Jump the Fire
Reviewed by: Max Miller
While a student of Appalachian tradition, Evie Ladin has set out to show that mountain music does not actually need to remain rooted to the mountains. Though now based out of Oakland, Ladin notes that a lifetime of wanderlust, with stints in New York and Baltimore, has gifted her and her band with a more all-encompassing ear for music. She boasts of the influence of hip-hop, funk and other genres on her otherwise traditional, banjo-centric folk music, and on Jump the Fire, her third full-length, she and bandmates Keith Terry and Erik Pearson set out to try to prove it.
Ladin wrote what would become Jump the Fire while sequestered in a cabin in the woods with a self-imposed ban on phones, the Internet and other niceties of modern living. That seclusion seeps into softer numbers like “Cozy” and “Heat Of the Day,” where Terry and Pearson’s additional instrumentation and backing vocals remain minimal, so as not to break the intimacy. The album is structured around a very traditional core of instrumentation. Ladin plays the banjo on the majority of the tunes, with Terry mostly switching between bass and percussion, ranging from standard drumming to bamboo spoons to jangling keys. Pearson mostly handles guitar duties, including a resophonic guitar on “Two = 3” and “Only You.”
More upbeat numbers, like the title track or “Walking In A Straight Line,” feature body percussion from Ladin and Terry. The latter uses groovy bass and the intricate percussion to give the song a hip-hop vibe, while the percussion on the former gives it a particularly old-timey feel. If anything, Jump the Fire often wallows in this sort of nostalgic traditionalism, instead of pursuing the charms found on “Walking In A Straight Line.” While masterful within its genre’s constraints, the Evie Ladin Band doesn’t really demonstrate the full power of its imagination when it comes to bringing in unexpected twists.