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05.06.2015
Indeed, as they hit their stride on the Melody Walker-penned rock anthem-like title track of their latest CD, Sake of the Sound, I envision an imaginary snippet of an un-PC dialogue between certain members of U2 a€¦ Edge: a€?Eha€¦ Bono, wea€™re gonna do a little alt-country, bluegrassy thing on this number a€¦ wea€™ve got this chick singer a€¦ you wanna sit down and take a load off?a€? It might seem like a stretch to compare Melody to Bono a€” not to a growing legion of fans a€” but after listening to the entire album and watching numerous videos, Ia€™m convinced therea€™s no genre out of her (and the banda€™s) reach. I contacted Front Country core members Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman in early December, and they filled in a few gaps in my knowledge of the banda€™s history. Jacob moved to San Francisco in 2005, where he knew many of the areaa€™s bluegrass players. Melody was living in northern California in the redwoods area and in 2010 moved back to San Francisco.
About six months after the group formed, they worked up about six numbers and decided to enter the band competition for the 2012 Rockygrass Festival held each summer in Lyons, Colo. Sake of the Sound was released in September, 2014 and can be heard in its entirety on all streaming services: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and the banda€™s website. Front Country has fallen in love with Colorado, both for its vistas and the hospitality of its residents. A video from that impromptu showcase session, taken by Dennis DaCosta, is posted on Youtube and can also be viewed on her website. So, a€?Wowa€? being the operative term, when the opportunity to feature her presented itself, we jumped at it. Layah grew up in the east end of Toronto in an area called a€?The Beaches,a€? near Lake Ontario. This was the point at which Layah connected with long-time friend, Oliver Johnson, to handle the studio end of making the demo. As Oliver recounts it, he was lucky to have gotten supportive parents in both his father and stepdad. When he was at his fathera€™s house, theya€™d jam till the wee hours and sometimes the police would come. In order to learn musical theory, Oliver approached a guitarist, Wayne Cass, to show him what he needed to know to get into the Humber jazz program. Toward the end of his first year at Humber, he damaged his hand while moving a heavy table.
At a certain point, the road started to wear Oliver down and he decided to focus on production. At this point, Layah approached Oliver to produce the demo for which shea€™d gotten a grant. In the statement that follows, we can see the wheels turning as she weighed her options: a€?I came home knowing that I really wanted to pursue music and I made my first recording. Layah enrolled in and completed a three year program at The Toronto School of Homeopathic Medicine and received a DSHomMed, Homeopathic Certification.
While involved with her studies she was pursuing music as well, performing quite a bit with Oliver.
Not strictly a purist, she believes that a mixture of alternative and traditional Western medicine, a€?the best of both worlds,a€? according to each patienta€™s needs is the best solution. For two or three years, Layah and Oliver remained friends while they played music together. Layah says that Oliver has influenced her, injecting some jazz, R & B, soul and funk, given that he had gone on tour with some of the better Canadian players in that realm. Ita€™s easy to see why The Ontario Arts Council, and the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (FACTOR) came through with grants at critical moments.
Additionally, Acoustic Live will be hosting its own annual guerrilla showcase at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance and wea€™ll get to watch Layah and Oliver play a set in our own room. The new CD, Honey, from Layah and Oliver is just about ready for release and wea€™ve gotten to hear a few sample songs.
When Oliver was 9, his mother married a Canadian folk artist, a childrena€™s songwriter, and he then split his time between Toronto and New Hampshire. After high school, following her year of touring and playing, the artistic and practical sides of Layah collided. We here in the Northeast can thank our lucky starsA  for a number of chances to see her live. However, it doesna€™t take a genius a€” my good luck a€” to figure out that Front Country is not your ordinary bluegrass ensemble. She met Jacob, who toured with her on her 2011 solo release, Gold Rush Goddess (in 2013, they collaborated on the album We Made it Home).
Melody has said the song of that title on Sake of the Sound is kind of a a€?Dear Johna€? letter to California.


