Lake Folk
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Lake Folk

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States | SELF

Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Folk Americana


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Baroque-pop meets Bluegrass on a moonlit road that boarders the fields of dreams and nightmares. A very rich sound with lots of character, sawing strings, banjo strums, and a strong, syrupy balladeer vocals blending country to blues, and beauty to gothic. Far from any mere grinning, earthy folk trip, they don't shy from flexing their spookier sides - with plenty orchestral accoutrements, cello, stand-up bass, and mandolin. The phrase they've coined is irresistable: "Roots Noir."
Erin Shellman (vocals/double-bass); Danielle Gartner (cello/vocals/mandolin); Eric Anderson (banjo/mandolin/vocals); Bryan Mayer (guitar); John Nipper (percussion). - Deep Cutz

Sounds: Baroque-pop meets Bluegrass on a moonlit road that boarders the fields of dreams and nightmares. A very rich sound with lots of character, sawing strings, banjo strums, and a strong, syrupy balladeer vocals blending country to blues, and beauty to gothic. Far from any mere grinning, earthy folk trip, they don't shy from flexing their spookier sides - with plenty orchestral accoutrements, cello, stand-up bass, and mandolin. The phrase they've coined is irresistable: "Roots Noir."
Erin Shellman (vocals/double-bass); Danielle Gartner (cello/vocals/mandolin); Eric Anderson (banjo/mandolin/vocals); Bryan Mayer (guitar); John Nipper (percussion).

Formed in 09. Based in Ann Arbor. They released the Means To An End LP in October.

"When we first started out we were mostly just getting together and jamming on Gillian Welch tunes," Shellman said, "or even folksy versions of jazz standards like 'All Of Me.'" Shellman, at that time, was reworking her father's songs (one of which ended up on Means) and those experiments "sparked us into writing original music."

Shellman said adding Nipper on drums last February brought depth to their sound, helping to make their live show more accessible "to noisier bar crowds," but, also, making it "more fun to play. We sort of rock a little harder."

Shellman spent the summer writing songs - of which Lake Folk is now fleshing out for live performances. These could materialize, some point soon, this year, as a subsequent EP. Later, they'll perform at Folk Alliance: "a huge folk/songwriter/indie -conference in Memphis for networking with musicians, labels and bookers." Also coming up for LF: "gangster rapping for the Folk the Police show on January 30th... tee-hee."

Talking about the bands' sound: "...our instrumentation is definitely folk. I mean, it doesn't really get more folksy than banjo. That said, a lot of our songs feature trombone and trumpet, electric guitar, electric bass and hard drums." Lake Folk blend elements of swing with folk and rock. In fact, the band went out of their way to stand out amongst a more folk-leaning line up, during their night at Mittenfest, bringing up the rockier elements and cutting their slower songs. "We all come from really different musical backgrounds and I think that comes through in our music."

"I'd say Arbor/Ypsi scene is variable and new and hopefully blossoming soon," Shellman said.

But, she added, bands playing/performing throughout what are two dueling college towns, can experience certain limitations. As is endemic to many music scenes, bands can wear of relying on their-friends-in-other-bands to be the core of support for live shows, which can (and sometimes inevitably) happen when your potential crowd (often students) can sometimes be hesistant to consistently head out for live shows, whether for their wallets emptied by student loans or maybe they're actually staying in to study. (Or, hey, some might not be able to get past that 21+ sign at the bar entrance). It can be a tough crowd to rack, Shellman said.

"But," Shellman said, "I think Ann Arbor and Ypsi have a history of supporting art and music and that the area can be a hub again..."

