Comprised of Isabel Dammann on fiddle, Krisys Bergmark on tabla, and Ilan Blanck on guitar, the trio that refers to itself as Sprig of That takes a decidedly exotic approach to their rootsy regimen, one that finds them infusing their Midwestern sensibilities with the innovative and inspirational sounds gleaned from more adventurous artists such as Zakir Hussain, Chris Thile, and Béla Fleck. The result makes for a distinctive sound which, while paying heed to such traditions, also gives them a unique identity.
The trio’s full-length debut, bloom, finds some formidable support from producer Wes Corbett (Sam Bush Band, Joy Kill Sorrow) and engineer Dave Sinko (Punch Brothers, Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer). It’s a cohesive collaboration in every sense, given Sprig’s singular compositions, Corbett’s care and craft, and Sinko’s ability to capture it all so precisely. Longtime Sprig collaborator Olivia Dierks of The OK Factor also makes a guest appearance on several of the tracks.
Formed in Minneapolis in 2018, the group honed their skills while on the road, and in 2021, they released Eight Threads, a cross-genre collaboration comprising eight compositions written for the trio by eight very different Twin Cities-based music makers. They ranged from improvisational cellists and singer-songwriters to contemporary classical and big band composers. The group then released Eight Threads: Unraveled, a self-produced podcast series that shared the stories of the people that were involved with each piece. In addition, under the aegis of Sprig of That, they’ve released two EPs, 2019’s Sprig of That and 2020’s Untold.
Nevertheless, bloom ranks as the trio’s most ambitious effort yet, ten songs that share the influences of several different genres while still retaining an acoustic ambiance. All instrumental, bliss begins on a, well…blissful note, with the soothing sounds of This Time, Last Week. The album then manages to maintain that mellow mood with nearly all the songs that follow. A Moment We Cant Understand is, as its title suggests, relaxed and reflective, while several other offerings — Emma, Slowly But Surely, Kirenaka and Riversong in particular, provide a certain lift and lilt that keeps to that feeling of tenderness and tranquility.
That said, the arrangements are relatively spare, and yet they flow fluidly throughout. The instruments intertwine effortlessly and effectively, providing a series of serene soundscapes with a calming caress. Neither the hurried pace and frenzied fiddle of the auspiciously titled On the Rocks, or the upbeat approach of Something In the Pond, detract from that melodic mindset.
East meets west in the full bloom of Sprig of That’s demonstrative designs. Indeed, in this case, the twain between the two easily intersects.