In its bio, on-the-rise Americana quartet Driftwood is described as “a band with a Rock & Roll soul and a Folk art mind.” The group utilizes instruments traditionally associated with Roots music — banjo, fiddle, upright bass and acoustic guitar — but the members strive to write songs that transcend any one specific genre. With 2011’s sophomore album, A Rock & Roll Heart, and the remarkable, just-released self-titled follow-up, the band’s efforts are proving successful. Driftwood often sounds like a Modern Rock band whose instruments and luggage accidentally got switched at the airport with a Bluegrass band’s gear.
Driftwood got its start in the Southwest New York town of Binghamton, near the border of Pennsylvania and part of a region that also produced like-minded acts such as The Horse Flies and Old Crow Medicine Show. Originally an acoustic side-project of the members’ Rock band (inspired by Bob Dylan’s famous “Bootleg Series” and a trip to Colorado’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival), the group was christened “Driftwood” in 2005. In 2008, guitarist Dan Forsyth and banjoist Joe Kollar went on tour as a duo and made the acquaintance of violinist Claire Byrne, who had joined the tour’s headliners for the jaunt at the last minute.
The three clicked, and the following year Driftwood — with Byrne on fiddle — issued its debut album, Rally Day. The band then hit the road hard, doing club and festival dates across the country with the likes of Bela Fleck, Del McCoury and Donna the Buffalo and earning a reputation as a great live act. The band’s longtime friend and original bassist left the group just after the release of A Rock & Roll Heart in 2011 (to take a job in Cincinnati, of all places); Joey Arcuri took over bass duties and has been Driftwood’s anchor ever since.
In early December, Driftwood released its self-titled third album, which was recorded in a church in Ithaca, N.Y., meaning the band should feel right at home when it pulls into former church/current concert venue Southgate House Revival in Newport, Ky. this week.
DRIFTWOOD plays Southgate House Revival on Thursday, Jan. 9. Click here for details .