Free Range Folk
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Free Range Folk

Jim Thorpe, PA | Established. Jan 01, 2009

Jim Thorpe, PA
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Americana Folk

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Nov
23
Free Range Folk @ The Mauch Chunk Opera House

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, United States

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, United States

Sep
17
Free Range Folk @ Mauch Chunk Lake Park

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, United States

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, United States

Jul
07
Free Range Folk @ Sun Inn Courtyard

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States

Music

Press


"Free Range Folk - 444 Family and Farm"

Thanks to my friends over at ReviewShine, a service that connects artists to bloggers, I recently discovered a band from my old stompin' grounds in northeastern Pennsylvania that I've been listening to and enjoying for several weeks. About forty years ago I used to travel the highways and back roads throughout that part of the country, selling albums ranging from Myron Floren's polkas to the early string bands and folk music of Flying Fish and Rounder Records, and a lot of music from Wales, Scotland and Ireland. When workers were solicited to come over to American and work the mines, trains and factories, they brought with them the traditions, food, culture and music of their homelands. Italy, Poland, Ireland and points beyond; it created a unique environment in the valleys and mountains.

Free Range Folk are a family band from Jim Thorpe...a town originally established in 1818 as Mauch Chunk, one of the many coal mining and train communities in that part of the state with a rich history. Home to the Switchback Gravity Railroad, considered the first roller coaster in the US and also the scene of a famous court case involving the Molly Maquires which resulted in four men being hung, it is a town that attracts tourists and day trippers from New York and Philadelphia today, because of it's wide range of architecture and natural beauty.

After nearly a decade of singing and picking together, Free Range Folk was founded by Shawn McCarty (Mandolin, Guitar), Joshua Finsel (Banjo, Guitar, Harmonica, Theremin), and Kevin Ruch (Guitar, Dobro, Bass). The rest of the band looks like this: Amber Breiner Finsel (Upright Bass, Electric Bass, Guitar), Brad Konstas (Percussion), Dan Ruch (Trumpet) and Sara Ruch (Washboard, Musical Saw, Boom-bah, Harmonica). Everybody lends their voices in harmony and lead vocals are usually done by Shawn, Josh and Kevin. Amber and I have been emailing back and forth a bit, so when you see the quotes here, know that it's the words of the band that she kindly assembled into one narrative for me.

Some members are tied by marriage (Kevin & Sara, Josh & Amber), others by blood (Kevin & Dan are brothers), but all members have a genuine love and respect for one another both on and off stage. "We each share a love for working with the land with the goals to support the environment, our families and community. Since 2004, Kevin and Sara have owned 14 Acre Farm, an organic farm, bakery, and catering company. Band members regularly get together at the farm to help out and make stuff like maple syrup, wild-crafted wine and herbal medicine, and to sing and play around a fire. Kevin and Sara are a wealth of knowledge and experience and thanks to their friendly and open personalities, they have built a community around their farm (of which the band members are all a part). Although the obvious connection to farming is Kevin and Sara, each individual member has their own history and interest in playing in the dirt."



If you caught the non-traditional folk instrumentation of theremin, trumpet and having a drummer listed in the lineup, you probably won't be surprised that their list of influences range from "The Band and Bob Dylan to The Meters, The Cure, The Violent Femmes, Fugazi, & beyond". The newest album (444) is on Fuzztone Records and produced by both the band and Brett Haas, a member of Robert Randolph and The Family Band. "Brett has been a friend for almost 10 years. When he started the record company a few years ago he started asking if we wanted to come down to his studio and put down some tracks. We took a few months to write some new tunes and let some of our solo numbers gel together as FRF tunes, and Brett turned out to be a great collaborator who's been helpful and eager to work with us."


There's something special to me when I think of families getting together, making music, breaking bread and sharing laughter and conversation. I think of the Carters, Seegers and latter-day Guthries. The music tends to be soft and warm, more fun and less angst. As if the delicate balance between family members needs to be carefully kept and nurtured.



"We're pretty fortunate to have a friendly, open line of communication going between all members of the band even when we disagree. We're pretty tight. The personalities in the band seem to line up and work themselves out the same way they would at home, so there aren't too many clashes there. The hardest part is finding baby sitters when all your friends and family are in the band or at the show!"

