If you'd like to watch from a front-row seat as roots music reinvents itself, look no further than Coyote Grace. At once both radically progressive and unashamedly nostalgic, the trio is at the forefront of a growing movement to redefine the meanings of "roots" and "tradition."
"Coyote Grace plays with the heart of traditional country and Americana music, but tells their stories with a bold twist," says the Indigo Girls' Amy Ray. "They write heart-wrenching melodies and make such textured harmonies that I find myself enraptured and taken by their timelessness of song."
Armed with a bevy of acoustic instruments from guitar and upright bass to banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and accordion, Coyote Grace's Joe Stevens, Ingrid Elizabeth and Michael Connolly fill theater, club, and festival stages with a wash of sound seemingly far too expansive for three musicians, mixing bluegrass and blues, soul and Southern twang into a unique sound that hovers just beyond the edge of 'familiar.' The sultry trio combines virtuosic musicianship combined with a humble, warm stage presence, all stemming from a history of self-invention and re-invention.
"Playing roots music doesn't simply mean imitating old traditions," says multi-instrumentalist Michael Connolly. "All of us have a strong sense of wanting to hold onto the past, to tradition while still being unburdened enough to move forward."
This is perhaps no more evident than in the case of guitarist and transman Joe Stevens, whose gender transition resolved a lifetime of dissonance between being raised as female while identifying as male. Not without cost, Joe's transition closed some doors while opening many others, and significantly informs his songwriting and performance.
Meanwhile, Ingrid Elizabeth, the self-proclaimed "pink sheep" of her small Ohio hometown, and Memphis-born Michael Connolly both carry the twang and soul of their Middle America roots while maintaining decidedly Left Coast values.
Coyote Grace's rise to national prominence comes from a decidedly humble origin beginning as a Seattle-based duo in 2004, Ingrid Elizabeth and Joe Stevens founded the band as street performers outside of Seattle's Pike Place Market, using their busking proceeds to fund their first studio album, Boxes and Bags, which is now in its sixth pressing, and accompanied at the merch table by three other albums: The Harvey Tour, Buck Naked, and Ear To the Ground, which in February of 2011 reached #4 on the Roots Music Report's Folk charts the highest charting independent album at the time.
The radio airplay itself comes on the heels of a highly successful touring season in 2010, during which Coyote Grace performed three separate tours opening for and playing alongside the Indigo Girls. Audience response was immediate and enthusiastic, with the group breaking the Indigo Girls' tour records for album sales by an opening band. Coyote Grace has also performed with Girlyman, Melissa Ferrick, Chris Pureka, and Lowen & Navarro.
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