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Sing with One Voice

Good Old War

Good Old War. 

Good Old War is reviving the power of harmony. The increasingly popular indie folk trio sings unified multi-part vocals with the familiar pop-driven force of icons from the ‘60s. It makes sense then that, when the band started playing bar gigs around their home city of Philadelphia, sets were largely filled with covers of Simon and Garfunkel and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

“That’s how we learned we could sing together,” says band member Keith Goodwin. “With only three of us, we used the harmonies to get a bigger sound. For us, it took a lot of practice. In the beginning we were singing together for five or six hours a day.”

The group formed in 2008 after Goodwin’s and drummer Tim Arnold’s former rock band Days Away decided to call it quits. Before breaking up, Days Away had a tour booked with singer-songwriter Anthony Green. Instead of dropping their slot, Goodwin and Arnold decided to add guitarist Dan Schwartz and play as an acoustic act. Thanks to good chemistry, Good Old War was born.

“At first we were writing songs on the way to shows,” Goodwin adds. “We would work them out in the van and play them that night. When we started getting good reactions we realized this was something we should really take seriously.”

Thus came the aforementioned intense practice sessions, as well as voice lessons from Arnold’s sister, an opera singer. The band also quickly went into the studio, releasing a debut album, Only Way to Be Alone, in 2008 and a self-titled follow-up in 2010. Just last month, the group unveiled Come Back as Rain. The new effort is the band’s most tightly focused statement, recorded at Another Recording Company, the studio owned by Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes.

While past albums were very DIY, this time the band enlisted help from producer Jason Cupp (Maps & Atlases) and utilized the tools of a real studio. It helped accentuate the band’s sunny melodies and uplifting textured harmonies. In sound and lyrical content the trio unearths the bright side of dark times with infectious hooks and strummy, sing-along optimism, especially on the bouncy comeback anthem “Better Weather” and the ex-lover sendoff “Calling me Names.”

Broadly akin to yesteryear anthems like the “Sound of Silence,” the band delivers hand-on-the-shoulder comfort with vocal chemistry.

“The attitude between the three of us is optimistic and upbeat, so that’s how we like to keep the lyrics and the melodies,” Goodwin says.

As a harmony-based acoustic act, the band has surprisingly been able to adapt to a variety of stages. In the past couple years, the group has opened for a diverse lot, including bluegrass songstress Alison Krauss, new school punk rockers Gaslight Anthem, and one-man jammer Xavier Rudd. While they will spend more time in the headlining position this year, the members have enjoyed the chance to turn on a variety of audiences.

“When we’re in a rock club, we’ll add some longer solos and instrumental breaks, but when we open up for someone like Alison Krauss we’ll include more of the vocal-driven, country-sounding songs,” Goodwin explains. “We’ve learned to adapt our live style to the setting. This band can play in front of a lot of different types of crowds.”

Need a Miracle

Southern Deadheads were bummed last summer when Grateful Dead troubadour and rhythm guitarist Bob Weir canceled his solo appearances in the region. Fortunately for fans, Weir has rescheduled and is slated to bring selections from his portion of the Dead’s massive catalog to the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, Tenn., on April 24, and the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Va., on April 26. Unfortunately for the ticket-less, both shows are sold out, so stick your finger in the air and hope for a miracle.

Fishin’ and Pickin’

Ace Appalachian guitarist Larry Keel loves to fish almost as much as he loves to pick bluegrass tunes. It makes sense, then, that the Virginia-based underground hero is combining his two passions. In mid-May, Keel will host Trout and Tunes, a long weekend of fishing and music workshops at the Elk River Inn in Slatyfork, W.Va. Nestled in the Monongahela National Forest, along the Elk River’s world-class trout waters, the event (May 17-20) will feature a fly fishing class, as well as daily group casts. On the music side, aspiring players can get guitar, mandolin, banjo, and bass instruction, while also enjoying nightly picking sessions and intimate concerts by Keel and his band Natural Bridge.

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