By Brian Tucker
Old time and Americana trio Stray Local follow up 2014’s The Sun Still Shines with a specially made full length called Lonesome Road. The new album is a collection of old time music, along with a gripping murder ballad, that was recorded live in a day-long session at the band’s house. The energy of playing in-the-moment is captured wonderfully on Lonesome Road, delivering a back porch and rowdy vibe as well as intimate performances that put the listener in the room.
A few weeks ago Stray Local closed out a Sunday night show at Bourgie Nights following Brooklyn band Gillian. They were joined by Hourglass Studios’ Trent Harrison on bass for the tight, lively performance. The band, which released a new album last year, announced they had recently recorded an “old time” album called Lonesome Road.
They posted a video photographed by Anna Mann for the song “Cripple Creek.” Mann’s video captured the band live, the same way Lonesome Road was recorded. Hourglass Studios recorded the new album live at the band’s home.
“(We’ve) been playing old time tunes for as long as we’ve been a band,” Hannah Lomas said, who sings and plays mandolin. “It has greatly influenced our own original songs and has always been a part of our live shows. We knew we wanted to create our own album of all old time tunes we just needed to wait for the right time.”
Lomas met Jamie Rowen while attending UNC-Greensboro and soon began playing music together. In an Old Time Ensemble course they learned about Appalachian string band playing and traditions. Rowen moved to Wilmington and began playing music with Lomas again (she’s from Wilmington) and the duo later asked Nick Simon to play drums in Stray Local.
Watching the show at Bourgie Nights it was clear the band is growing and evolving their sound. There was something different about the band’s performance, it sounded fuller and more textured. It may have to do with new friends. Their friend Litchfield moved down to Wilmington from Greensboro which led to having old time jams at the Stray Local house on Wednesday evenings. Later the brothers from Brothers Egg band joined in.
Lonesome Road was recorded on April 15th after a cook out and done by three in the morning. Litchfield plays fiddle and sings on the album with Hunter Eggleston on mandolin and Jamie Eggleston on backup vocals and banjo. Whitney Lanier performed on the album after dropping in just to say hello and ended up on the songs “Cripple Creek” and “Nine Pound Hammer.”
“The album will contain many rowdy old time favorites as well as an a cappella murder ballad, and soul wrenching duets,” Lomas added.
Stray Local performed as part of the all-day Carolina Pine Music Festival last May. The band was also nominated for Best Americana act for the 8th annual Carolina Music Awards.
Stray Local will be playing a release show Friday at Bourgie Nights with Randy McQuay.
Was it always intended to be recorded live?
Hannah Lomas: Lonesome Road was always intended to be recorded live. We really wanted to capture the buzz of energy that was alive in the room flowing through collaborating musicians. When you record track by track you can get a more perfect take but that live integrity is often lost. For old time, recording live was the only way. We loved the organic, in-the-moment performances that came from this session and are really proud of the result.
Can you recall the mood last April when you recorded?
Lomas: We started the evening with a cook out. Grilled hot dogs and beer. It’s a great way to record, and honestly just felt like a really productive party. The mood was relaxed and fun which really allowed everyone to give a great performance and take risks with their playing, and whooping and hollering.
You had friends, like Whitney Lanier, join in. How did she and Brothers Egg add to the album?
Lomas: We had been jamming with Hunter and Jamie Eggleston (Brothers Egg, as well at Tim Litchfield, founder of the Piedmont Old Time Society, for weeks. The Egglestons are very talented and creative musicians and we knew their sound would fill out this album nicely. Tim is a buddy of Jamie’s from our Greensboro days and they would often play together at old time jams and fiddle festivals in the Piedmont region.
Tim is truly an old time player and can pick up just about any instrument and make it sing. He is also very knowledgeable about the old time sound and we would often consult him about our arrangements of these songs to make sure we were staying within the realm of old time. There is sometimes a fine line between old time and bluegrass, and we didn’t want cross it. He added fiddle and banjo to the album and the occasional holler.
Whitney Lanier’s addition was completely impromptu. Whitney is a fantastic singer and a great friend of ours. Her boyfriend, Trent Harrison of Hourglass Studios, recorded us that April night and she decided to stop in to say hello. When she arrived, we took that as a sign from the universe that we needed some additional harmonies. She stayed just for a couple tracks. You can hear her rich harmonies on “Nine Pound Hammer” and “Cripple Creek.”
The recording was done in one day. Did the band map out what to record when?
Lomas: Although the overall feel of the album is that of a relaxed porch party, there was a lot of planning to make sure that recording ran smoothly. We planned out the order of recording based on the arrangements, personnel, key, instrumentation, and how vocally demanding a piece was. We knew we would record a few songs with just the Stray Local crew and saved these for last.
We also have an a cappella murder ballad and solo fiddle tune. We knew these would be well suited for the middle of the recording session to give everyone a much needed break. For me personally, this ensured that my voice would be warmed up but not completely worn out for “Omie Wise,” a vocally and emotionally demanding tune.
How did you discover “Cluck Ol Hen” by The Hillbillies?
Lomas: One semester in the Old Time Ensemble at UNCG, the class split into small groups. Each group picked an old time band and had to learn that band’s repertoire. Jamie’s group picked The Hillbillies, and upon researching, he stumbled upon “Cluck Ol’ Hen.” Jamie loves modal old time tunes – tunes that interplay between major and minor tonality. The words of “Cluck Ol’ Hen” were just icing on the cake. We have kept “Cluck Ol’ Hen” as a part of our repertoire ever since. This song has taken many different shapes for us through out the years. On Lonesome Road, you will hear just two of these renditions.
Making this album, what will take from it to the next project?
Lomas: We definitely enjoyed the live recording experience and believe it helped us capture a much more thrilling sound than when we recorded previously track by track. Although it may not be feasible to record our next album of originals completely in this way, we will definitely carry out elements of this style in order to preserve the live integrity. We already have many new original songs in the works and look forward to recording and sharing those.