“We wanted a name that referenced music that comes from the hills, something that represented the old-time and bluegrass elements that are at the core of our music,” says Appalachian Still member Andrew Woodland (clawhammer banjo). “‘From the Mountain Still’ was proposed. After tossing it around, we finally settled on ‘Appalachian Still.’ We like the double entendre that brings the old moonshine still into the mix, and having a band name that starts with an ‘A’ doesn’t hurt when we’re in an alphabetical listing.”
Originally formed as a trio in the spring of 2005, the Northampton roots music group now features five members: Woodland, Jared Libby (acoustic guitar), Derrick Bovee (acoustic bass), Ivan Ussach (drums) and Andrea Asprelli (fiddle). Though initially the band focused on performing old-time, traditional bluegrass and folk music, Appalachian Still’s sound, much like the band’s size, has expanded over the years. The 2011 album Feelin’ Alive! even features elements of classic rock and rockabilly, and the band claims it is apt to play just about anything in a live setting.
Woodland says, “As the evening wears on and the beer starts to flow, anything can happen musically. I think one of the hallmarks of our band’s sound now is the harmony singing. It’s something we didn’t do quite as much of in the beginning, but it permeates the music now.”
One of the big reasons for this change has been the emergence of Asprelli as a vocalist. The New Haven-based fiddler originally played with Appalachian Still while a student at Mount Holyoke College several years ago, but it wasn’t until the rest of the group saw her perform as part of another band that they realized how skilled she was vocally.
Another big change for Appalachian Still has been the decision to add drums to the band’s sound. While many traditional bluegrass acts only feature acoustic instruments, Woodland maintains that Ussach’s joining the group “added a whole new dimension and kicked up the energy level.”
Not content to just play shows and record music for themselves and their fans, the members of Appalachian Still are also looking ahead to a big event that will help their music reach a much larger audience and raise money for a local organization.
“We’re working on the Second Annual 2012 Hilltown Bluegrass Festival,” says Woodland. “The first one we had was a resounding success, and we raised decent money for the Hilltown CDC. We’re looking to make this year’s festival even more successful.”
Libby adds, “[Also] right now, we’re building up a list of songs that we can take into the studio with us for a follow-up to Feelin’ Alive. For us, the best preparation for recording has been to play a lot of shows. When we’re playing live, we really get a chance to work out details from night to night. This way we can really focus when we get in the studio.”•