I'm including some music to listen to, and links that will take you to various websites that have even more. And I'll also close out with video images of the families enjoying the maple syrup collecting over at the farm while "The Pancake Song" plays in the background. Lately I've been immersed in some weighty music from the poetry of Leonard Cohen to a lot of left of center neo-folk (yeah...hate that term too) and this album seems to lift my spirits whenever I take it for a spin. I'm a city and suburban guy, not much for "playing in the dirt" and sometimes I forget to recycle too. So when I get to hear something so gentle, soothing and natural come along like the music here, it brings me back to the center and makes me take a deep breath. Feels good, feels right. - No Depression


"Folk N' Roll"

A year ago, Free Range Folk celebrated the release of its second album, 444, at Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, Pa. On April 19, the bluegrass meets Americana rock band will return to MCOH, promising new material (both songs and arrangements) as well as some homegrown grub provided by 14 Acre Farm.

Free Range Folk released some high quality videos earlier in the year from their performance at Mauch Chunk Opera last March, including the Neil Young-esque “Shit Show”, “Blue Skies” and the ode to family tune “Father’s Day”. The entire concert is available as a free download via Free Range Folk’s Bandcamp page, appropriately dubbed Farm to Turntable as the immensely talented sextet are also farmers up in Jim Thorpe.

Get tickets and info for the April 19 show at Mauch Chunk Opera House with guest band The Manatawny Creek Ramblers here. Watch the videos for “Shit Show” and “Father’s Day” below. Click here for the free download of the full performance from last year at MCOH. - WXPN - The Key


"Free Range Fok - 444"

This is a tremendous album of country, folk, hillbilly, alt. country and classic country rock all blended into a delicious stew that has an excellent spicy edginess to it. Everything this band plays is believable and full of conviction, whether on speeded up electrified alt. country rock or mellow ballads with even the latter having a little bite to them. At times they are even a little reminiscent of country rock pioneers such as the New Riders of the Purple Sage with a little ramshackleness that is so essential to this brew but only possible in a band of the highest quality as this seven piece so obviously are. Whilst that quality is there for all to hear, they fairly obviously put the pleasure of playing and performing together above any desire to polish their music to what would for them be an unnatural sheen.
The lineup is very much a family band with husband and wife Amber Breiner Finsel and Josh Finsel, another husband and wife, Kevin and Sara Ruch, Kevins brother Dan and as far as i’m aware Brad Konstas and
Shawn McCarty who do not have family links but are friends. The instrumentation is also worth mentioning with Amber on upright bass, electric bass, guitar and harmony vocals, Josh on banjo, guitar, harmonica, lead and harmony vocals, Kevin plays guitar, lead and harmony vocals and dobro, Sara on washboard, musical saw,
boom bah, harmonica and harmony vocals, Brad, percussion and harmony vocals, Dan on trumpet and harmony vocals and finally Shawn McCarty on mandolin, electric guitar, lead and harmony vocals. All of the songs, with the exception of their excellent version of the Waterboys Fisherman’s Blues, are written by Kevin Ruch and Josh Finsel and whilst most themes are fairly common, lyrically they are neither much better nor worse than many others
in the upper echelons of roots music, although very few assemble their songs quite as well as this tremendous band and I’m sure they must have all had some input into the arrangements that ensure most of the songs stay in the memory. It should be pointed out that the instrumentation is never over the top but is well chosen to match each song, so don’t run away with the idea that all of the named instruments are piled on top of each other. The atmosphere is always light and never overbearing.
Whilst they might work in various of the above mentioned sub genres on individual songs, each one is so masterfully played and sung that everything is blended with consummate skill, enabling the album to naturally segue from one song to the next without any thematic or generic discordancy thanks to the abilities within the band. Most songs have a male and female duet lead ensuring we are never without harmonies and those harmonies are
not the pure blend so beloved of the mainstream but have a slight discordancy that adds to the ebullience of the album. Lehigh is a really good hard driving song with raw vocals and gorgeous harmonies mixed with excellent banjo and dobro on a song that strongly evokes the rurality of a hillbilly life. Alfalfa Seed is a beautiful country ballad with a nice edginess in the vocals and gorgeous harmonies, driven by banjo plus mandolin and guitars on a tale of reflections on a happy life that strongly evokes the sentiment of the song. It will be no surprise that Shit Show does not echo mellow rurality, but it is an excellent alt. country rocker and as such is a nice departure from the preceeding, exhibiting their abilities as they stretch into a more recent generic addition, albeit still with a little of that 1970s feel. Squirrel II is a speedily cheerful song about being poor but happy, with excellent hillbilly vocals and tremendous harmonies, with acoustic instrumentation on a song that strongly evokes the lighter side of NRPS and is followed by Lenhartsville Waltz. This has a tremendous mandolin and acoustic guitar intro on another
song that has a high lonesome feel, with edgy male lead vocal on a light hearted tale of a barn dance, with lovely mandolin and banjo solos and the usual terrific harmonies. Whilst there are evocations of 1970s country rock
this album is very far from being locked into a particular time frame. Much about it is modern but this band are not afraid to time jump back to the 1950s and beyond, in fact they seem positively ecstatic in doing so!
The more I listen to this album the more I get the feeling of a link between this music and early country rock bands, not only the NRPS but also the Goose Creek Symphony, a band that pushed the boundaries of country and rock, inhabiting a similar area to Free Range Folk, but don’t get the idea that there is anything copyist about them. It’s not just a question of musical similarities, that to other ears may not even exist, but also in the sheer joyous exuberance and ‘old timey’ attitude they bring to this roots music. Do yourself a favour and give this excellent album a listen; I’m sure you will have as good a time listening as this tremendous band obviously did whilst recording it. - American Roots Music


