Boasting a dynamic rhythm section of bass and drums, rootsy folk-rock quintet Parsonsfield‘s energetic approach to acoustic Americana has garnered great acclaim from fans and critics alike. The group writes original songs and draws upon the classic repertoire of American folk and blues, including songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Dave Van Ronk, and Bert Jansch. Occasionally they stretch into Grateful Dead territory, and they even do a version of “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News, rendering it totally their own.
The Connecticut-based ensemble brings its three-part high lonesome harmonies, banjos and mandolins, and an overall sound and approach that should appeal to fans of Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, to Club Helsinki Hudson on Sunday, May 5, at 8pm.
Parsonsfield’s latest release, “WE,” is contemplative, filled with real life struggle and excitement. In this collection of songs, Parsonsfield pushes the boundaries of its harmony-driven grassroots origins to create its own distinctive Americana, integrating pop and bold rock flourishes along the way. Produced by Dan Cardinal (Josh Ritter, The Low Anthem, Darlingside), “WE” captures the band’s maturing sound, having as much influence from 1990s rock and 1970s R&B as it does the indie-folk material that fans have come to expect.
Parsonsfield is Chris Freeman (vocals, banjo, guitar, bass), Antonio Alcorn (vocals, mandolin, banjo, bass), Max Shakun (vocals, guitar, keys, bass), Erik Hischmann (vocals, drums, percussion, bass). Highlights of “WE” include “Kick Out the Windows” – a kind of band manifesto. This performance video of “Let the Mermaids Flirt With Me” gives a sense of the power the band packs live onstage.
Parsonsfield draws its name from the rural Maine town that’s home to the Great North Sound Society, the farmhouse-turned-recording- studio of Josh Ritter keyboardist/producer Sam Kassirer. It was there that they cut their outstanding debut, “Poor Old Shine,” which established them as a roots force to be reckoned with.
The New York Times hailed the band (when it was still known as Poor Old Shine) as “boisterously youthful yet deftly sentimental,” while Folk Alley dubbed their songs “the most jubilant and danceable indie roots music this side of the Carolinas.” Their rowdy live performances only upped the ante, with the Bluegrass Situation falling for their “fun and frenzy” and No Depression raving that they’ll “give you rich five-part harmonies one minute, sound like bluegrass on steroids the next, and then rock you over the head with unbearably cool and raucous Celtic rhythms.”
American Songwriter says their album “Blooming Through the Black” “captures both the live energy the band has come to be known for as well as the sonic evolution that occurred…” in the studio. WNYC Soundcheck had the band in for a session and said that “their music draws on the string bands of Appalachia. At least in part. They also like to crank up the amps and pin your ears to the wall.”