Doors and Windows, the new Compass Records release from Bearfoot, shows just how far this young band has come in a few years’ time.
Bearfoot consists of Kate Hamre on bass, Mike Mickelson on guitar, Jason Norris on mandolin, Angela Oudean on fiddle, and Odessa Jorgensen on vocals and fiddle. All but Jorgensen have been performing together for some time in the group.
Not long ago, they were Bearfoot Bluegrass, a leading light in Alaska’s small but determined bluegrass music scene. The band served as bluegrass missionaries, hosting music camps for kids in their home state, and performing throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Now, their members are living in Tennessee, California and Colorado as well as Alaska, and they are signed to a major independent label based in Nashville. Their tours take them all over the US where they play to enthusiastic audiences.
You can still hear the schooling they received in bluegrass and old time music on Doors and Windows, but the sound is more modern, with influences from any number of pop and acoustic styles. The band wrote most of the material, which shapes their sound as it does any group who records their own music, and in this case it is Odessa Jorgensen who leaves the biggest stamp on the CD.
Odessa has written 4 out of the 11 songs on the new CD. We had a chance recently to talk with her about the new CD and how she came to be a part of this challenging new band – starting with her musical upbringing.
“I picked up the violin at age four. My family is very musical and I was homeschooled, which gave me the freedom to devote a lot of my time to music. As a kid I was heavily involved in the classical music scene in the Bay Area of California – I was part of a chamber orchestra for several years and played in various quartets. My dad and I (he played guitar) started writing instrumental tunes together when I was about 10 years old. I formed a rootsy Americana/Rock and Roll band when I was 15 with some friends of mine, and it was then that I started branching out and creating original music.
The first time I went to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Fran I was blown away ‚Äì I saw Gillian and Dave, Doc Watson, and Emmylou Harris all for the first time ‚Äì all the greats. I knew then that I wanted to play that sort of music so I finished high school, packed my car, and drove to Nashville. I didn’t know anybody there, but I felt sure that’s where I needed to go for music. I fell in with the most amazing and supportive group of people and I learned so much just being around so many great musicians. I started getting into old time fiddle and writing my own songs on guitar and I played with and learned from anyone who would teach me.
My first IBMA I met Mary Lucey of The Biscuit Burners. We had a great time jamming all night in the stairwell and a few days later she called me up to see if I was interested in being in a band. Just a few months after that I was on the road full time as a member of The Biscuit Burners.”
Jorgensen stayed with The Biscuit Burners until the summer of 2008, which was exactly when an opening had occurred with Bearfoot.
“I first met Bearfoot at RockyGrass right before I moved to Nashville. After I joined The Biscuit Burners, we would see each other at various festival across the states.
Last summer I left The Biscuit Burners about the same time Bearfoot was looking for a new singer/fiddler, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I went a few trial period tours – we connected musically and had a wonderful time together. It just felt right ‚Äì that was 8 months ago.”
The new CD was produced by Garry West of Compass, and recorded in their Nashville studio. The Compass folks were kind enough to allow us to excerpt a few tracks to help introduce their music to our readers, and Odessa shared a few words about each of them.
Oh My Love – Listen now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/oh_my_love.mp3]
“This is a song by our good friend Megan McCormick. She sent us a demo recording while we were song hunting and we all thought it had a great energy and groove.”
Single Girl – Listen now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/single_girl.mp3]
“Single Girl is a fun traditional song ‚Äì very danceable. There are some heavier tunes on the album, so this one seemed like a good lighthearted addition.”
Good In The Kitchen – Listen now: [http://media.libsyn.com/media/thegrasscast/kitchen.mp3]
“Good in the Kitchen is great – the band put this one together before I was a member. I love performing it live, it gets everyone to sing,and who doesn’t like getting dirty in the kitchen?
When we went into the studio to record Doors and Windows all of our material was very raw. We hadn’t had a lot of time together as a band to develop a concrete sound. I think that ended up working to our advantage because we were all open to each others ideas. There were no boundaries or preconceptions, it was a very natural process.
We all brought material to the table – originals and the like. We would play a song together, come up with loose arrangements, record it on Garage Band, listen back and then determine whether or we thought it was a good fit. A few of the tracks were added in the studio.”
Audio for all the tracks on Doors and Windows can be found on the Bearfoor site.