Members of Punch Brothers, Watchhouse, Leftover Salmon and Billy Strings’ Band to Unite as Mighty Poplar
Today, a new bluegrass band called Mighty Poplar sprouted from rich American soil. The ensemble is comprised of members of Leftover Salmon, Billy Strings’ touring band, Punch Brothers and Watchhouse and will release a self-titled debut LP on March 31 via Free Dirt Records.
In celebration of their arrival, the band–comprised of Watchhouse’s Andrew Marlin, Chris Eldridge and Noam Pikelny of Punch Brothers, Leftover Salmon’s Greg Garrison and Alex Hargreaves of Billy Strings live show fame–released their debut single “Up On The Divide” alongside a live video.
Garrison was already familiar with Eldrige and Pikelny from his own tenure with Punch Brothers, but it was backstage jam sessions with Marlin that lead the band to coalesce. Their debut LP came together as they sat together in a cabin outside Nashville with the spirit of just flowing and making music. Before long, they resulted in a 10-track project comprised of covers Marlin had familiarized himself with over the years. Mighty Poplar sees Marlin singing lead on songs by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Norman Blake and more.
“The songs really came into their own in front of the mics,” Pikelny explained in a statement. “A lot of first or second exploratory ideas made it onto the record, as opposed to having an idea being thrown out and having weeks of refining and tweaking. I love catching that initial energy and spark. It means that things won’t always be squeaky clean, but I’ll take that lightning in a bottle over perfection.”
According to a press release, the project was heavily inspired by The Bluegrass Album Band’s releases in the ’80s, which welcomed a rotation of the era’s best performers to cover the most beloved recordings.
“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,” Garrison added. “We grew up on those records,” Eldridge added. “We loved the idea of musicians banding together for a special project where you explore your common influences.”
Their individual musical virtuosity allows the newly formed unit to offer new approaches to classic and iconic compositions from the most revered songwriters, and they do so unflinchingly regardless of the weight of the original.
“Cohen’s version [of “Story of Isaac”] was so heavy,” Marlin shared. “The first time I ever heard him sing that tune, I felt like I’d just survived falling down a hill. For our version, I tried to take this really serious heavy subject and put it to some not-quite-as-heavy music. You take sad songs and make them sound a little happier, and you’ve got yourself a Stanley Brothers album all of a sudden.”
Pre-order Mighty Poplar here.
Listen to Might Poplar’s debut song, a cover of Martha Scanlan’s “Up On The Divide,” below.