Black Prairie (OR)
What began as an experimental bluegrass side-project by three members of The Decemberists, Jenny Conlee (vocals, accordion), Nate Query (bass, cello) and Chris Funk (vocals, bouzouki, dobro, weissenborn), together with fellow Portland musicians Annalisa Tornfelt (vocals, fiddle) and Jon Neufeld (guitar, vocals) in 2007 has morphed, after two albums, into quite a phenomenon. The Black Prairie soundscape is unique, open-minded and expansive. It contains a few traditional songs, but is mostly an eclectic set of collectively-penned tunes with influences ranging from straight-ahead bluegrass, old time and Appalachian folk to gypsy and klezmer. You might even hear some classical overtones in the mix. This year saw this Portland supergroup perform live on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, and they’re playing both at the Newport Folk Festival and on Ed Helm’s Bluegrass Stage at Bonaroo as well. There’s a real buzz about this group, and now we get to feel that vibe for ourselves!