Sound Advice: Judah & the Lion with The Saint Johns

Wednesday • 20th Century Theater

click to enlarge Judah & the Lion
Judah & the Lion

Five years ago, four musicians from far-flung American locales found themselves attending college together in Tennessee and comparing notes on the kinds of music they each loved. And while the artists’ sonic interests were fairly disparate — Folk, Rock, Pop, Hip Hop — they concluded that the best course of action for the fledgling band they were creating wouldn’t be to pursue one style of music, but instead to invent a style out of the raw elements of their checkered listening history.

Against all logical odds, guitarist/vocalist Judah Akers, mandolinist Brian Macdonald, banjo master Nate Zuercher and drummer Spencer Cross found the common philosophical ground where their varied interests could not only coexist but also thrive and evolve, resulting in the eclectic and much beloved Judah & the Lion.

Since its 2011 formation, Judah & the Lion has built a fervent fan base with a fairly regular release schedule and a passionate devotion to roadwork. The band’s debut EP, First Fruits, was a great introduction to its singular presentation, but the group’s follow-up, Sweet Tennessee, was an unexpected sensation, reaching high positions on Billboard’s and iTune’s charts. Judah & the Lion’s full-length debut, 2014’s Kids These Days, found the foursome expanding its sound with the inclusion of bass and keyboards, as well as new applications of its old instrumentation.

The band’s just-released and aptly titled Folk Hop N’ Roll, which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, solidifies and ramps up everything Judah & the Lion has been working toward from the beginning; from the Mike Doughty-meets-Beck swirl of “Graffiti Dreams” and the Twenty One Pilots-y Rock Hop of “Forever Always” to the Eminem-smoking-Bluegrass epiphany of “Take It All Back,” the Avett Brothers/Béla Fleck-like power balladry of “Better Man” and the Everclear-goes-Nashville rave-up of “Uh-Huh, Yeah!” Judah & the Lion can’t help but attract a wide cross-section of fans — the band has created its crazy quilt sound out of the best stylistic pieces of almost everyone’s music collection.

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