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Bearfoot University

Americana string band with roots in Nashville and Alaska will take the stage Saturday as part of Pacific's Performing Arts Series
by: Courtesy photo Bearfoot will bring their brand of string band stomp to Pacific University’s Performing Arts Series this Saturday.

It's been 10 years since the bluegrass band Bearfoot formed in the small Alaskan fishing town of Cordova, where the original members met as five young counselors at a music camp.

Since then, the group has shifted gears, and rosters. Last year, three new members - guitarist-songwriter Todd Grebe, singer-songwriter Nora Jane Struthers and bassist P.J. George joined Bearfoot's veteran fiddler Angela Oudean and mandolin player Jason Norris to fill the boots of folks previously departed.

Now residing in Nashville, the reconstructed Bearfoot, known for stringy acoustics, vocal harmonies and tender ballads, are on the road pumping up their first album together, American Story, released in December. This weekend the band will hit the stage at Pacific University.

The album, a rootsy blend of bluegrass, pop, country, Cajun, and old time Appalachian folk received national acclaim when their music video for hit song, 'Tell Me a Story,' quickly rose to number 2 on Country Music Television's Pure Country countdown.

American Story follows Bearfoot's 2009 Compass debut, Doors and Windows which instantly topped Billboard Magazine's 'Bluegrass Chart.'

Old time country seeps in

With her wispy blonde locks, fair skin and rosy lips, the band's new lead vocalist Nora Jane Struthers, 28, says Bearfoot's sound is ever-changing, much like the face of its members, but never strays too far from the band's wild bluegrass roots.

Since the Alaskan-bred band soared to success in 2001 as winners of the 26th annual Telluride Bluegrass contest, original members toured the country and released four albums.

'While holding true to some of Bearfoot's signature sounds, American Story has morphed into something a little bit more energetic,' said Struthers, a New Jersey native, who moved to Nashville to write and produce her self-titled solo album.

Struthers was raised on the intoxicating rhythms of her father's five-string banjo and a dusty collection of traditional brother duets. As a result, her voice - doused in old-time country - was a natural fit for Bearfoot's American roots music.

She and fellow songwriter Todd Grebe wrote a majority of the lyrics for American Story drawing inspiration from contemporary and historical American perspectives, people, and struggle. The theme? Telling these stories.

The pair's divergent writing styles, Grebe's rowdier, up-tempo songs and Struthers' darker melodies, give perfect balance to the album.

Thrown into Bearfoot's traditional Americana string band setup of mandolins, fiddles and guitars is one more thing for audiences to tap their feet to: Drums by Drew Lawhorn.

'Now, that we're in Nashville, traditional country sounds are starting to seep in,' said Struthers. 'We are taking the old style and making it into something new.'




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