I was introduced to Jack, the Applachian trickster, when I read The Life and Times of Ray Hicks: Keeper of the Jack Tales, by Lynn Salsi, a few years back. Hicks, the subject of the story, was a storytelling icon. Speaking in an untainted Appalachian dialect borne of the mountains of Western North Carolina, Hicks told stories about Jack and his hijinks. Hicks and his storytelling were legendary, and he spun these yarns for five decades.
His stories weren’t lost on Emily, Mary, and Rachel, the threesome who make up After Jack. This all-girl trio is rapidly establishing itself as a player in the Virginia folk music scene. After Jack has some heady festival dates lined up this summer, including one at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival next month. The band also stays busy working with young kids and the theater, a particular passion for the ladies in After Jack.
The band is out on the road now supporting Echo, its debut release.
Trail Mix caught up with After Jack to chat about the theater, the new record, and – of course – playing Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival in a couple weeks.
BRO – You are heading to Telluride for the first time next month. Excited?
AJ – We can’t wait! Attending the Telluride Bluegrass Festival has long been a dream of ours and the opportunity to be a part of it is just incredible! It falls in the middle of our first big tour west. We’re looking forward to seeing the country and bringing our music to a whole new audience.
BRO – What lessons do you three draw from your theater training when you are on stage singing?
AJ – Our live shows are all about energy; of the performance, of the audience, and the magic that happens when we collectively share that experience. Our love of performance, and of the music we share, gives us tremendous respect for each other onstage. Also, you can’t beat a theater background when it comes to stamina for the day to day challenges of the work, both physically and creatively.
BRO – Tell me about the importance of your work with Young Audiences.
AJ – We’re named after the hero of some of our favorite Appalachian folk tales. Jack is curious and adventurous and lands in trouble in every story, but he always comes out on top because he is lucky and smart. Young Audiences of Virginia is an organization that coordinates live performances for young people, and working with them has given us the opportunity to share our love of Appalachian music and stories with the next generation.
BRO – We are featuring “Henry Lee” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
AJ – The song was written by our first “band friend,” David Mantz. He’s an incredible songwriter from Pennsylvania who happened to catch our very first show at Front Porch Fest in Stuart, Virginia, in 2011. We heard him perform “Henry Lee” at the same festival in 2013 and thought how interesting it might be to hear the tale from the woman’s point of view. We recently shot a music video for the song and David appears in it as Daddy; that’s a little trivia that we think is cool. When the video is released – soon!! – listeners can make up their own minds about what they think is going on in the story.
BRO – What can we look forward to from you three at Rooster Walk?
AJ – During our Saturday main stage set, we’ll be bringing lots of new songs from our recently released record, Echo. These new tunes are all about drawing folks together in celebration of our shared experiences, and we can’t wait to bring that to Rooster Walk. We will also be the pop “minstrels” of the festival this year, so you may have a chance to catch us as we pop around the grounds for tiny, high-energy set here and there. Saturday, mid-day, we’ll also be performing a family oriented show in the kid’s area, so make sure to catch that if you’d like to hear more about Jack.
For more information on After Jack, how you can get your hands on Echo, or upcoming tour dates, point your browser to www.afterjackband.com.
Also, fans new and old can catch the band Saturday, May 24t, at Rooster Walk Music & Arts Festival, proud sponsors of this month’s Trail Mix!
In fact, Trail Mix would like to give you a shot at catching After Jack’s set at Rooster Walk, along with all of the other Saturday goings on, by offering up the trivia question below. Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. A winner of two Saturday passes will be chosen from all of the correct answers received by noon EST on Friday.
Question . . . . . Echo, After Jack’s new record, was produced by Aaron Ramsey, a member of what popular bluegrass band?