True North

True North

BandFolkBluegrass

True North combines elements of bluegrass, folk, blues, soul and even gospel into one wonderful package which appeals to a wide range of musical tastes.

Biography

“Kristen [Grainger]’s vocalizing exhibits the intensity of a singer with breathtaking ability comparable to Laurie Lewis… The band is emerging in the Northwest as one of the most endearing and passionate contributors to the Northwest’s acoustic folk repertoire. Their craftsmanship and focus squarely put the emphasis on original material, deliberative arrangements, graceful guitar, and gorgeous vocals.” -- (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)

“The band sounds quite good, and [Kristen Grainger’s] singing is lovely.” -- (Laurie Lewis, Grammy award-winning artist, Rounder Records)

Northwest indie-grass quartet True North combines traditional bluegrass instrumentation with soulful vocals, fat harmonies and folk-edged songwriting for a decidedly modern acoustic sound. True North's tight and careful arrangements can be alternately big and wild, tender and deliberate.

Original songs written by Dan Wetzel and Kristen Grainger give the band a fresh, modern bent, but you can also count on True North to perform bluegrass standards with originality and style, and give classic rock songs like “Free Fallin" a beautiful new identity.

True North's members are seasoned bluegrass pickers with a great deal of band and studio experiences between them. The band’s instrumental skills are exceptional; its vocals, both lead and harmony, are outstanding.

Although True North’s individual players are champion pickers and award-winning songwriters who are well-known in Oregon’s bluegrass scene, it is the synergy created by the combination of these four performers that makes the sound of True North unparalled.

Their high energy and abundant skill deliver unforgettable performances, with heart-pounding instrumentals and plenty of three-part harmonies that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
The concert promoter's description, above, of a recent True North performance is typical of what audiences have come to expect and enjoy from the modern bluegrass quartet.

A two-hour True North show might include a dozen original songs that demonstrate the band’s considerable songwriting firepower, interspersed with traditional bluegrass songs like “Lonesome River” or Doc Watson’s “Nashville Blues” that show off the band’s crowd-pleasing three and four-part harmonies as well as the talents of champion pickers Dan Wetzel and Dale Adkins, who is considered to be one of the best flat-pick guitarists on the west coast. With Suzanne Pearce holding down the fort on acoustic bass, song tempos range from barn-burner banjo tunes like “Sweetie Pie Boogie” to a capella-infused power ballads like “Too Old To Die Young.”

Between numbers, Wetzel may switch out his vintage Martin for a Gilchrist mandolin, and Adkins alternates banjo and guitar as the group explores their wide repertoire of bluegrass, folk, acoustic pop, alt-country, blues and swing, fronted with ease and style by the silky-voiced Kristen Grainger on lead vocals.

“The audience always goes nuts after True North’s instrumental breaks,” one fan said at a festival, “But I just want to applaud every time Kris Grainger opens her mouth.”

Grainger, who writes most of True North’s original material, will occasionally share stories and tidbits with the audience about the craft of songwriting; the sources of song ideas and inspirations.

The band clearly loves to perform live and a big part of their satisfaction comes from their ability to connect with audiences to create a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone. Dan Wetzel’s engaging but relaxed mic-side manner quickly establishes an easy and friendly rapport.

As one fan at the Northwest Folklife Festival put it, “What an extraordinary experience. They’re great musicians, with a great songwriting style. They were wittily self-deprecating in a sly, slightly mischievous way. The characters in the songs and the band members themselves came in for gentle, good natured ribbing. This is a group that should be better known outside its Pacific NW home. They should have a major record contract (this is, if they even want this). They’re damn good.”

Discography

"Pluck"
"Cobalt Miles of Sky"