, although the young group often poses barefoot for album covers--and sometimes performs shoeless--they're grounded in a combination of old-time string band musicianship and fresh approaches to material both old and new.
(The Barefoot Movement is on the lineup for the 20th annual Beartrap Summer Festival, August 2 and 3.)
A sample of their eclectic side: one of their most popular concert numbers is a song by the California neo-psychedelic group Blind Melon, whose song "No Rain" became a staple of the nascent MTV channel in the early 1990s.
"When I was four years old, my mom bought Blind Melon's record with 'No Rain' on it," says vocalist and fiddler Noah Wall, "and when I started playing music of my own I knew that song would just really fit well with what we did."
"All I can say is / my life is pretty plain," the song begins, "I like watching the puddles gather rain..."
"The crowds love it," says mandolinist Tommy Norris. "People know the words. Everyone's singing along, dancing. We just all have loads of fun."
By contrast, much of the band's original material is about the serious subject of love and its many tribulations. Such as the plaintive "Second Time Around," which begins: "The sun disappears / On the edge of the horizon / I watch as it fades from view / It took me a while / To figure out what I wanted / But this time I know it's you..."
One critic describes their musical influences as "a mix of Bluegrass, folk, acoustic rock, and Americana." Their debut album, "Footwork," for instance, contains the song "Tobacco Road" (not to be confused with the 1960s hit by The Nashville Teens) with the lines "Broken down, rusty plow / Driving by, I wonder how / It came to be so / Barren fields, wasted land / Soil turned to sand / Where's all that used to grow?"
But the melancholy is interspersed with lively instrumentals such as "Sheepherder," which has recently gotten wide exposure on Country Music Television's "Edge" series.
"The instrumentals are sort of a breather inside of our shows," says upright bass player Hasee Ciaccio. "I think they give fans a time to ease off of whatever heavy thing we just sung about."
Currently, the Movement is not letting any grass grow under its...feet. They're touring to promote their just-released album "Figures of the Year," with concert dates ranging from Bethesda, Maryland, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina--with stopovers in British Columbia to open for The Milk Carton Kids, and a July 4 show in Burkina Faso, Africa, where they were presented with an American flag that had flown over the local U.S. embassy.
In the meantime, rave reviews from critics continue to roll in. Music critic Art Menius has declared them to be “among the very best of the emerging bands of the early 21st century.”
And a local reviewer of their Myrtle Beach appearance wrote, "I wish that I could channel Ed Sullivan’s enthusiasm (and television coverage) when he introduced The Beatles, because Barefoot Movement, featuring hometown talent Hasee Ciaccio, is to Americana what the 'Fab Four' was/is to rock and roll."