From here on out: "We're stoked about touring," Shellman said. Lake Folk is heading on a 10-day midwest tour this April, starting in Ann Arbor, down to Nashville and back. - Deep Cutz

Call it what you will: neofolk, alt-country, alt-folk, traditional, roots, folk-noir… whatever it is, or isn't - it's trickling out of watering holes and music venues all over town. And it's very, very different...One band defying description is the year old Lake Folk. Started by two PhD students and an oceanographer, all educated, in part, at Case Western and the University of Michigan, Lake Folk melds acoustic instruments like bright banjos with mourning cellos and melancholy narratives. - Concentrate Media

Some bands just work. Every instrument fits and complements each other. Every line of vocals slides into place. Every beat, every note, comes together to produce a sound replicated by few. Lake Folk certainly have achieved an album of this quality with their debut “Feel Like I’m Home.”
Feel Like I’m Home is the first album from Lake Folk, a quintet formed in 2009 consisting of Eric Anderson, Danielle Gartner, Bryan Mayer, John Nipper, and Erin Shellman. Their website states that they “blend roots music with other genres” and in this sense they are masters. Few bands I have come across dare to venture far from their respective core style, and if the attempt is made it’s a tip-toe towards the edge, still within arm’s length of the comforting familiarity of their declared sound. Often reserved by groups for filler tracks of third and fourth album releases, Lake Folk daringly dive into whatever noise they feel like, and they make it sound great. Whether it’s a waltzy breakdown, a bluesy fill, a swing trumpet lick, it feels solid and smooth; you wouldn’t realize it if it was missing, but now that you’ve heard it, you can’t imagine the song working without it.
A prime example of this cohesiveness is the first song on the album: “Harvest.” It starts off quietly with a banjo background and, as instruments are slowly added, it creates an ensemble the likes of which are difficult to find elsewhere. Even though it’s an overused cliche, the song acts like a puzzle. You might not get the big picture, but as each instrument is added in, the whole of the group’s talent really shows. The balance, the precision, all aspects come together for a small little masterpiece that continues as the transition is made to the second song.
The album is also full of some unexpected moments. In “Ready To Go,” it opens similar to other pieces, but picks up with a jazzy chorus and muted trumpet. “Smoke” starts off with a slow banjo, a meandering pace, but seemingly out of nowhere, a distorted guitar is added, a breakthrough of an angry cello and wailing trumpet give the song an angry feeling. And yet through it all, Lake Folk keep the same standard of quality and solid sound through the whole album.
All in all, the first album from Lake Folk is incredible. I found myself whistling bits and pieces of various anthems throughout the day. It sticks with you, which is by no means a bad thing. The songs are catchy, precise, and the album as a whole is a true work of art. For being their first album, Lake Folk show what massive talent they possess. This could easily be a professional release. It shows a great direction for where the Michigan music scene is headed and I’m eager for another album already. I’ll be watching out for more from Lake Folk in the near future. - Mostly Midwest

" 'Feel Like I'm Home' leaves listeners with no doubt that this is a band of downright pros who know the ins and outs of their genre"
"4.5 / 5 stars" - West Michigan NOISE!

It’s going to be a busy few weeks for the local band Lake Folk. Not only are the Ypsilanti-based quintet the opening act for the Parkington Sisters at The Ark, they are also getting ready for a CD release party at Savoy.

The Ark show, part of the club’s Take a Chance Tuesday free series, is Tuesday night. The Savoy gig, with local favorites Chris Bathgate and Misty Lyn opening, is Saturday, Oct. 2.

“We’re kind of now breaking onto the Michigan folk scene,” said Lake Folk’s Eric Anderson.

Lake Folk formed in 2009, and shortly thereafter began working the indie folk/roots noir sound that drives “Feel Like I’m Home,” their debut release, which was recorded by Ann Arbor musician/engineer Jim Roll.

Although based in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, members come from Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Besides Anderson (banjo, mandolin, vocals), Lake Folk’s other personnel are Erin Shellman (vocals, upright bass), Danielle Gartner (cello, vocals, mandolin), Bryan Mayer (guitar) and John Nipper (percussion). Anderson does most of the songwriting.

“People all moved (to Ann Arbor) to either start school or start jobs, and got to know each other,” said Anderson. “I moved up here for a job (he’s a research scientist in the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment) and I knew Erin and Danielle from college in Cleveland — we went to school at Case Western Reserve. We met Bryan once he moved up here, and started to put together a band, more like friendly jamming, I guess, to test the water and see how it went.”

