Rising Appalachia 2024
Photo: IVPR

Rising Appalachia Offer a Tantalizing Collection of Covers

Rising Appalachia’s harmonies on “I Need a Forest Fire” are downright mesmerizing, as they deliver a zeitgeisty performance for one of 2024’s top tracks.

Folk & Anchor
Rising Appalachia
17 May 2024

Rising Appalachia are essentially taking a break in 2024 to recharge and work on a new album. But sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith have gifted fans with a diverse new EP of covers, Folk & Anchor, and they’re billing as a collection of some of their favorite songs. “We grew up immersed in a musical family, and our songwriting and performance has been deeply influenced by so many Americana genres over the years,” Leah explained in a press release. “We wanted to create a body of work where all those influences could be showcased under one roof.”

The seven-song collection really takes off on track three with “The Bones”, a tune by Maren Morris and Hozier that seems like it was made for Rising Appalachia to re-imagine with the group’s unique World Folk instrumentation and the sisters’ majestic neo-soul harmonies. David Brown (bass, guitar), Duncan Wickel (fiddle, cello), and Biko Casini (percussion) are all aces here, helping Smith (fiddle) and Song (banjo) generate a collective sound that always seems to transcend the sum of the parts. 

The sisters say the deep lyrics drew them deeper into the song. “Their simple meaning, both metaphorically and in actual architectural terms, are inspiring. ‘The house won’t fall when the bones are good,’ aka you need a strong foundation to build anything: love, trust, a relationship, a house, a village, a city, a faith. The architecture at the ground level has to be sturdy to hold the whole thing up. For these reasons, the song really hit hard, and it felt like an obvious one for Rising Appalachia to take on,” says Leah. “To hang on during hard times and know that we can each come out on the other side.”

“On and On” by Erykah Badu is a winner, too, with harmonies that jump right out of the stereo as the ladies sing of how “life keeps moving like a rolling stone”. The 1997 lyrics reference how the world keeps burning, but the mothership can’t save us, providing some deep food for thought as Leah and Chloe implore the listener to keep on keeping on. The vibe here generates sonic sustenance for the soul, a Rising Appalachia specialty.

“I Need a Forest Fire” by James Blake and Bon Iver is another tune that seems destined for Rising Appalachia, with their passionately eco-conscious worldview and ability as shamanic medicine women to transmute lyrics toward a more profound meaning with their vocal interpretation. The sisters’ harmonies here are downright mesmerizing as they deliver a zeitgeisty performance for one of 2024’s top tracks.

“The lyrics took some digging to conceptualize, and our interpretation is that we live in a time of rapidly destructive (and oft man-made) wildfires. The song felt cautionary. We explored the metaphors for forest fire and came to believe it means the ego must burn, we must take down destructive habits and relationships, even destructive sides of self,” Chloe said in the press release. “In a time when everyone is on one side of the coin or another, in a highly polarized nation, this burning symbolizes a great reset. A death and rebirth cycle.”

This version also features Branden Lewis of Preservation Hall Jazz Band on trumpet, a nod to Rising Appalachia’s formative days living and busking in New Orleans, where atmospheric horns like this would cut through the night at any given time for neo-noir ambiance.

The new version of Beyoncé‘s “Texas Hold’ Em” feels like an instant classic. The sisters sing of how a wicked heatwave makes them want to run to the dive bar they always thought was nice. If you’re listening on a warm night, you may want to crack a cold one and think about drinking with Leah and Chloe while pondering the climate change struggle.

Folk & Anchor concludes with a heartwarming take on Bob Dylan‘s “I Shall Be Released”, featuring some rich acoustic guitar that feels retro and fresh. It feels like a version you might hear Rising Appalachia singing on open mic night at that nice dive bar that everyone stumbled into for relief from the summer heat.

Earlier, the first two tracks start the EP off in a low-key manner, acting as sort of a warm-up. But there’s deep emotion invested in Lord Huron‘s “The Night We Met” and Willie Nelson‘s “Can I Sleep in Your Arms”. Going through 2024 with no Rising Appalachia shows will be a challenge for the fanbase, but Folk & Anchor helps to fill the void.

RATING 8 / 10