Founding members Jordan Klein and Zach Sharpe both had day jobs and couldna€™t tour steadily. During the 2009 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference, he said, a€?Youa€™ve got to head over to the DJsa€™ afternoon meeting. He played Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell, Dire Straits, The Pointer Sisters, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush a€¦ I never did any rebelling against my parentsa€™ choice of music. The question concerning what direction to take with her life still hung in the air and she appears to have approached it with a calm deliberation in incremental stages.
Although music was primarily a hobby, he had an array of musical instruments in the living room, including a drum kit. Hea€™d jam with friends at his dada€™s all summer and then spend the school year with his mother and stepdad in Toronto. Hea€™s still amazed at the way his father would cajole the officers, claiming the sound wasna€™t all that bad. He never really studied a€¦ until he went to Humber College in Toronto, which has a program similar to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Cass was a€?a great guitar player and a great teacher,a€? a favorite that Oliver would watch play in clubs.
He found a partner and opened up a studio that, today, works predominately on television projects. She got the grant for her first demo and began recording, but decided that she wanted to pursue a degree in homeopathy as well.
In addition, some readers might remember the Dove Self Esteem Funda€™s 2006 a€?True Colorsa€? TV Campaign. Each time Layah had any doubts about music as a chosen path, every time she needed it, a grant would come through.
Layah had to put the guitar aside and let Oliver provide the instrumental accompaniment solo. When I touched on this, Oliver demurred, saying that Layah had brought her own wide range of influences for him to have had all that much effect on her sense of style. Layah and Oliver will be playing Music on 4 in Manhattan on November 18th and Our Times Coffeehouse on Long Island on November 19th. Theya€™ll also play a formal Tricentric showcase and numerous other showcases (see the performance list below).
Layah will always have a keen ear for the vagaries of love and relationships, but she has her eye on the fate of humankind as well. During the 2009 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference, he said, a€?Youa€™ve got to head over to the DJsa€™A  afternoon meeting. TheA  question concerning what direction to take with her life still hung in the air and she appears to have approached it with a calm deliberation in incremental stages. Hea€™d jam with friends at his dada€™s all summer andA  then spend the school year with his mother and stepdad in Toronto. He never really studiedA  a€¦ until he went to Humber College in Toronto, which has a program similar to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her soaring, pitch-perfect vocals and melodic sense are mesmerizing.A  Then, therea€™s the writing.
Layah and Oliver will be playing Music on 4 in Manhattan on November 18th and Our Times Coffeehouse on Long Island onA  November 19th. In 2011, banjoist Jordan Klein and Adam got an informal jam-style monthly gig at the Atlas Cafe in San Francisco. Melody came to the monthly gig, where she was asked to sit in and quickly became a member of the band. When I started taking piano lessons at home at 8 years old, I started studying show tunes, so I could sing along with what I was playing, and I got into musicals. Their families were close friends and theya€™d have various holiday dinners, celebrating a variety of spiritual doctrines together as they saw fit. During those 3 months, he got a job in a computer store that sold software for digital recording. During the first few years of pursuing music, I had some questions about how it would pan out and whether this really was a good spot for me.
As Jacob put it, a€?none of us were fantastic singers or songwriters.a€? In Melody they hit the motherlode. The contest is first-come, first-served and they needed to use the same phone line as ticket-buyers to become one of the 12 bands selected.


They surprised the crowd at a festival on a recent tour in the UK with a King Crimson tune. Depending on the needs of the set, banjo chores are shared by various members of the group. However, the band will be playing The Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan on Tuesday, Jan 26 at 9 p.m.
We have home videos of me prancing around in my diapers, singing along with the music that he loved.
He learned about the software and about producing and, as an employee, was able to purchase the software at an affordable price. The a€?lemonade-from-lemonsa€? character of both accidents might lead one to believe that a certain magic guided them. In their rooftop video of a€?Boys of Summera€? from Don Henleya€™s classic solo album, lead singer Melody Walker exhibits an aplomb worthy of a rock diva. The group needed a name for the competition and Leif came up with a€?Front Country.a€? They won the band contest and, seeing a future as a group, released a five-song EP, This is Front Country. Their style is what might be termed a€?jazzy folk.a€? I asked if shea€™d be singing for the DJs and she responded that it had already taken place. In 3 months, Oliver learned everything he needed to know to get into Humber, entering at age 22. When it came time to re-enroll in school, he was tapped to play for a group that toured all over Canada.
Stepping off the stage during a pause, she fell when the overturned plastic bin that was placed as a makeshift step collapsed [too late for a lawsuit at this point, I suppose]. Her vocal power has been described as a€?rafter-shaking.a€? The band fills in all the appropriate nuances and ita€™s almost easy to forget Henleya€™s version. Although Jacob played in rock bands in high school and later studied jazz guitar at Oberlin College (Ohio), his interest in roots music and bluegrass intensified during his later high school years and in college.
At present, she contributes lyrics for all songs while Adam usually composes the instrumentals. They followed up in 2013 with a win at the Telluride (Colo.) Bluegrass Festival a€” photo-op below a€” becoming only the third band in history to win both contests (Spring Creek was one other).
He learned a lot of theoretical things that allowed him to communicate ideas, rather than hashing them out by demonstrating on the guitar.
He chose that and, between playing on the road and producing when he got home, he never went back to school.
Even though Ia€™m primarily pursuing music at this point, it enriched my life in such a great way, in terms of being able to help myself and my family and friends and broadening my understanding of the human body. Melody perceived that bluegrass and folk were Americaa€™s contribution to world music and, learning guitar, dove headfirst into that genre.
A couple of other interested presenters showed up, as I suggested we go to my own guerrilla showcase room.
Thus, about six of us got our very own private Layah Jane showcase performance a€” about 3 songs. It wasna€™t like one day it occurred to me, a€?Oh, I could do this.a€™ It just naturally grew, I think. For our friends in Connecticut, theya€™ll be at the Acoustic Cafe (2926 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport near the Fairfield town line) on Jan. In concert, sometimes she sings solo with just Oliver on guitar and on some songs, she and Oliver both play guitar. I wrote in the following montha€™s NERFA wrap-up issue: a€?Shea€™s like Diana Krall with a guitar.
Layah Jane would be the result.a€? On paper, that might not seem like much, but seen live, it packs quite a wallop.
Additionally, it happens that Oliver is a brilliant, seasoned guitarist, having toured Canada with top-of-the-line acts.



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