Although the band started as a foursome, an ad on Craigslist earlier this year yielded drummer/multi-instrumentalist John Nipper, who moved up to Ypsilanti from Tennessee about a year ago looking to stretch out in the music scene.

“We got lucky, very lucky, to find him ... just in time for the record, and he's really helped to develop our sound,” Anderson said of Nipper.

“We got in the studio in the late spring or early summer and slammed out a CD pretty quick, I think it took maybe two months, recording and mixing and everything,” Anderson said of the new disc, which contains all originals (except one cover, the classic jazz weeper “Gloomy Sunday,” often associated with Billie Holiday).

Anderson cited Tom Waits as a musical influence, along with Gillian Welch, The Duhks and The Sparrow Quartet.

“We always like the sound of instruments (playing) together not in their traditional contexts,” Anderson explained. “We’ve been trying to figure out what sound we want to get out of our group. This folk-roots music direction is definitely the direction we’re going in. We’ve been playing with the term ‘roots-noir.’ Folk songs can sometimes be kind of sad or depressing, we’re not trying to step into that at all, we’re just a little bit darker, kind of in the way Tom Waits might be a little darker, but not depressing.”

Listen to Lake Folk "Means to an End" (MP3).

Besides handling the recording duties, Roll, who operates Backseat Productions locally, also contributed fiddle to one tune. Other guest musicians included Ian Gorman from the Kalamazoo-based band Red Sea Pedestrians (dobro, accordion and concertina) and Jamie Warren (trombone, trumpet).

Lake Folk

* Who: Local indie-acoustic-roots quintet.
* What: Opening act for the Parkington Sisters at The Ark September 28 (part of the Take A Chance Tuesday series); CD release party at Savoy October 2 (with Chris Bathgate and Misty Lyn).
* Where: The Ark is at 316 South Main Street in Ann Arbor. Savoy is at 23 North Washington Street in Ypsilanti.
* When: Ark show, 8 p.m. Tuesday; Savoy show, 9 p.m. (doors) Saturday.
* How much: Ark show, free; Savoy show, $5.

Roll and Warren are expected to perform with Lake Folk at the CD release show.

Anderson said he sought out Roll when it came time to record because of his reputation with other musicians and the kinds of bands he has worked with. “It just seems there’s been a whole Michigan community that’s gone through him. … There seemed like a natural connection,” Anderson said.

This year, Lake Folk played at 2 major music events, Hollerfest and Farmfest, and hopes to expand that number next year.

Anderson said Lake Folk’s members bring a wide range of backgrounds to the group’s sound.

“Erin and John are both jazz trained musicians, John on drums and Erin on upright bass, and Danielle is a classically-trained French horn player. Erin brought ‘Gloomy Sunday’ to our attention … the version that we do is just Erin on vocals and Danielle playing the cello, it’s a pretty pared down song that gives a different dimension to the album. Of course it’s a kind of a haunting tune with a nice sound to it.”

As far as the name is concerned, Anderson said Lake Folk reflects the origins of four of the group’s five members. “We’re mostly from near the Great Lakes … a lot of songs I have written are drawn from my life in this area. If we looked for a commonality, it seemed to be where we are now and where we come from. The lakes just popped out with the double meaning — the music genre and also people of the lake area.” -


Feel Like I'm Home - LP (2010)



Formed in 2009, Lake Folk's unique blend of roots music, traditional, alt-country, and indie-rock forms the "dark, bizarre, and wonderful" twist on indie-folk they call "Roots Noir". Their debut release "Feel Like I'm Home" (LP 2010) features the quintet's typical instrumentation (cello, banjo, guitar, double bass, drums) mixed with mandolin, piano, dobro, fiddle, trombone, and accordion to give the album a broad, full sound "replicated by few...[that is] catchy, precise, and the album as a whole is a true work of art." Whether the energetic and driving, dark and sorrowful, or bittersweet, Lake Folk's soulful lyrics and distinct arrangements tell stories from the past and present that leave the listener with no choice but to be drawn in and follow the next generation of indie-folk and traditional music.