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The Lowdown:

Harpeth Rising

Chris Burgess (percussion/vocals), Maria Di Meglio (cello/vocals), Jordana Greenberg (vocals/violin), and Rebecca Reed-Lunn (banjo/vocals)

Based In:
Nashville, Tennessee


Americana, folk, bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass


The Beachland Tavern

Concert Date:
February 25, 2013


Related Articles:

Harpeth Rising performs at the Beachland Tavern



March 7, 2013


Harpeth Rising: Beachland Tavern, 2/25/13

by Jason D. 'Diesel' Hamad


Harpeth Rising perfroms at the Beachland Tavern, February 25, 2013 (l-r) Chris Burgess, Rebecca Reed-Lunn, Jordana Greenberg, and Maria Di Meglio.


Jordana Greenberg, who provides lead vocals as well as some virtuoso violin performances for Harpeth Rising. Photo by Jason D. 'Diesel' Hamad / No Surf Music.

By the time Harpeth Rising took the stage at the Beachland Tavern for their first Cleveland show, the bar had probably sold more glasses of wine than it had in the previous thirteen years. This was not exactly the typical Beachland crowd, but then again this is not exactly your typical Beachland band. Actually, they’re a band that’s pretty atypical in a lot of respects.

The group’s songs are folk at their bass, but their sound is so unique it’s hard to find a comparison. There’s some bluegrass in there, but there’s no bluegrass band with a cello and percussion. There’s a bit of classical music in the arrangements, but there’s no classical quartet in the world that features a banjo. Every once in a while the percussion may sound like something laid down at the peak of the Muscle Shoals sound or filtered through the smoky air of a jazz club, but name me a rock band with no guitars or a jazz group with no bass. And while there are moments when the fiddle parts seem to sound like they came straight out of an Appalachian holler, there are others where the flowing violin liens could have been copped from a long-forgotten symphony. All of this makes them hard to classify, it’s true, but it also makes them all the more entertaining. Harpeth Rising is forging its own genre with every song they write and every show they play.

With no opener, the band had to hold down the evening on their own, which is the way they like it. “If we’re going to play we want to play everything,” violinist and lead vocalist Jordana Greenberg told me before the show. “Especially if we’re in a new town, like tonight. It gives us a better chance to introduce ourselves.”

By way of introduction, the band couldn’t have picked a much better tune to lead off their set than “Goin’ My Way,” a cut from their latest album The End of the World, a collection penned in its entirety by Jordana’s father, the obscure but masterful wordsmith David Greenberg. The studio version also had David singing the lead, but since he doesn’t tour with the band, Jordana took over the frenetic, foot-stomping live version that certainly woke up the crowd. The next selection, “Outlaw,” brought things back to equilibrium with its cello-dominated sound and slower pace. Both these songs bear the mark of the elder Greenberg’s stint as a teamster, an inspirational meme that runs through the entirety of his collaboration with the quartet.

The mellow waltz “Coyote” led into “Tough as Nails,” parenthetically noted to be a “Love Song for a Toyota Corolla,” which Jordana delivered without ever letting the smile drop from her lips. It’s almost certainly the most heartfelt tribute to an automobile since Tom Waits penned “Ol’ 55.” This was followed by a twist, Jordana’s go-to college karaoke selection, a spritely cover of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” filled to the donkey ears with strutting attitude.

The rest of the set continued the ebb and flow from gentle to fiery, with songs such as “Crash Test Dummy Blues,” and its sultry, winking vocals from Jordana that let the audience know she was in on the joke, followed by a cover of the Beatles’ “Norweigen Wood” that opened with a gentle banjo picked by Rebecca and built gradually into something John Lennon never would have imagined—more a mood than a song—before exploding into an insane flurry of flying hands and bows. “Abraham,” came next, with its sweet, slow and dark cello forming the bass beneath an unbelievably clear violin. The band then rounded out the set with the foot stompin’ jam “Next Year’s Rain.”

The a capella opening of “Time” started of the second set, giving way to the lyrical complexity, slow-step beat and eerie, paranoiac feel of “Evil Eye,” one of The End of the World’s strongest tracks. Along with other originals, two covers were featured in the second set. The first was the traditional “House of the Rising Sun,” performed as an instrumental with high, screaming fiddle overtopping deep, powerful, quick cello strums and bongo-like percussion. More surprising was the Blue Öyster Cult classic “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” with the banjo and violin trading off on the electric guitar parts and the cello bowing its way through the bass line. And of course there was cowbell. The song’s famous break became dramatic ringing silence, followed by a thunderous cacophony, ending the song on a manic note. For a finale, the appropriately titled “Goin’ Goin’ Gone” couldn’t have been a better choice with its lively beat tapped out on a cajon box drum while Maria’s pizzicato and Rebecca’s picking kept pace with Jordana’s quick sawing.

Even on a Monday night with a small crowd, this was a great introduction of Harpeth Rising to the city of Cleveland, and vice versa. With a follow-up to The End of the World already planned for later this year, it’s clear that this highly talented quartet won’t be running out of material any time soon. For fans of folk, bluegrass, country or rock, there’s something familiar to be found in the band’s music, but also something unique and exciting. Catch these guys the next time they come through town and you won’t be disappointed.

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For a taste of Harpeth Rising, buy The End of the World on Amazon!
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