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Rising Appalachia buck the mainsteam, and that's fine with them

Brighton Music Hall, Boston, November 24, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Rising Appalachia would not be accused of being in the musical mainstream. Not too many bands who combine folk and Appalachian sounds with new world music could possibly be.

And that suits the sister-led duo of Chloe Smith and Leah Song just fine. In fact, at one point, Chloe made it clear she did not embrace radio play as a sign of success and almost seemed to relish in the lack thereof. But Rising Appalachia must be doing something right because they sold out the club with an overwhelming female audience.

No surprise, but this not a group that is easy to categorize musically. They were born in Atlanta and experienced lots of different sounds there and later spent time in New Orleans, absorbing the jazz sounds found there. All of that comes through live as well.

But Rising Appalachia also benefitted from Burkina Faso native Arouna Diarra, who showed his skills on n'goni with help from djembe player Biko Casini to anchor the African sounds incorporated into Rising Appalachia.

But the sisters would often bring it back to the folk and Appalachian with sweet harmonies often part of the mix throughout the 90-minute show. As to emphasize those sounds, Smith and Song came back for a gospel song to close out the night.

No need to worry about the mainstream for Rising Appalachia. They may be doing music their way, and this evening showed that they have made the right call.

Be Steadwell was a most engaging, funny and charismatic opening act. The D.C.-based performer used loops to create a backing sound before getting into the heart of the songs.

Her easy-going persona worked to her benefit with a political song, "Gay Sex," which takes dead aim at homophobes in a humorous way. The songs tended to be on the novelty side, but she had a way with words and the crowd, drawing a big hand at the end.