Bluegrass is greener on the Ohio side

Bluegrass is greener on the Ohio side

Newfound Road brings high-energy live show to Dayton

By Gary Spencer

Josh Miller, Joe Booher, Jamey Booher and Tim Shelton of NewFound Road.

There are probably many readers and music listeners who are unaware of the ongoing (and surging) popularity of bluegrass and acoustic/roots music in the U.S.  One such band that is thriving below the radar of mainstream music is NewFound Road, a Franklin, Ohio-based group that has risen to national prominence and will be bringing their crowd-pleasing live show to a “hometown” audience in support of their newest release, Live at the Down Home, at Canal Street Tavern in Dayton on Saturday.  I had a chance to talk with NewFound Road singer and guitarist Tim Shelton to find out more about his band, performing live and their new record.
Tell me about the origins of the band.
Well, I’m one of the founders of the band, and I live in Franklin and grew up in Carlisle. NewFound Road started out as a gospel group. Eventually, for various reasons, we started playing secular music and have continued to evolve over the years. [Tim Shelton]

Are your gigs in Ohio more special than shows elsewhere?

They have become more special, in that right away, the crowd is on your side. [TS]

When and how did you get into writing and playing bluegrass?
I was a late bloomer and didn’t always appreciate bluegrass. I’ve heard it most of my life though, and over the years, have grown to love the music. [TS]
Your most recent release on Rounder Records is a live album, Live at the Down Home.  What reasons drove you to release a live recording?
We’re an acoustic band that has a fairly high-energy live show, so I really wanted to capture that. We’ve also evolved musically; playing a variety of styles, other than just traditional bluegrass music. [TS]
Do you think the audience for your type of music (bluegrass, country, folk, etc) is growing or shrinking?
I can only speak for our band, but our band is on the road about 100 days per year, playing all over the country. NewFound Road is fortunate in that we can play venues that aren’t typically traditional bluegrass venues, but our shows have seen tremendous growth. In some cases we’ve seen up to 300 percent growth in ticket sales. Alison Krauss’ most recent album made its debut at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and number one on the country chart. That tells me there’s a huge market for acoustic and roots music. [TS]
Name some of the musical influences that play into NewFound Road.
There are many influences and it’s kind of all over the map. Everyone from Alison Krauss and Union Station, Jackson Browne, Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Ralph Stanley, the Stanley Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, Larry Sparks, Blue Highway, Amos Lee, all types of blues, R&B, rock, country, especially classic country. [TS]
I find it intriguing that NewFound Road has chosen to cover some pop-rock oriented fare (versus country or bluegrass standards) by artists such as Jackson Browne and Bill Withers on your newest album. Was this a conscious decision or an experiment that worked by accident?
Anything that we record, or perform live, it’s got to be something we feel … it doesn’t matter if it’s a bluegrass standard like the Lonesome River or a Jackson Browne song. It’s been both a conscious decision and an experiment, because ultimately we made the decision to branch out musically. Fortunately for us, folks seem to like what we’re doing. It hasn’t been too tough making into our style. [TS]
What plans do you have for NewFound Road’s future?
Our plans are to keep touring, spreading the music. I’m sure we’ll continue to stretch a bit musically, while keeping a foot in bluegrass. We love all kinds of music, and I think that shows in our writing. I really want the next studio album to be an all “brand new” music release. We’ve got a DVD coming out in the fall on Rounder Records and, of course, the new album is out on April 26, so we’re working hard to promote that as well. [TS]
What can you say to the bluegrass/country music uninitiated to make them interested in seeing or hearing NewFound Road on record or live?
That’s tough … but I would probably just tell them, what I hear the most, when playing to a new audience, and that comment is, “I don’t like bluegrass, but I love your band,” so I feel like our music crosses several genres including pop, bluegrass, country and roots/folk. [TS]

NewFound Road will play at Canal Street Tavern on Saturday, May 14 at 9 p.m., doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at garyspencer@daytoncitypaper.com.

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