Nora Jane Struthers & The Party line play acoustic Americana Sunday in Beaver Creek’s Vilar
If You Go ..
What: Nora Jane Struthers & Party Line, part of the Underground Sound Series.
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: $20 general admission
More information: Call the VPAC Box Office at 970-845-8497, or go to http://www.vilarpac.org.
BEAVER CREEK — Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line are a traveling carnival of acoustic Americana, riding around and collecting stories. The best stories aren’t on the main stage, said Nora Jane.
“When you go to a carnival, you go into a sideshow tent, and on every stage you find a different person with a different story,” she said.
On Sunday, the sideshow is the Vilar Performing Arts Center when Nora Jane Struthers & The Party Line perform as part of the Underground Sound series.
Some of us will remember Nora Jane as the lead singer in Barefoot Bluegrass, a Vilar regular. She and Party Line are Joe Overton (clawhammer banjo and harmony vocals), Drew Lawhorn (drums), Joshua Vana (electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica) and Brian Duncan Miller (bass guitar).
Nora Jane’s music draws on her traditionalist roots — her father Alan is a bluegrass musician — but with the addition of drums, their new album “Carnival,” takes a bend toward more progressive roots-rock bands such as Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers.
“I’m really passionate about the stories in the old ballads and story-songs,” Nora Jane said. “I want story-songs to live on in a way that will be accessible to more people. When we hear another person’s story, we gain perspective and are changed; we’re able to see our own lives through new eyes.”
Life is a Carnival
“Carnival” is Nora Jane’s third release and was three years in the making. Recorded at Bret Truitt’s (Dolly Parton, Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks) East Nashville studio, “Carnival” is the recording debut of the touring band, the Party Line, which takes its handle from one of the record’s songs about the early days of rural telephone calls.
It reflects her background in literature. She was born in Virginia, went to college at NYU and taught English in a Brooklyn charter school before cutting her musical teeth as a folk-rock performer in New York clubs.
She made her recording debut in “Dirt Road Sweetheart,” a duo with her father. Not long afterward, she piled her belongings into her 1998 Honda Odyssey and relocated from New York to Nashville.
“Carnival” tends to reflect a single point of view — hers.
“I realized that I was writing a collection of story-songs from a female perspective,” Nora Jane said. “I was able to arrange them chronologically, as teenagers, then women, then old women. The album has a narrative, from girlhood to death.”
Shortly after taking first place at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June 2010, Nora Jane teamed up with Bearfoot and released an album, “American Story.” The album featured six songs either written or co-written by Nora Jane, teaming with Nashville masters Tim O’Brien and Claire Lynch. One of them, “Tell Me a Story,” became a top-rated video on CMT.
That video helped her mount a successful Kickstarter campaign to pay for “Carnival.”
“My goal was to raise $20,000 in 30 days, and I raised $22,000. It was all from touring and making new fans and meeting people,” she said.
Nora Jane performs wearing her personal collection of vintage dresses, so she looks like a throwback, but she’s all about the future.
“Over the past three years, as I’ve been touring and performing, I realized that primarily I’m a storyteller,” she said. “I’ve been working to hone my skills so I can do that better.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @torqueandrecoil.