Boundary-bursting Bluegrass bands bond: Hank, Pattie & the Current play State Theatre with Icelandic Bluegrassers Brek & Into the Fog
Capable of playing Bach to bluegrass, Hank, Pattie, and The Current (HP&C) established themselves as a band whose signature sound colors outside the lines of musical norms. Attempts at assigning labels sometimes settle on “soulgrass.” They’ve forged their own style with whimsically wowing originals like “Earl of Vienna,” a nod to Bluegrass banjo phenom Earl Scruggs. But with their current North Carolina Winter Tour, they’ve gone a step, or one might say a continent further.
Next Saturday [Feb. 11] hometown favorite fiddler Pattie Hopkins Kinlaw will be joined by more than banjo player Hank Smith, guitarist Billie Feather, and bassist Stevie Martinez, the consummate musicians that complete the HP&C ensemble. A unique musical collaboration promises to bring a distinctive show to the State Theatre, the adding Icelandic band Brek and Merlefest band competition winners Into the Fog.
Kinlaw explains how the trans-Atlantic partnership came about: “Initially, Hank was planning to visit Iceland. Before his arrival, he was looking for bluegrass players in the country and struck up an online conversation, leading him to meet Ilgressi, at the time Iceland’s only bluegrass band. That band went on to re-form as Brek, During COVID they released several online videos as part of a way to stay connected during the pandemic. Years later, Brek was accepted as an official showcase artist at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, Missouri.”
HP&C decided to form a week-long tour across North Carolina as part of Brek’s time in the States. The band has plans to release video footage highlighting favorite moments during the week-long tour, showcasing some regional color, including Greenville. Perhaps going home Brek’s grass will be blue tinged with a hint of purple and gold.
Brek is an award winning folk band, Kinlaw explains, that brings their original music and fresh take on acoustic music: “They sing songs in English and Icelandic and will definitely bring a unique experience to the State Theatre and Greenville.”
Seeking to break down walls between genres, Brek also strives to connect the Icelandic folk heritage with other types of folk music.
With instruments like banjo, guitar, fiddle and bass, HP&C comes across at first glance as a bluegrass or folk band. But listen closer, Kinlaw says, and you’ll hear themes from the band members’ childhood musical influences through present day and the merging of their individual styles. That includes but is not limited to blues, rock, folk, jazz, bluegrass and even classical.
“This present lineup is the most collaborative to date,” she said. “I feel like many artists may dodge collaborating because they are so used to working alone or don’t want to sacrifice creative control, but we believe there can be much worth to experience the evolution of artistic opportunity.”
Also included in the lineup is the Raleigh-based “genre-jumping string band” that promises to get foggy with it. Into The Fog took home the gold in the coveted Merlefest band competition in 2021.
“We love their youthful energy and their showmanship is highly contagious!” Kinlaw said of the group whose name implies purposeful genre ambiguity, but has managed to win the admiration of both traditional and contemporary music lovers due to their performance prowess. “We enjoy sharing the stage with our local music family, as we cross paths in the Raleigh area a bit. This will be the first time we are billed together and look forward to our performance.”
Each of the bands will be playing their own set along with some “unique cross performances.”
The tentative lineup will begin with Brek performing a 30-minute set starting at 8pm, followed by a one-hour Into the Fog set at 8:45pm. Hank, Pattie and the Current will cap the night with a one hour set beginning at 10pm.
The collaborative concert is also on their official vinyl release weekend, and the band is having a listening party/meet ‘n greet/LP signing at Alleycat Records, 205 E. 5th Street in Greenville on Saturday , Feb. 11, 2:00-4:00 pm.
Jeff Blinder of Alleycat Records said the afternoon vinyl release event is completely free: “Folks can purchase their new album and have it signed in person and meet and chat with the musicians. The State Theatre will be sending us advance printed tickets so folks can buy them without any fees. They don’t have a box office so we’ll be the exclusive spot to get physical tickets.”
Tickets may also be purchased online. Advanced tickets, $15 each, or in a 4 pack, $8.75 each.
“Hank and I are both collaboration artists,” Kinlaw says. “We thrive on the musical conversations that we can create together and the merging of styles. You never know what you may see, especially as the tour unfolds and the HP&C + Brek relationship evolves.”
Here’s hoping they call the highlights video their “Nordic Carolina Tour.”
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Originally published in the Daily Reflector February 4, 2023.