Well, it’s the 21st century. It has been for some time now. And like many people, I spend more than a few hours each week surfing the ‘net, looking for great but often obscure performances from classic rock acts or mostly unknown artists. Often, it’s a time waster, but occasionally, persistence can be very rewarding.
Recently, I stumbled across a group called Paige Anderson and the Fearless Kin, who’ve released a six song EP called Wild Rabbit. Paige, her sister Aimee and brother Ethan all play for the Anderson Family Band as well, along with their mother and father and another much younger sister. Though there are lots of audio and video clips of the Family Band, the clips featuring the three Fearless Kin are the ones that fascinate.
Through the use of traditional acoustic instruments (Paige on guitar and lead vocal, Aimee on fiddle and vocal, and Mark on mandolin and vocal) the trio showcases the songwriting, singing, and flat-top guitar picking talents of oldest sibling Paige. The three of them play well and sing well — requisite in this genre — but what differentiates the Kin from most other talented bluegrass players are two things: Paige’s songwriting skills, and the band’s presentation and delivery of her original compositions.
Here’s the mystery: How do people so young end up writing and performing music that sounds so old? On Wild Rabbit, the Fearless Kin connect with the solemnity of Ralph and Carter Stanley; the high, lonesome sound of Bill Monroe; and the knowledge of the inevitability of all there is wiped away by the finality of death as can only be found in the 1930s recordings of Dock Boggs. Sure, that’s a pretty big list of accomplishments by some pretty big names to which one’s talent might be compared, but if this six-song EP is any indication, Paige Anderson seems to have tapped into the same source that inspired the original masters of the genre.
Take, for instance, one of her songs titled “Hollow Bones of White Swans”: Just the title sounds as old and dark as the deep woods of the Appalachian Mountains. Then listen to the song — the striking imagery of the lyrics and the high, lonesome minor key delivery transcends time and distance, sounding both modern and ancient simultaneously.
As well, the on stage delivery of the group is like none seen since perhaps the heyday of the Stanley Brothers singing “Rank Stranger” more than 50 years ago. The Stanleys’ vocal delivery and emotional tone is so detached from the performance and so tied to the story within the lyric that it’s easy to believe they were singing the saddest song ever written. The Fearless Kin deliver all of their songs in much the same fashion: This music means serious business. No smiles. No explanations. No playing up to the expectations of the audience. No attempt to compete with the current crop of vocal divas in the pop world.
It’s just a storyteller telling you a story; just a band delivering a performance without having to overstate their abilities; and just about the cleanest breath of fresh air that’s blown down from the perfect, mythical mountains from which all bluegrass springs.
Wild Rabbit is a promising start for Paige Anderson and the Fearless Kin – hopefully, they will be able to continue developing their skills (Paige is considered to be a more than able flat-top guitarist, Aimee is a good lead singer in her own right, and Ethan has been doubling on bass), and hopefully, they will continue to build an audience based on their compelling approach to a true American art form.