Although local band Frontier Folk Nebraska claims their name wasn't originally meant as a reference to Springsteen, they embrace the correlation. There's definitely an "old Boss" feel to their work. These songs hold the same droning, long-road sound and the beauty present in slight sorrow.
Their edge comes from back-porch, laid-back Folk roots and soul-driven lyrics. Words are story-oriented and rich, backed by a bleeding violin. There's dancing, guns, blood, the broken-down man's hope, willow trees, wind and whiskey. Jesus makes a guest appearance. A never-ending, cross-country car ride. Lucid pictures. A double-yellow dream.
For a while now, Americana/Folk bands have been leaping out of this town, a trend led by such bands as The Thirteens, Jake Speed, Len's Lounge and The Hiders (to name but a few), paying homage to songwriter greats such as Hank Williams, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Robert Johnson and beyond.
Vocalist/guitarist Michael Hensley says, "I guess everybody's ready for a change."
Hensley, 22, attends Northern Kentucky University full time. Wearing cowboy boots and jeans, Hensley has thick, untrimmed sideburns. He's straightforward and genuine. In 2000, Hensley began with guitar and a love for Grunge. Later drawn to The Beatles, he then moved into AltCountry and Folk. Mentioning Ryan Adams, Hensley says he enjoys "the stories in music," looking to the art museum and past history for lyrical inspiration.
Steven Oder (drums, bass, slide), 23, shrugs. He says he quit college. Longhaired with soft brown eyes, Oder wears an iron-on pelican shirt. Playing drums as a kid, he learned guitar and bass in junior high, later returning to drums. Thrilled with this project, Oder recently taught himself to record.
Oder usually hides under a cowboy hat: "I'm the shyest, and people always approach me for some reason," he says. "Whenever I get interested in something, I have to do it. It keeps building on itself until it's a monster no one recognizes. I'll probably end up playing more instruments by the end of this year."
Andrea Lee (violin, drums, bass, accordion, backup vocals), 19, goes to the University of Cincinnati full time. Clearly intelligent beyond her years, her vocabulary is vast and vivid. Lee has long, straight black hair, shag bangs and sports a Jefferson Airplane T-shirt. She began, at 3, on piano and violin. At 15, Lee wrote guitar songs and "vented emotion."
"I used to hate playing. It was forced," she says. "I've developed a lot with this band. It's been dramatic how my feelings with my violin music have changed."
Two years ago, Hensley and Oder met online, playing together in bands that sounded "Soundgardenish," Hensley says.
Oder and Lee met online as well. Oder laughs, saying, "We wound up going out together instead of playing music ... until now." The two have been a couple for a few years.
The Devil's Tree, an eight-song CD, was finished in January, recorded at Lee and Oder's home studio. Oder says, "It's romantic, but there's heartbreak as well. I personally get a sense of something spiritual."
Lee adds, "They're stripped down, simple songs. Our music has a sense of nostalgic timelessness ... transcendental, escapist, being tied in with the nature and spirituality in all things."
Hensley: "If the music's good, that's the main point. If someone likes it, they're going to listen to it."
Lee: "Recently we've had a sudden wave of interest, and it has snowballed."
Oder: "I'd like to thank everyone who's taken a chance on us."
FRONTIER FOLK NEBRASKA (myspace.com/frontierfolknebraska) plays McMicken Square at UC this Thursday at noon. On May 19, they perform at The Blue Note.