From a small seed the Mighty Poplar grows.
That’s the name chosen for the latest modern bluegrass supergroup to emerge on the scene. Mighty Poplar consists of members from four of the top draws on the contemporary acoustic music scene. Banjoist Noam Pikelny and guitarist Chris Eldridge come from Punch Brothers; fiddler Alex Hargreaves from Billy Strings; bass player Greg Garrison from Leftover Salmon; and mandolinist Andrew Marlin from the Watchouse Band.
That’s quite a collection of string music experience in one group, who have assembled out of their sheer love for the music, and with being together to make it. Garrison already knew Eldridge and Pikelny from the first iteration of Punch Brothers, and Marlin became friends through touring alongside the Punchers last year with Watchouse. Hargreaves knew them all through multiple backstage jams over the years.
Andrew served as the impetus for their upcoming self-titled album on Free Dirt Records, in his capacity as a song collector and lead vocalist, but he admits he sees himself as a bit out of place among these recognized masters of their instruments.
“When I think about it from a player’s perspective, I didn’t feel like I belonged in this group; I haven’t spent my life trying to improve my chops. I’ve been more of a song gatherer.”
In truth, though Andrew is the primary singer, it was Greg who first pitched the idea of this project with these artists as collaborators, inspired by the concept of a modernized version of the iconic recordings of the Bluegrass Album Band in the 1980s.
“My love for the sound and feel of those Bluegrass Album Band records–the energy, the undeniable chemistry, the subtle virtuosity–led me to imagine what that might look like in our collective gumbo of today’s bluegrass.”
Chris agreed, recalling the times he spent digging through those albums and studying the musicians who played on them.
“We grew up on those records. We loved the idea of musicians banding together for a special project where you explore your common influences.”
And he said that getting together for this Mighty Poplar project was as simple and comfortable as a friendly jam session.
“It felt so special and effortless; it didn’t take work, other than the work and effort we’ve put in the rest of our lives.”
A debut single is released today, their version of Martha Scanlon’s Up on the Divide, an easygoing waltz about life in the mountain west.
Here the Mighty Poplars perform it in a music video.
The single for Up On The Divide is available now from popular download and streaming services online. Pre-orders for the Mighty Poplar album are also enabled online ahead of its March 31 release.