Protest music is so punk rock… I mean the sentiment is… the music itself comes from many different backgrounds and strains of solidarity. Rising Appalachia is a duo of sisters, Leah and Chloe Smith, that takes that punk rockiness and funnels it through a deep, southern, Appalachian sound, and augments it with hip-hop and world music beats bringing a new sound to the protest. They have spread that sound all over the US and Europe whether it’s working with Native Americans at Standing Rock, or railing against President Trump, it all comes from a deep well of hope, and a consciousness to the message that the music spreads.
Their new record Alive is a live recording that takes many of those messages to the audience and showcases the power that traditional music coupled with modern music can have on the masses. “Cripple Creek” is one of those great examples where they start with the traditional bluegrass version, and augment it with what they call the “Sexy Cripple Creek” slowing it down and utilizing a steady hip-hop beat to drive the soul of the song. Pushing a narrative of nature and sustainable naturalization of what is around us, “Medicine” is a reggae tinged banger that dares you not to move. Songs like “Novels of Acquaintance” and “Wider Gap” showcase the duos beautiful vocal harmonies. “Closer to the Edge” has a xylophone solo which is the coolest thing heard in a long while. “Cumberland Gap” is a traditional bluegrass anthem that provides the listener a romp through those Appalachian foothills.
The album ends with the sexy, not-sexy, “Stromboli” which is an amazing song offering both a banjo, and fiddle solo, but when the sisters start singing, it becomes something else entirely.
Rising Appalachia is part of that ever-growing traditional, American roots movement, but the group offers something different in the mix is impressive. Alive showcases both the beauty, and the drive of protest in the best ways possible.