BRATTLEBORO -- The New Line presents a CD release concert for "Can’t Hold the Wheel" on Friday at 7:30 p.m., at Headroom Stages, 17 Elliot St.
The New Line, led by front-man Brendan Taaffe on mbira, brings together American and African musical ideas in an re-invention of Appalachian ballads. With Adam Hurt on gourd banjo, Colin McCaffrey on electric guitar and Stefan Amidon on percussion and vocals, this is music from the intimate borderlands of indie-folk and afropop.
For the New Line, it all begins with the mbira, the traditional thumb piano of the Shona people in Zimbabwe. Though Taaffe is a multi-faceted musician (he plays guitar, fiddle, banjo, and is a well-regarded choral composer), it is on the mbira that he has found a distinctive voice, blending traditional Shona technique with his love for old-time songs. He traveled to Zimbabwe to study with master mbria players.
The mbira is complemented by Adam Hurt’s gourd banjo playing, a musical seed planted when Hurd was at one of Taaffe’s gigs and the two were talking at the break. Based in North Carolina, Hurd is one of the country’s top clawhammer players-dubbed a "banjo virtuoso" by the Washington Post and winner of most of the old-time banjo competitions in the country.
The tight interplay of the two instruments is filled out with McCaffrey, one of Vermont’s top session players and the album’s engineer, on electric guitar; Stefan Amidon of The Sweetback Sisters on drums, Lake Street Dive’s Mike "McDuck" Olson on trumpet and folk chanteuse Heather Masse on harmony vocals.
The ripple of mbira and banjo casts familiar songs in a new light, and -- far from being overstuffed with ideas -- the album as a whole is spare and intimate.
Tickets to the Dec. 6 CD release show at Headroom Stages are $12 at the door.. For information, visit www.newlinemusic.net.