As folk music makes a revival in the U.S., one local band is at the forefront of that movement in Winchester-Clark County.
Booming with the success of acts like Jason Isbell, Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers, folk music’s resurgence is at once a testament to Kentuckians’ longing for the hills that have cradled our families for generations and a departure from the slick, produced sounds comprising many modern pop sounds today.
For local band Rifletown, that longing means taking the sweet with the bitter and distilling it into music that resonates with fans of all ages.
Jason Howard (rhythm guitar and harmonica, lead and harmony vocals), Mason McCord (banjo, guitar, lead and harmony vocals), Collin Wallace (bass, guitar, harmony vocals), Randon Uhrig (lead guitar) and Tyler Montgomery (drums) are bringing their music to a wide local audience these days, sharing songs about the comfort of Kentucky, friendships, love and loss, and their experiences with being on the road.
When added to drums, guitar and bass, their mixture of banjo and harmonies turn each song into something elevated, creating soaring melodies that leave the listener nostalgic for home.
Yet melancholy isn’t on the menu; rather, they want to project high energy on-stage to keep their audience in a good head-space. With lots of outdoor shows — the band plays private parties on the river and at Cave Run Lake — Rifletown takes inspiration from the scenic views the Winchester area has to offer and mixes a good time with each song.
With influences that run the gamut from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Dave Matthews, Rifletown aims to create music that can’t be pinned down. When they do covers, the goal isn’t to rehash a song everyone knows, but rather to put a new spin on it. The end result is the listener can find something a little familiar while enjoying a totally new experience at the same time.
Surprisingly, the band doesn’t tend to plan out their songs too meticulously; when they go into rehearsal, it all melds and forms organically, leaving room for creativity.
“Jason Howard and Mason McCord write most of the originals, mostly autobiographical,” the band said in a statement. “We try to write what we know. We don’t pick parts for each musician, the parts come together naturally in rehearsal. We try to give our own spin to covers. They often end up not sounding much like the original song, and we think that’s pretty cool.”
Rifletown’s laid-back approach to music helps them stand out amongst their peers.
Bluegrass and folk music have long been a tradition in this region, with hundreds of bands vying for their own little place in music history, yet Rifletown has managed to gently ease their way onto the scene without demanding anything of their listeners other than a need to have fun.
They can add harmonica to a song about throwing back a few beers and pull in fans who understand the need to find release after a long day at work while reminding them of what lies at the heart of Americana music: camaraderie.
The band’s dynamic shows on stage with every performance, keeping each player in sync with one another even as they have a blast putting on a show.
“There’s so much good local music happening right now that the bar is set really high. So we strive to reach that level,” the band says, adding that its favorite local acts include Jory Bowling, Tyler Childers, Lark Watts, Buck Winburn, Driftwood Gypsy and The Wooks.
Rifletown can often be found playing spots like Country Boy Brewing and The Waterfront Grille and have several shows coming up in the area; you can check out their Facebook page for dates.
They’re also hard at work on a new EP, due out in early 2019, and are gearing up for a show on Red Barn Radio Nov. 28, which will be broadcast on NPR.
In the meantime, they’re enjoying their fans and all the support they receive.
“Our Facebook insights say our target demographic is women over 65, but we have friends and supporters from all walks of life, all over the place. There are too many familiar faces at our shows to name them all, but we appreciate each and every one of them, and we’re always happy to see their smiling faces.” §