Like a mix tape made by a well-traveled friend, The Ragbirds music is diverse and foreign, yet somehow familiar. The voice at the front of The Ragbirds carries the freshness of the journey itself, and the lyrics point out the scenery like a friendly tour guide.
With a brand new album in 2012, this up-and-coming Michigan band has been traveling the country with their "infectious global groove" gathering a passionate grassroots fan base of all ages.
The 2012 release of The Ragbirds fourth studio effort Travelin' Machine is a new milestone for the band. It's the soundtrack of the observant road-warrior, with layers of world grooves that stir the listener to move. The songs strike a balance between home and adventure, drawing upon elements of Pop, Gypsy, Afro-Cuban, Celtic, Middle Eastern and African sounds, with a little Cajun spice.
The energy of multi-instrumentalist Erin Zindle demands attention. She is the songwriter and front woman of the band, skillfully switching between violin, mandolin, accordion, banjo and percussion, all while dancing. Zindle wears an infectious smile and a positive message, always spun through a poetic loom.
"It's folk-rock music at the heart of it", says Zindle, who started the band with her husband, percussionist Randall Moore, "but I'm influenced and moved by sounds from all over the world". This interest in world music came first from her own roots. With two Irish grandmothers, the young violinist struck ancestral gold when she discovered Celtic fiddling as a teenager. At this same time the music of artists like Paul Simon, Rusted Root, and Peter Gabriel stirred up a deeper longing, bringing distant ethnic sounds into her small suburban Buffalo, NY bedroom. She began seeking out the source of these sounds and her love for travel and world music became a life-long passion.
Zindle and Moore began their relationship busking on the streets of Ann Arbor with Celtic and gypsy fiddling over tricky beats of tambourine, Middle-Eastern doumbek and tabla. In 2005 the duo gathered three band mates and began to record Erin's original songs. This recording was released a few months later as The Ragbirds debut album "Yes Nearby".
2007s travel-themed "Wanderlove" was Homegrown Music Network's #1 selling album in the fall of 2008. Erin's brother, guitarist T.J. Zindle, joined the band in 2008 and brought a grittier rock-n-roll edge to The Ragbirds' sound while multiplying the band's stage energy. The 2009 international release of "Finally Almost Ready" saw the band invade Japan with the single "Book of Matches" reaching #1 on the charts in Osaka. In 2010 the current lineup came together with bassist Brian Crist and drummer Loren Kranz ,and The Ragbirds reached yet another milestone in their young careers when they independently marketed and sold their 10,000th album.
The Ragbirds albums have received local and national praise, hailed "Highly impressive!" by USA Today and touted as "Astounding international eclecticism" by Reveal Arts. In just six years the band has performed in over forty states to a tune of 150+ shows a year. Crisscrossing the nation in their converted diesel bus that runs on recycled waste vegetable oil, promoting environmental sustainability, The Ragbirds have become festival favorites. They have won over crowds at Rothbury, 10,000 Lakes, CMJ Music Marathon, Summer Camp, Electric Forest, Wheatland, Blissfest, Wookiefoot's Harvest Fest, Ann Arbor Folk Festival, Hookahville, and many more, and have shared stages with Rusted Root, Matisyahu, Railroad Earth, John Butler Trio, Toubab Krewe, Cornmeal, Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Buttered Rum, Jeff Daniels, The Everyone Orchestra, The Duhks, and many others.
For all their traveling, The Ragbirds maintain a steady connection to their home base. While reflecting on Michigan, Erin had this to say " It's a beautiful place to be, snuggled in the Great Lakes, close enough to hold hands with Canada. It is connected to a secret, mysterious, magical place called the U.P., but most of all there is an amazingly talented and humbly supportive music community that spreads through the state, clustered into groups in Ann Arbor and Lansing, Grand Rapids, Flint, Traverse City and Detroit. The scene (and scenery) keeps us fueled with love and inspiration."
Joy. Anger. Truth. Ida Jo's second album, Singer In the Band, finds the singer with her heart on her sleeve. She has plenty to say regarding finding happiness, life's daily battles, and her own stumbles on the path to success.
Ida Jo's musical style builds on a long history of blending rock, folk and gospel music. (Think of artists like Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and The Band.) Energetic and rhythmic, but also heartfelt and soulful. Add to that Ida Jo's lifelong background in classical violin and you can start to see the roots of her expressive and graceful style.
"Singing is very emotional for me," Ida says. "It is the best way I know to be myself and let my feelings out." Drawing inspiration from singers like Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples, Ida Jo's voice is "powerful and soulful." (Emmie)
On her second full length record, Ida Jo continues to push the musical and lyrical boundaries of pop music. In a world where most pop music marries predictable chord structures to even time signatures (4/4), Ida Jo embraces quite the opposite. Five out of the twelve songs on Singer In the Band are in 5/4, an odd time signature usually reserved for contemporary jazz or electronic music. Ida Jo uses the rarity to her advantage, creating a groove and flow you never hear in pop music. Poetically, Ida Jo writes about pushing forward. Her songs are about recognizing and overcoming obstacles rather than dwelling on heartaches of the past. Perhaps less discussed in popular music, issues such as such as judgment and inadequacy ring true in everyone.
On violin, Ida Jo employs a seldom heard technique that is the combination of a folk fiddle style called "chopping" and her extensive classical training. She plays the rhythm, the harmony and sometimes even the melody at the same time. What it ends up sounding like is beyond explanation and without comparison, somewhere between an acoustic guitar and an orchestra. She is one of only a handful of violinists in the world to play in the style. It has been praised as "masterful and unexpected" (Emmie Music Magazine), "inventive yet accessible," (AV Club - Madison) and "avoiding rootsy fiddle or orchestral indie clichés" (The Isthmus).
Already making the rounds as a theme of the current political struggles in Madison (where Ida Jo lives) is the song No (We Won't Take It). Ida Jo dresses up the feisty and soulful tune with street-protest inspired bucket-drums and cowbells. (The song is currently available in a limited "Protest Edition" from which proceeds go to the Community Empowerment Movement, an organization that works to bring political education to small communities.)
Ida Jo plays on a Jonathan Cooper violin. For more information visit www.jcooperviolinmaker.com.
Singer In the Band musicians:
Scott Lamps - upright bass, piano, guitar
Jordan Cohen - drums, percussion
The East Side Club (View)
3735 Monona Drive
Madison, WI 53714