"The Key Studio Sessions"

You can quickly spot the things that are important to Jim Thorpe-ara six-piece Free Range Folk. Two married couples make up the band, and their love of family comes across in the song “Father’s Day.” They farm as well, and their love of the Northeast Pennsylvania land and all its potential shines through in “Bubblin'” and “Lehigh.” Then there’s “Seraphim Moonbeam” and its majestic groove – that one’s just about love in general. When the band appeared on the Folk Show with Chuck Elliot last fall, it mixed up traditional instrumentation (dig the acoustic guitar – banjo – mandolin interplay) with the rock drumming you hear later in the set. Three of these performances are songs that appear on their second album, 444, and the band celebrates its CD release in two upcoming shows – Thursday, March 14th at Sellersville Theater and Saturday, March 23rd at the Mauch Chunk Opera House. Listen and download the set below. - WXPN - The Key


"Farm to Table to Stage"

Three members of Free Range Folk were jamming on a tune most bluegrass-fed roots bands would never dream of fiddling with: “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” forever known as the cosmic alarm-clock theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Banjo player Josh Finsel, percussionist Brad Konstas and guitarist Kevin Ruch were creating their own odyssey, playing instruments they don’t normally play, instruments “totally wrong for us,” recalls Ruch. Pleased by the improbable groove, they eventually shifted from Richard Strauss’ 19th-century orchestral tone poem into a song about Carbon County’s 19th-century coal industry. For good measure, they named the tune after a mountain behind their rehearsal space. As an extra added bonus, they made it danceable. - Full Volume - Geoff Gehman


"Outstanding Fusion Bluegrass Band"

Free Range Folk - Lehigh Valley Music Awards


"Roots Dirt Rock"

"Jim Thorpe, PA’s Free Range Folk refer to their lively blend of americana and bluegrass as Roots Dirt Rock. While I only have a vague idea of what that might mean, I do know that their music is bursting at the seams with heart and soul." - Chad Snyder WXPN Philadelphia - WXPN Philadelphia


Discography

Impending Doom:

With the release of their latest album, "Impending Doom," Free Range Folk delivers a well timed alt-left leaning political voice from rural America. With songs like "Manifest Destiny," "Corn Song," "Superfund" and "Stoney Lonesome," the band gives voice to outrage felt by people across the country while drawing attention to the absurdity of racism, corporate/industrial food politics, environmental degradation, and challenges to civil liberties. While songs like "Lazy Days," "Rest Stop," "Thank You," and "Impending Doom" impart a more intimate feeling that hits home and touches the part of us all that longs to feel connection, companionship and reconciliation. The music is a hybrid of New Orleans second-line fun with potent dirt rock jams and bluegrass roots. Traditional and novelty instrumentation play nice with each other while the microphone is passed to nearly everyone for at least a few moments. 

The album was recorded at Red Rock Studios (Wailin' Jennys, Leon Redbone) and produced by Todd Schied (Birdie Busch, Our Griffins), capturing the band's latest material in a new light.

Produced by Todd Shied at Red Rock Recording Studio, Saylorsburg PA 
© 2016 Free Range Folk 



444:


In 2013, 444 was recorded between Fuzztone Records' studio and the band's home studio by Brett Andrew (of Robert Randolph and the Family Band). The new album is a departure from the string band sound of their previous work in that it welcomes percussion on all tracks with accents of brass, hammond organ and electric bass and guitar. Songwriters Kevin Ruch and Josh Finsel continue to explore themes related to family and social/environmental themes (Lehigh, Father's Day, Alfalfa Seed, Shit Show, Roundup Ready, Laying on the Ground), while other tracks illustrate their knack for writing catchy storytelling tunes with a folksy feel- (Squirrel Song 2, Lenhartsville Waltz, Pancake Song). The album is rounded out with a nod to love (Seraphim, Anyway) and a rockin' cover of The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues. 444 is a solid contribution to the roots revival music scene. It presents a feeling of modern nostalgia, appealing to the deep seated longing within all of us to return to the land and live a simpler life.

