Chapel Hill’s indie Americana quartet Mipso – Jacob Sharp (mandolin, vocals), Wood Robinson (bass, vocals), Joseph Terrell (guitar, vocals)and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle, vocals) – is influenced by the contradiction of the band’s progressive hometown and the surrounding rural southern landscapes.
Mipso’s fifth album, “Edges Run,” came out earlier this month and is currently topping Billboard’s bluegrass chart. The band will perform at The Palms Playhouse (13 Main St. in Winters) on Saturday, April 28, starting at 8 p.m.
Heralded by The Guardian as being “poised to be a new sort of Nickel Creek for the rising generation of folk/newgrass fans,”Mipso got started in 2011, playing roots music that grew out of their regions strong string band tradition. Since then, the band has ventured from its string-band pedigree to discover a broader Americana where classic folk-rock and modern alt-country sounds mingle easily with Appalachian tradition.
Adding pedal steel, drums, banjo, and keyboards to the intimate four-part harmonies and powerful acoustic meld, Mipso’s music is lush and forward moving, with lyrics that sear and salve in turn. Hailed by Acoustic Guitar as “hewing surprisingly close to gospel and folk while still sounding modern and secular” and recently highlighted by Rolling Stone with a “Artist You Need to Know” designation, Mipso’s sound is full of wistful beauty, hopeful undercurrents and panoramic soundscapes.
Mipso has always been a creative democracy, and on “Edges Run”the band takes this ideal to greater lengths than ever before.
“We’re four personalities with different ways of telling stories who hope to tell a stronger story collectively,” says Rodenbough. “Working so closely forces all of your edges to rub up against each other.”
“We’d all seen a lot of change in a short period,” says Sharp of the time between the band’s previous 2016 release, “Coming Down The Mountain,” and “Edges Run,” which wasrecorded in early 2017. “Three of us moved out of the Triangle area and into other places. We had relationships end and deaths of friends and family members.”
Those events alone could account for the deeply introspective themes on “Edges Run”, recorded during the dead of winter in Eugene, Oregon. “We were beginning to feel, probably for the first time, that youth was more behind us than ahead, and so I think we were all feeling different pressures closing in,” says Sharp. So the band took a step back to consider their songs-in-progress — and took a leap of faith in traveling far from their North Carolina comfort zone to record in Oregon with producer (and bassist) Todd Sickafoose (Ani DiFranco, Andrew Bird, Anaïs Mitchell).
They carried with them into the sessions a desire to stretch themselves beyond previously known roads of composition and performance. For the first time, Mipso came to the studio with sketches of songs rather than fully fleshed arrangements and decided to co-write songs together, also a first for the band.
“We decided to let ourselves explore new ideas and new sounds for this album, not knowing quite what that would feel like. We had to trust that the end result would sound honest, would sound like us,” says Terrell.
Call it a new level of confidence or a developing collective consciousness, but with five years as a band and hundreds of nights on the road together, with the release of “Edges Run” Mipso retains its traditional roots while becoming thoroughly modern, intuitive musicians with the ability to transcend conventions and embrace what lies ahead.
“We have a better idea of what we can do, and how we want to do it,” says Sharp.
Tickets are $22 and are available online via The Palms’ website and through Eventbrite, and at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland and at the door if not sold out.
For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and mipsomusic.com.