Decemberists Members Form Electric Bluegrass Outfit – Black Prairie

December 21th – Sugar Hill Records announces the signing of the Portland, OR based group Black Prairie.  The band is comprised of three moonlighting members of The Decemberists – Chris Funk (Dobro, Weissenborn, bazouki, vocals), Jenny Conlee (accordion/vocals) and Nate Query (bass/cello), plus Portland acoustic music mavens Analisa Tornfelt on fiddle/vocals and John Neufeld on guitar/vocals. The band’s debut album Feast of the Hunters’ Moon will be released in early 2010 and features eclectic bluegrass-but-not-really takes on eleven original compositions and two traditional tunes. Think Clarence White and Ennio Morricone get together to cover some Strength in Numbers and squint and tilt your head to the right.
Black Prairie began in early 2007 as an experimental opportunity for the members – Portland denizens who know what bluegrass music is, but make music in whatever genre they care to – play some acoustic instrumental music together. Chris Funk explains that “the first gatherings were a little daunting as we were all used to the traditional vocal song form.  It’s been totally open ended from day one, which at times is a little terrifying.”  Though the band started off playing mostly instrumentals, they do include four vocal numbers on the upcoming release. Black Prairie lists their influences including the aforementioned White and Morricone alongside Brian Eno, Astor Piazzolla, and moments of career panic. Sugar Hill thinks moments of career panic are where the rubber meets the road.

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