Some musicians simply exhibit (and thereby inspire) total madness through their music, creating an unspoken dialogue in the gray area between audience and performer. For anyone who was lucky enough to see the barn-burning Bluegrass powerhouse Yonder Mountain String Band in its first 15 years, the manic-eyed mandolin maniac Jeff Austin held an obvious place as that kind of musician.
Austin began his musical career in the ’90s, dropping out of a musical theatre program at the University of Cincinnati three weeks after being at a Grateful Dead show and realizing he simply wanted to be a musician. He quickly developed a distinctly wild style of playing, jam-packed with improvisation, speed and an energy that could get even the most square person in the room locked in arms with a drunken fool for a bar-style circle dance.
Since leaving Yonder Mountain in April of last year to pursue solo work, Austin hasn’t slowed down a bit. His eponymous new ensemble, for which Austin is the primary singer and songwriter, consists of Danny Barnes on banjo and guitar, Ross Martin on guitar, Eric Thorin on acoustic bass and Cody Dickinson of the highly acclaimed North Mississippi Allstars on percussion.
It’s with this hand-picked group of musicians that Austin has written and recorded his debut solo LP, The Simple Truth, which hit stores Feb. 10, just a couple days before his tour stop in Covington.
While he still draws heavily from jam-band inspired motifs, Austin says to expect more complexity in this piece of work, which shows influences from Power Pop and Country ballads to Bluegrass and Rock.
“This is it. This is the band,” Austin says on his website. “We’re here and we’re focused.”
JEFF AUSTIN plays at Madison Theater Thursday, Jan. 12. Find tickets/more info here.