The Farewell Drifters create harmonic roots music that draws influence from the traditions of folk, bluegrass, film scores, 60's revolutionary pop, and their young Nashville peers. They have been delighting audiences everywhere from MerleFest to intimate listening rooms with their dynamic performances, and their album “Yellow Tag Mondays” debuted at number 10 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart.
During some of humanity’s darkest moments, music has been a light. Like a cold cup of water on a hot, dry day, ideas and melodies have poured onto the hardest ground and allowed seeds of imagination to flower into hope. Spirituals bolstered the hearts of slaves. Jazz colored in the gray hues of the Great Depression.Bluegrass and old time mountain music enlivened a community ravaged by economic inequality and the uncertainty of cultural change. Folk music emboldened a disenfranchised generation to stand up to bigotry and pointless war.
With bad news on the radio, turmoil around the world and mounting uncertainty in every corner, hopeful and honest music is needed now more than ever. However, as technology offers instant access to just about every song ever recorded, and auto-tuning tweaks processed pop from teen-aged sit-com stars, it is getting harder and harder to find a genuine new voice with something interesting to say.
That’s why Nashville’s The Farewell Drifters are so striking. Combining elements of bluegrass with the accessibility of classic folk and acoustic Americana music, this stunning young band is turning heads nation-wide. Joshua Britt (mandolin, vocals,) Zach Bevill (lead vocals and guitar,) Trevor Brandt (banjo,) Dean Marold (bass,) and Clayton Britt (lead guitar) are performing over 100 concerts per year, from rock clubs to bluegrass festivals. Their songs offer a contemporary relevance and hopeful perspective that truly sets them apart. Though unafraid to grapple with the darkest aspects of the human experience, their light-hearted, often hysterical on-stage banter leaves audiences refreshed and entertained.
The Farewell Drifters came together while several members were college students in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Brandt and the brothers Britt discovered bluegrass together and learned its ways as a group. They traveled to Nashville in search of the perfect lead vocalist and found Bevill fronting Belmont University’s Bluegrass Ensemble. The team clicked right away, learning bluegrass standards and stamping them with their own unique signature. “As we internalized the technical elements of the genre,” Bevill explains, “our individual voices began to creep in and our original material really came to the fore. After we had learned to play bluegrass we began to let in all of the other influences that we had previously laid aside. Writing our own songs was really the most natural thing for us to do as we sort of grew into the music together.”
Joshua Britt, long a fan of Bob Dylan and other folk icons, was drawn to the accessibility of bluegrass. “I read that when Dylan wanted to play folk music he left Minnesota, went to New York City and tracked down Woodie Guthrie in a psychiatric hospital. When I was into rock and roll music I tried to track down my heroes but the closest I ever got to them was through binoculars at a stadium. When I became obsessed with bluegrass music I looked up Roland White’s address on the internet and drove to Nashville to meet him. The next day I called up Billy Ray Latham and by that weekend I was playing on stage in front of hundreds of people with him.”
Joshua sees the band’s early commitment to strong melodies and rich harmonies as a direct result of the influence of artists like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Simon and Garfunkel and The Byrds. The friends injected their distinctly warm vocals into the traditional “High Lonesome” sound of bluegrass and a unique style was born. “Our vision is to steer the current flow of traditional stringband music into a more contemplative, song-oriented place,” Britt explains.
The Farewell Drifters have been honing their craft and defining their sound since 2006. With one full length CD release (Sweet Summer Breeze) and a brand new single (River Song b/w Dream Of Me Tonight) under their collective belts the band is responding to increased demand for bookings around the US including coveted slots at Merlefest and Grey Fox. They have charted on XM and Sirius Satellite Radio and were featured on the cover of The Tennessean.
Though much loved by bluegrass aficionados, Bevill and Co. admit that while they are all fans of the genre, they are not purists. “I love the founding fathers,” Bevill explains. “They were just singing about their lives; what they knew and experienced - the good and the bad. We’re really just doing the same thing, except the vernacular is different because we grew up in a different generation with a different set of experiences.” Britt agrees, and embraces his own disparate musical influences. “I think we have a certain appreciation for the folk/rock of the 60's and 70's,” he explains. That comes out in our songs; sonically, but also lyrically. The music of that time had an openness and honesty that is attractive, and really seems to match the sentiments I have about bluegrass.” The band’s eclecticism is evidenced by their inclusion of a unique arrangement of the Beatles’ hit “Ticket to Ride” on their latest single as a bonus track.
The chemistry is working. Though the melodies are often as haunting as traditional bluegrass and its various old-time musical cousins, the lyrics shine a bright light in dark times. “We’re thrilled when people tell us our music has brightened their day or been an encouragement,” Bevill adds. “These are scary times and we’re feeling the pressure like everyone. It’s difficult to make ends meet, especially for an independent band in the midst of a recession. But if our recorded music or our live performances can provide a diversion – or maybe an answer or two – we’ll be proud of a job well done.”
“Young…fresh…talented…contemporary…relaxed. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when listening to the Farewell Drifters.” (Bluegrass Unlimited)
“It is always a good thing to welcome new songwriters into bluegrass music, and Bevill and Britt are fine examples of why we can confidently place this music into the hands of a new generation of artists.” (Bluegrass Blog)
“The Drifters’ music is hardly traditional bluegrass, yet their focus on concise, neat arrangements keeps them hovering in that area, even as their youth and fresh perspective pulls them in a different direction.” (No Depression Magazine)
“One of the most striking new bands in Bluegrass, a young Nashville based quintet, that plays with the intensity of Mountain Heart and the fire of the New Grass Revival” (Dave Higgs, Bluegrass Breakdown)