Live At Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2017
Roots-loving, Nashville-based, foot-stomping string quintet Forlorn Strangers is simultaneously innovative and steeped in the tradition of Americana-Folk music. Entertaining comparisons to an “Americana Fleetwood Mac”, Forlorn Strangers are comprised of five unique songwriters whose individual songwriting and performance styles complement one another to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Beyond a like-minded appreciation for roots music, family ties add to the band dynamic: Abigail and Hannah are sisters, and Hannah and Ben are married. According to band members, family is better described as the foundation for the music than an influence — and that feeling of closeness isn’t limited to those related by blood. “We are all family,” says Chris. “We have done a lot of life together, and out of that comes what makes our band more than just five people singing together.” On a practical level, the band’s deep connection also lends strength to its unforgettable five-part harmonies featuring bandmembers Abigail Dempsey (fiddle, percussion, vocals); Hannah Leigh Lusk (mandolin, percussion, upright bass, vocals); Chris Banke (guitar, mandolin, vocals); Benjamin Lusk (banjo, guitar, vocals); and Jesse Thompson (upright bass, dobro, guitar, vocals).
The musicians’ magnetism and sheer talent shine brightest when they join forces on stage. They know the potential for music to bring people together, and they mine that potential every time they take the stage in order to create that mystical and intimate relationship between audience and performer. Each member is a multi-instrumentalist and a talented songwriter in his or her own right, making for eclectic and transformative live performances. With so many musical points of view converging, electric and acoustic instruments mix, and the lines between genres are regularly crossed. Blues, bluegrass, folk, rock and pop songs are all found in the band’s repertoire, drawing inspiration from the likes of Fleetwood Mac, The Band, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Forlorn Strangers are just wrapping up a vagabond lifestyle having spent more than nineteen months on the road touring unflaggingly in support of and in advance of their 2016 self-titled debut LP. That album, Forlorn Strangers, was recorded at John Prine’s Nashville studio, The Butcher Shoppe, with producer and Grammy-winner Phil Madeira at the helm. With Madeira’s guidance, the band created a 10-track album that weaves together five different songwriters and a range of styles. The goal, says the band, was to develop each song as deeply and honestly as possible, while still creating a seamless, whole album. Madeira pushed the members to the next level, exploring unusual instrumentation and musical rabbit holes that the band may not have delved into otherwise.
The end result is a balance of dynamic hooks, driving melodies and reflective lyrics that cut right to the heart. Each song reveals a new facet of the band, with different members taking the lead on vocals throughout the album. The opening track, “Bottom of the Barrel”, features the band’s natural harmonies and multi-instrumentalist members. Contemporary and traditional sounds are mixed with timeless themes like love lost and tough times on tracks like “Sugarcane” and “O My Friends”.
The end of 2016 will find Forlorn Strangers returning to their Nashville home base where they will continue to write and record in 2017. And although the band is happy to be home for the time being as opposed to living out of a van and crashing on couches for friends and strangers, they also can’t wait to do it all over again. “If all you do is watch the news, you’d think the world is going directly to hell in a handbasket,” says Chris. “But we’ve been fed, clothed, and sheltered by more strangers over the months than you’d believe, and it’s nice to know firsthand that love is alive and well.”
The release of Forlorn Strangers and subsequent tireless touring across the country has garnered the band a dedicated following and national recognition. Recently, the band’s latest music video for the single “Leave It On The Ground” premiered on Rolling Stone Country and No Depression exclaimed “Forlorn Strangers is anything but that. This five-person team, all of them playing at least two instruments, is one of the best looking, most thoughtful, and exceptionally talented groups I’ve ever come across.” These kinds of accolades are only the beginning for a band who The Chattanooga Pulse calls “the worthy 21st century successors to the likes of Seeger, Guthrie and the Carter Family.” Be on the lookout for tour dates and new material in 2017.