Keep off the grass: OSFT goes 'experimental' on new CD

Old School Freight Train has added a drummer and a roots rock twang to their former bluegrass identity.

For fans of local bluegrass innovators Old School Freight Train, don't expect to hear much traditional bluegrass at Saturday's album release party. In fact, don't expect to hear bluegrass at all.

"The only thing I know for sure is that we are definitely not bluegrass anymore," says guitarist Jesse Harper. "It's more roots rock now. We still have violin, mandolin on the record, so maybe it's roots music, maybe Americana, but not bluegrass."

Created in 2000 with guitarist Jesse Harper's introduction to bassist Darrell Muller's bluegrass music in a North Carolina coffee shop, the band spent nearly the entirety of its existence as a successful jazz-infused bluegrass band, even garnering praise from mandolin master David Grisman.

Nearly a decade later, its ties to the bluegrass genre have slowly faded, and on Six Years, OSFT moves to the beat of a very different drummer– literally. Shuffling members, the band added drummer Nick Falk, while losing banjo player Ben Krakauer.

"Adding drums," says Harper, "took us out of that bluegrass thing."

Finding inspiration such artists as Britain's Radiohead, Philadelphia indie darling Dr. Dog, and Norwegian electronica artist Hanne Hukkelberg, OSFT embraced a new trajectory. Despite the band's previous new-grass success, OSFT began to concentrate on a new way of creating music, focusing on songwriting rather than instrumentation.

"In the past, the writing process happened as individuals and the arranging happened as a band," Harper explains. "Now, we write everything as a band."

Teaming up with local producer Chris Keup (who has worked with the likes of Jason Mraz and Parachute), OSFT tried all sorts of brainstorming methods for the new songs, including turning on random television channels for lyrical inspiration, and pulling chords out of a hat.

"The song 'Six Years' was generated from that kind of activity," Harper says. "The songs are going to make it in the band setting because we work on them together from the beginning."

The experimental songwriting doesn't just apply to the band's own work; the band, which has been praised for its covers of John Mayer, Coldplay, and Wilco, released a cover of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" to radio stations across the nation.

"It's fun to take a song and try to take everything away from it but the essence of the song," Harper says. "We re-harmonized it, giving it a dark quality."

For a band that's seen so much change, will they be recognizable on their new record? Never fear, Harper says. The band highlights their roots with a two-show release party at Gravity Lounge.

"One show is going to be more acoustic, an unplugged show with some bluegrass friends and the second will be a standing-rock show," Harper says. "We want to serve both sets of fans, so we'll play two different shows–- one of our old material, one of our newer stuff."

Old School Freight Train performs at Gravity Lounge on Saturday, March 21. Shows start at 7 pm and 10 pm, and tickets are $12.



Maris? In the Hall? It'll never happen, nor should it. Maris was mediocre by every conceivable measure. Lifetime BA of .260, averaged 147 hits/season, and hit more than 30 HRs just 3 times - 1960 (39), 1961 (61), and 1962 (33). Take away those three years and he averaged 15 HRs/Season. Definitely not Hall of Fame numbers. In the postseason he hit .217.

If Maris hit 61 this year, considering his past years he'd be suspected of being juiced. Nobody's saying he juiced. What I'm saying is one great season doth not a career make. If it did, Denny McLain would be in there.

There are many, many players the veterans committee ought to consider. None of them are named Maris.

The Roger Maris suggestion is a joke, right?

Maris would never have hit 61 unless he hit in front of Mantle. The author fails to grasp what it takes to be a hall of famer. Musson numbers were not career numbers either. He died too young and compared to other yankees really no deserving.

Yankee bias is never attractive

You have a point -- but remember, for many reasons, "why isn't player x in the Hall, because player y IS?" really doesn't play into the logic of the voters.

I agree - inaction of the Veterans' Committee this year might have led to its demise.

Joe Torre will almost certainly win election to the Hall as a manager. His playing career? You could argue either way on that.

Roger Maris was a very good outfielder, and a pretty good power hitter when he had the Mick hitting behind him, and he played on a pretty spectacular team. But as the Yanks declined, so did Roger's performance.

The fact that he, and Thurman Munson passed away before they should have, should not have a bearing on whether a guy gets in or doesn't get into the Hall.

The Veterans' Committee was not intended to be a "second chance". It was formed because there were many players from early baseball history, who had never been seen by the writers. In time, as most deserving "old timers" were selected by the Veterans' Committee, it evolved into a second chance opportunity. Since there had been a great deal of cronyism, buddies getting buddies in, etc., the Hall's trustees changed the format. The thinking is likely that most "old timers" have had some review by the Veterans' Committee over a long number of years, and it's time to stop the cronyism.

The one travesty - that hopefully will be remedied when the Special Committee meets (a board of HoF players, and Frick and Spink award winners) -- to get Buck O'Neal the honors that he missed while he was alive.

Maris still has the HR record, w/o gloves!

Gold Glove

What else you/they want/need?