Look right to its center and that’s where you’ll find Bearfoot. The quintet, originally formed in Alaska, have become festival favorites with 4 strong releases, including their 2009 Compass Records debut, "Doors And Windows" which instantly hit the top of Billboard Magazine’s Bluegrass Album chart. Now, in the next phase of their career, this Nashville-based five-some has taken its place among the best and brightest of a new generation of musicians reshaping American roots music.
On their brand new CD "AMERICAN STORY" (released September 27 and it will be available at the Hurdy Gurdy), the band¹s sound is solidified with the addition of lead vocalist and songwriter Nora Jane Struthers and new members Todd Grebe (guitar) and PJ George (bass). Struther’s gorgeous vocals and clear eyed songwriting sensibilities give the band’s new sound a neo-traditional edge recalling artists like Gillian Welch and Tim O’Brien. Coupled with the instrumental prowess and vocal harmonies of longtime members Angela Oudean (fiddle) and Jason Norris (mandolin), the new Bearfoot is reminiscent of Nickel Creek one moment and early Dixie Chicks the next (both groups with whom they share the title of former Telluride Bluegrass Band Champions)
A mere two years after their initial meeting teaching at their namesake’s bluegrass camp for kids, Bearfoot earned one of roots music’s most prestigious awards –Telluride Bluegrass Band Champions– an honor they share with artists Dixie Chicks and Nickel Creek. Soon, they were touring extensively during summer breaks and became regular crowd favorites at prestigious festivals including Wintergrass, Grey Fox, Strawberry Festival, and seven consecutive years at RockyGrass. The original band members (Jaso Norris and Angela Oudean) had known each other and played together in various combinations in Alaska’s small but vibrant music scene and the community of musicians, fans, parents, and friends rallied around the fledgling band.
The original band name was “Bearfoot Bluegrass” but as the band evolved, they dropped “bluegrass” from the name. Bearfoot has adopted the Americana moniker to describe their music but haven’t left their bluegrass roots behind. “Even if it’s not a bluegrass song, it’s not too hard to see where it all came from,” Norris points out. “You can definitely tell that we play bluegrass by how we structure our phrasing, our instruments, and how our harmonies are set up.”
With ten years, major festivals, and four albums under their belt, Bearfoot has managed to make quite a name for themselves whilst growing and changing continuously as a band. Bearfoot has welcomed singer/songwriter Nora Jane Struthers as their newest addition. Her recent self titled solo album sparked the interest of Bearfoot members Oudean and Norris, as well as the press. Bluegrass Unlimited says, “You’ll probably hear the name Nora Jane Struthers in conjunction with bluegrass awards for top female vocalist…and she writes with a clear-eyed traditional sensibility typically seen only in writers like Gillian Welch and Tim O’Brien, her songs sound immediately like pre-modern classics.” Oudean and Norris had recently been spending a lot of time playing music with Nora Jane in Nashville, and thought it only natural to join forces with such a good friend.
Collaborative, uplifting, energetic, haunting, beautiful, inspired: all words that anyone should feel comfortable with while describing the sound of Bearfoot. Bearfoot finds themselves atop a cultural mountain where they overlook the past, present, and future of bluegrass music.
"She writes songs that sound like they can come from the Heartland, but they also really come from the heart."