The Jon Stickley Trio is on the road again, following the release of its third full length album, Make Believe. Produced by Dave King of The Bad Plus fame, the new disc follows through on the trio’s potential of bending and blending musical genres into exciting music.
“The latest record from the Jon Stickley Trio flexes new and strong muscles, utilizing more progressive structures and deeper pockets than ever before,” Dave King said in a release. “All the while, the group retains its place as a modern-thinking acoustic ensemble with one foot in tradition and the other in a bluegrass-honoring future that allows for the avant garde, punk, and be-bop to mix in freely and tastefully.”
The album title, Maybe Believe, continues the theme from Lost at Last, the trio’s critically acclaimed 2015 release, also produced by Dave King. Lost at Last garnered praise from The New York Times, NPR’s Heavy Rotation, NPR’s World Cafe, Folk Alley, Premier Guitar Magazine, Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Performer Magazine, and many others. Jon and the Trio drove over 50,000 miles touring the new release during 2016.
“We had just gotten to know Dave last time and had such a good time,” Stickley said in a release. “Bringing him in again takes the whole thing up a notch. It was a completely different experience, after traveling all over the place touring, over time we’ve developed a cohesion as a band where we intimately know each other and can feel where each other is wanting to go and respond. It’s developed into a tight musical relationship.”
The backbone of the Stickley sound rests with Stickley himself, a machine-gun flatpicking guitar mobster who sometimes defies belief with his rapid-fire riffs. He’s been called a musical mastermind, a genius, and one of the most unique and inventive guitar players recording today, his delivery compared to the rhythms of rap artists.
Rounding out the Trio are Lyndsay Pruett, a violin wild woman by turns sultry and possessed, and drummer Patrick Armitage laying down a deep groove. Armitage, with roots in Minneapolis, made the connection with Dave King, drummer for the avant-garde jazz trio The Bad Plus, based in Minneapolis.
“The Bad Plus, also a mainly instrumental group, has had an influence on our band since the start,” Jon Stickley said. “We all loved Dave King independently and when we found out one day he used to be Patrick’s drum teacher we freaked out. Dave’s presence on the last album was unmistakable. His sometimes subtle guidance, and other times obvious counsel made Lost at Last what it was.”
Like Lost At Last, Make Believe was birthed at the Echo Mountain Recording Studio in the band’s hometown of Asheville, NC, and again features the sure hand of engineer Julian Dryer. The new album steps away from the band’s collective musical roots into uncharted territory, exploring more unconventional melodies and rhythms.
The majority of the songs on the new album were written by Stickley, using his talents to layer different grooves and play with polyrhythms. Lyndsay Pruett contributed a couple of jazzier numbers including “The Price of Being Nice” and a short solo, “Lady Time,” that closes out the album with her distinctive pizzicato playing and violin improvisation.
The album also contains three covers: “Jerusalem Ridge,” a Bill Monroe tune with a twist that has become a staple at Stickley Trio live shows, "Avril 14th" by Richard James a.k.a. Aphex Twin, and “Birdland Breakdown,” a tune by mandolinist John Reischman which also appeared on Tony Rice’s jazz-grass album Still Inside.
Jon Stickley Trio plans another busy year of touring in 2017. In addition to their upcoming appearance on April 28 at Charlotte’s Visulite, dates include:
Apr. 29 – Lewisburg, WV – WV Craft Brew Fest
May 12-13 – LEAF – Black Mountain, NC
May 19 – Paducah, KY – Lower Town Arts & Music Festival
May 20 – Berea, KY – Moonshiner’s Ball
May 26 – Martinsville, VA – Rooster Walk
June 8 – Grand Rapids, MI – Founders Brewing
June 9 – Ferndale, MI – Parliament Room at Otus Supply
June 10-11 – Mio, MI – NorEastr Festival @ County Fairgrounds
June 19 – Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery
June 21 – Winston-Salem, NC – Muddy Creek Music Hall
June 23 – Live Oak, FL – Suwannee Summer Clusterpluck
July 8 – Littleton, CO – Breckenridge Brewery 27th Anniversary
July 15 – Mount Solon, VA – Red Wing Roots Music Festival
July 21 – Brevard, NC – Burning Can @ Oskar Blues Brewery
July 29-30 Sat-Sun – Floyd, VA – FloydFest
For additional dates, check the Jon Stickley Trio Facebook page.