(pronounced EEvee LAYdin – spelled E V I E L A D I N)
If a life well-lived is defined by the sum of its experiences, Evie Ladin has already lived one to the fullest, and she’s not done yet.
Ladin herself, a saucy chanteuse whose seductive prowess [is]… nothing less than a homespun hoot. This particular Fire emits plenty of down home heat.
— No Depression
Evie has always been surrounded by music – credit to her upbringing as daughter of an international folk dance teacher, and an old-time folk music devotee, she grew up thinking that playing music, dancing, singing with others was what people do. Though entrenched in the traditional cultural arts of Appalachia, her home was in Northern New Jersey, New York City, Baltimore – in cities, not mountains. But the tradition bearers came through these towns, and stayed in her house. They played in her living room, and weekends were spent running free at music festivals and house parties.
The neo-trad kinetic-folk of the Evie Ladin Band is a mingling of the deep Appalachian sound of clawhammer banjo, guitar, bass and percussive dance, with contemporary storytelling and original, conversational interplay among the band members. Some of their adventurousness comes from early hip hop in the high school cafeteria, some from Evie’s early attraction to, and study of, the African roots in Appalachian music and dance. She created an African Studies In Dance major at Brown University, then studied dance in Eastern Nigeria on a Fulbright Fellowship. While myriad world and contemporary music influences permeate the band’s choices, they never reach too far, remaining seamless and true to the stories they tell.
The ELB’s third record, JUMP THE FIRE, out May 6, shows the band’s evolution into a tight trio. Keith Terry (bass, Body Music, percussion, vocals), trained as a jazz drummer and most known for contemporary Body Music, goes after tonal percussion on bass, cajon, toys, with clever lines and unusual grooves. He and Evie met on the dance floor, and live a double life between the Folk/Americana circuit and the International Body Music scene they helped create – elements beautifully integrated into their live show. Erik Pearson (guitar, bass, banjo, vocals) fell in love with old-time music studying composition at Oberlin, and he contributes chordal containment and the ultimate support. Three-part harmony carries the music into the heart.
The new album opens with a snappy ode to summer festival jams, the adventurous title track “Jump the Fire.” From there on, a folk operetta emerges as you move down the tracks, and the listener follows a story. From the roaring party of the opener, to settling in on the smooth “Cozy,” traveling down through perhaps the world’s only Appalachian/Broadway mash-up “Ease on Down,” falling in love to the Carter Family’s “Honey Lou;” the sauciness of “Heat of the Day” to a first family “Two = 3.” The traditional “Coocoo” gets a rhythmic send-up. One then follows the relationship into the slog of straight-up grown-up life in “Have it All,” and the percussive “Walking in a Straight Line.” Witness the dissolution of love with the Louvin Brothers/Beatles-inspired “Only You,” the raw humor on “Drinking About You,” the raw humanity of floating loss in “Under the Waterline.” The opera bookends in action: pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and “Jump Up & Go.”
The arrangement of the tracks wasn’t originally intended to follow a storyline; the band set out to convey the energy and character of their live show, capturing sonically the palpable connection they hold with audiences – an electric experience, showcasing mastery of percussive dance and emotive, nuanced stories in catchy songs.
Yet each track on JUMP THE FIRE was the culmination of many experiences. Evie’s upbringing plays a big part, as does a terrible bike-car accident that nearly took her life, and left one leg shorter, inhibiting a dance career, but never stopping her from including dance in her work. Near-death experiences give one a lust for living, and one hears that in Evie’s songwriting and performance. After countless tours and travels, in mid-career, Evie needed the rejuvenation of a sabbatical. She took a writer’s retreat, with the exceptional challenge of writing 20 songs in 12 hours. She collected over 100 pieces of songs from several years of touring and teaching, singing into her recorder, writing on scraps, and finally gave them the time. She left the retreat with over 25 songs; and when she played them for her band, they loved each song more than the last. Galvanized on her path, Jump the Fire was born with the Evie Ladin Band 3.0. The band has gathered an eclectic, devoted following, from A Prairie Home Companion to Celtic Connections, Lincoln Center to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, First Nations reservations in Canada to a premier jazz club in Istanbul.
Precisely because Evie was raised to know that music, dance and singing are what humans do together, she is an avid educator and community facilitator, at all ages and levels, in diverse communities. An electric and entertaining live performer, balancing performing with hands on teaching has proven extremely satisfying. Music is meant to move. Music is to do. In listening, live or on record, Evie keeps bringing you back to these basics, while savoring the real stuff of life. Jump the Fire!