Re-imagine American roots music with the Bumper Jacksons, who will be bringing their modern brand of traditional American music styles and DIY edge to Gretna Music as the organization’s summer season kicks off.
The Bumper Jacksons will take the stage on Saturday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m., at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse, performing songs from their previous albums as well as brand new material.
The band is thoroughly rooted in Americana, focusing on revamping the sounds of bluegrass, early jazz, country, blues and swing. The group has garnered heaps of acclaim, earning spots as the Strathmore Artists in Residence, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Touring Artists, Maryland State Arts Council Touring Artists, and winning Artist of the Year, Best Folk/Traditional Group and Best Folk/Traditional Recording at the Washington Area Music Awards.
“Chris Ousley and I started as a duo,’’ explained Jess Eliot Myhre, who holds the duties of clarinetist, vocalist, washboard player and songwriter for the band.
Mhyre, a Florida native, gained a passion for traditional music after she moved to New Orleans in 2010, where she began absorbing the roots of jazz.
“I had never heard traditional jazz music performed live before,” she said.
Blown away by what she heard, Myhre decided to take a part in the action.
“I got my mom to send me the little plastic clarinet that I played in middle school,” she said, and soon she began taking lessons in the city.
Myhre teamed up with Ousley, who sings, writes and plays guitar and banjo for the band.
“He had started playing more traditional music in college,” she explained.
As a duo, the two played all over the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area, even touring through the Pittsburgh area in a unique style.
“Before we grew into a larger band, we toured on bicycle,” said Myhre.
The two would gather their instruments into bicycle trailers and spend a few days biking up to Pittsburgh, performing in small towns along the way.
The duo also began to network with other musicians, who they would meet at festivals and campgrounds, and play with throughout the night around the campfire. Myhre described the meetings as ‘’very organic.’’
“Over time, we met our band mates through these. They were people we liked to play with,” she said.
They expanded to a six piece with members Alex Lacquement (bass, harmony vocals), Dan Samuels (drums, suitcase percussion), Dave Hadley (pedal steel) and Brian Priebe (trombone, harmony vocals.
Between the six of them, they cover plenty of musical ground.
“A lot of us in the group really love a wide swath of music,” said Myhre.
The two songwriters also have different styles.
“His process is very different than mine, and the songs he writes are very different than mine,” she said.
This contrasting process, however, works in the band’s favor, rather than against it.
“It’s awesome having these different processes in our songs,” said Myhre, who added that “the unique instrumentation helps, as well.”
Myhre also shared some road stories.
“We had a gig in Columbus, Ohio, where we were playing for a burlesque troop,” she said.
Lacquement, who taught elementary school at the time, needed to be home that morning to “get the kids off the bus at 7:30 a.m.,” said Myhre. The band drove through the night to get him to school on time.
“We’ve had really beautiful moments on tour, too,” she said, recalling a night at the Weinberg Center in Frederick, Md., where, she explained, they played in a stunning, packed room with great acoustics.
In wake of their success, the band still has their ears to the ground.
“We’ll find musicians in almost every city who will want to talk later or come play with us,” said Mhyre.
In the same weekend, Gretna Music will present two other class acts. Guitarist Christopher Parkening and baritone Jubilant Sykes will team up on Friday, July 8, at 8 p.m. for an evening of classical music, featuring pieces by Ives, Copland, Gershwin and others.
On Sunday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m., the Lovefest Chamber Orchestra will present a classical program. The 19-member orchestra will perform pieces by Wagner, Sibelius and Schoenberg.
For more information and tickets, head to gretnamusic.org. Tickets can also be purchased at the door.