Not long ago I discovered a band that caught my attention. Rabbi John is a New Timey (their term) band from the UK. The quartet describe themselves as a fusion of bluegrass, folk, and old time music all tied together with a fresh modern sound.
The band consists of Paul Bienek on clawhammer (mostly) banjo and lead vocals, Becky Dellow on fiddle, Duncan Kingson on bass, and Jason Titley on guitar.
I’m a pretty hard core bluegrass fan and not normally much for old time music. Rabbi John caught my ear though. I think it had something to do with their drive, musicianship, Bienek’s soulful vocals, and the aggressive nature of their music along with interesting arrangements. Not to mention the great tone they all pull on their respective instruments.
I was able to contact Jason Titley, he’s one fine guitar player btw, and ask him a few questions about the band.
When was Rabbi John formed?
This is our 3rd year now so 2004.
What was the catalyst that prompted the formation?
The meeting between Becky the Fiddle player and Myself, I had left the band “Daily Planet” in 2000 and had been looking for a project with more singing and met Becky at a dinner party and then roped in Paul on banjo and an old comrade from the planet Duncan on bass.
One question that is sure to pop into people’s heads is about the band name. Where did the name, Rabbi John, come from?
The name is from a tune that our banjo player wrote on discovering he was adopted with a Catholic father and a Jewish mother.
How would you define the band’s place in the acoustic music scene?
As I’m sure you have seen from the web site, we like to call it “New Timey” music. We play mostly festivals (bluegrass and folk) and arts centres and I would say we are one of the tighter and more exciting bands on the scene in the UK writing nearly all of our own material now.
You are UK based, yes?
Yes, based in Gloucestershire near Bristol.
Do you have any plans to tour in the US?
We all have young families and I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. I would love to come over again with this band having toured twice in the US with the Daily Planet playing such festivals as Telluride and Happy Jack and met such great musicians who are now friends as Tim O Brien, David Grier, Tony Furtado and Matt Flinner not to mention all the wonderful kind hearted people who made our stay such a memorable time.
Somebody convince these guys to come to the states so I can take in a show. Or feel free to send me there, either way’s OK with me!
Take the time to go check out their website and listen to some of their music.
Jason tells me they are working on a new CD that will be out later this year. I’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s available.