A musical act must have something special going for it before Little Rock Folk Club founder Len Holton brings it back for a second show in the same calendar year. So it is with Harpeth Rising, a three-woman, one-man group that headlined at the club in January.
“They made a very favorable impression with their first concert back in January, in which they drew a healthy audience and then proceeded to thoroughly engage with them and entertain them with both their instrumental mastery and their ability to incorporate bluegrass, Celtic and classical motifs into an apparently straight-ahead banjo-driven tune that suddenly swells into a symphonic wave that washed around the hall,” Holton says. “And they manage all this with a consummate ease that must derive from their shared classical music education and the bewilderingly wide list of independent musical events they have individually been involved in.” Named for what the band’s publicity materials describe as a “small but powerful river in Tennessee,” Harpeth Rising consists of Rebecca Reed-Lunn on banjo, Jordana Greenberg on violin, Maria Di Meglio on cello and Chris Burgess on percussion. All four share vocal duties. The four got acquainted while studying at the University of Indiana School of Music, although none of them is from the Hoosier State.
Greenberg was born in Toronto, Ontario; Burgess is from Louisville, Ky.; Di Meglio is from Brooklyn; and Reed-Lunn is from Davis, Calif. Reed-Lunn and Di Meglio now live in Nashville, Tenn., while Burgess lives in Memphis and Greenberg in Bowling Green, Ky.
All four are highly skilled on their instruments. Di Meglio has a master’s degree in cello; Burgess got his master’s degree at the Boston Conservatory; Reed-Lunn studied viola, but learned banjo by watching YouTube videos of Pete Seeger; and Greenberg began her violin studies when she was 8.
“In some ways, the viola and banjo fulfill similar roles in filling out harmony and texture,” Reed-Lunn says.
“The banjo is such a weird instrument, and the one I play is close to the claw-hammer sort. It was neat to learn that Pete Seeger is following us on Twitter, also.” The fact that Harpeth Rising is a band without a guitarist was a deliberate choice, she adds.
“It pushes us a little, not having that as a default instrument,” Reed-Lunn says.
“We did have one on our third album, but it was played by Jordana’s father, David Greenberg.” Formed in 2010, the quartet released a self-titled debut CD that year, followed by three more annual albums: Dead Man’s Hand in 2011;
The End of the World in 2012;
and Jackson Bridge in October. The name of the current album comes as a tribute to a location near where Jordana Greenberg lives in Kentucky.
“A lot of the songs got written in her basement,” Reed-Lunn says.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Little Rock Folk Club, Thomson Hall, Unitarian Universalist Church, 1818 Reservoir Road, Little Rock Admission: $15; $12 for students with IDs; free for accompanied children 12 and under (501) 663-0634 littlerockfolkclub.org
Weekend, Pages 35 on 12/05/2013
Print Headline: It’s a Harpeth Rising encore