Produced by Brett Andrew and Free Range Folk 

© 2013 Fuzztone Records 
Get Behind Music Publishing BMI 


Soul Collector:

This album is a cultivation of some aged vintage songs and some young. Some songs traveled as far away as Oregon and Mexico but were transformed into their present state in the Northern Appalachian foothills of Pennsylvania on a small farm around a campfire. Banjos, guitars, mandolins, jaw harps, musical saws, washboards, drums, and dobros found there way into the mix. The recording was made at Fuzztone in Philadelphia. We are very proud of these songs.

Produced by Brett Andrew and Free Range Folk. 
2011 Fuzztone Records. 
Get Behind Music Publishing BMI 

Photos

Bio

Free Range Folk is a ten piece Americana band from Jim Thorpe, PA. Ten years ago they formed around the campfire at their family farm, and now they headlines two to three sold out shows at their hometown theater, the Mauch Chunk Opera House, each year. Free Range Folk's three full length albums span genres from bluegrass to rock and roll, and their stage presence is still of that original friendly campfire vibe.

With their November 2016 album release, Free Range Folk, delivers a well timed alt-left leaning political voice from rural America. With songs like "Manifest Destiny," "Corn Song," "Superfund" and "Stoney Lonesome," the band gives voice to outrage felt by people across the country while drawing attention to the absurdity of racism, corporate/industrial food politics, environmental degradation, and challenges to civil liberties. While songs like "Lazy Days," "Rest Stop," "Thank You," and "Impending Doom" impart a more intimate feeling that hits home and touches the part of us all that longs to feel connection, companionship and reconciliation.

Impending Doom (2016):

On their third album, Free Range Folk grafts a hybrid of New Orleans second-line style fun with potent dirt rock jams onto its bluegrass roots. The collection of well-honed original tunes explores old and new ideas: Nostalgia for the way things were and could be, a wonder of how they ever got there in the first place, and acceptance & optimism for the way things are now. Much like the tourism industry burgeoning in the mountains and rivers surrounding their hometown, Jim Thorpe, PA, the band has expanded exponentially, with a cast & crew of 8-10 folks at any given time. Traditional & novelty instrumentation play nice with each other while the microphone is passed to nearly everyone for at least a few moments. 


The Players:

Amber Breiner Finsel: Upright Bass, Electric Bass, Guitar, Harmony Vocals

Brad Konstas: Percussion, Harmony Vocals

Brett Andrew: Electric Guitar, Organ, Piano, Wurlitzer, Harmonica, Vocals

Dan Ruch: Trumpet, Harmony Vocals, Percussion

Doug Makofka: Accordion

Josh Finsel: Banjo, Guitar, Harmonica, Lead and Harmony Vocals, Theremin

Kevin Ruch: Guitar, Dobro, Bass, Lead and Harmony Vocals

Kyle O'Brien: Woodwinds, Sax, Harmony Vocals, Percussion

Sara Ruch: Washboard, Musical Saw, Boom-bah, Harmonica, Lead and Harmony Vocals

Shawn McCarty: Mandolin, Guitar, Lead and Harmony Vocals


Second Album:

444 (2013)

Their 2nd album (444) was recorded between Fuzztone Records' studio and the band's home studio by Brett Haas (of Robert Randolph and the Family Band). The new album is a departure from the string band sound of their previous work in that it welcomes percussion on all tracks with accents of brass, hammond organ and electric bass and guitar. Songwriters Kevin Ruch and Josh Finsel continue to explore themes related to family and social/environmental themes (Lehigh, Father's Day, Alfalfa Seed, Shit Show, Roundup Ready, Laying on the Ground), while other tracks illustrate their knack for writing catchy storytelling tunes with a folksy feel- (Squirrel Song 2, Lenhartsville Waltz, Pancake Song). The album is rounded out with a nod to love (Seraphim, Anyway) and a rockin' cover of The Waterboys' Fisherman's Blues. 444 is a solid contribution to the roots revival music scene. It presents a feeling of modern nostalgia, appealing to the deep seated longing within all of us to return to the land and live a simpler life.


1st Album:

Soul Collector (Fuzztone Records) 2011




Band Members