Works Progress Administration with Caravan of Thieves

Dec. 9 • Southgate House

The story behind Works Progress Administration, the all-star contemporary Folk/ Bluegrass/ AltCountry-tinged band currently on tour, is an unusual one. Although the group playing the Southgate House is a five-piece — based around three singers/frontmen in guitarists Sean Watkins and Glen Phillips and fiddler/guitarist Luke Bulla, plus bassist Sebastian Steinberg and drummer Jerry Roe — its roots are in something very different.

It started in a relatively small Los Angeles club called Largo, a favorite place for the city’s many seasoned professional musicians — especially singer/songwriters and acoustic/tastefully electric-based players — to experiment in a relaxed, supportive setting. One of Largo’s more popular acts is Watkins Family Hour, consisting of Watkins and his sister Sara, both of modern Folk/Bluegrass act Nickel Creek. At the club they play with a revolving cast of friends, including Heartbreaker pianist Benmont Tench and former Toad the Wet Sprocket vocalist Phillips.

At a certain point, members of this informal musical collective decided to make an album, drawing mostly on new songs written by Watkins, Phillips and Bulla, who is in Lyle Lovett’s band and actually lives in Nashville but visits L.A. frequently. All told, eight musicians contributed to the project, including Sara Watkins and Tench.

They needed a name and decided on Works Progress Administration, partly because Phillips is a fan of the artwork made by those in the New Deal-era jobs program of the same name.

“It was about people coming together and working together and having a sense of community,” Bulla says. “That’s also the spirit of our record. It was more about the music and how it came together than a political statement about the economy and what’s going on right now, but it actually works that way as well. It turns out to be timely.”

(Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.)

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