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Trail Mix – Mipso

I’m a sucker for great bands with quirky names.


Just say it.

The only thing more enjoyable than saying the name of this North Carolina bluegrass quartet – which, incidentally, always makes me grin – is listening to its progressive take on acoustic music.

Mipso recently entered the Billboard Bluegrass charts at #1 with their new release, Old Time Reverie, which dropped earlier this month.

I recently caught up with mandolinist Jacob Sharp to chat about the new record, balancing the old with the new, and funny words that start with “m.”

BRO – How difficult is if for a contemporary string band to balance the traditional with the progressive?

JS – As difficult as you want it to be, I suppose. We pick and choose our moments to really dig into, or out of, the balance here. I think we benefit at times from being schooled at different levels within different types of music. Traditional musics of North Carolina – folk, old time, and bluegrass – are our collective foundation, but only recently have we become better versed in them, so we often have to decide when, and at what levels, we balance out the traditional with the progressive. But it’s a total joy for us – that balancing challenge – because it’s so fun. And we appreciate that doing it is an obvious tip of the hat to our North Carolina heritage. We’re proud of that.

BRO – What pop song out there right now might you like to give your “renegade traditional” treatment to?

JS – Well, I’m really into Taylor Swift. Ryan Adams kind of stole the spotlight here, but I’d still like to cover one of her tunes. I think I’d be the only Mipso to have this desire, which may be an issue. But, yeah . . . we could really rock “Out Of The Woods.”

BRO – We are featuring “Marianne” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?

JS – This is a tune Joseph wrote, and it is maybe one of the more political tunes on the record. It’s about the struggles of an interracial couple in North Carolina may have faced a few decades back. Being period based in a time we didn’t live in, it’s not based on Joseph’s experiences or anyone he knows, but as modern liberal North Carolinians we think a lot about the contradictions and complications of some of the legacies we have here in North Carolina, in the South, and anywhere else. Those tensions are based around different issues now than they were then, but they similarly stem from a certain segment of society’s fear of change and difference. We think about those tensions a lot, as individuals and as a group.

As I prepped for this piece, I thought it might be fun to turn someone from the band loose on a quiz of funny words that start with “m.” Jacob was more than gracious in accepting my challenge.

BRO – Does “mixen” mean (a) a dunghill, (b) to gather insects, or (c) a Flemish folk dance?

JS – A Flemish folk dance.

BRO – Is a “moton” (a) armor for the armpit, (b) a crispy Chinese noodle, or (c) a traditional Egyptian dress?

JS – A crispy Chinese noodle.

BRO – Is a “mugwump” (a) someone who is politically neutral, (b) an unsuccessful thief, or (c) a feral swamp pig?

JS – An unsuccessful thief.

BRO – “Moya” is (a) volcanic mud, (b) a miniature zebra, or (c) the Spanish slang equivalent for “mommy.”

JS – Volcanic mud.

BRO – Does “molo” mean (a) a two or three stringed West African lute, (b) a spicy mayonnaise, (c) or something that is weird or strange?

JS – A two or three stringed West African lute.

BRO – Now, in the spirit of the quiz, can you tell those of us that are curious what a “mipso” is?

JS – Mipso, Mipso
Where did you go
Whenever I ask
Nobody knows

Even though Jacob fell a bit short in sharing with me what a mipso is, he did okay on the quiz, getting two out of the five words right. That’s really not too bad for a bunch of words he’d never heard before!

For the record, each word was correctly defined by the (a) answer!

You can catch Mipso tonight in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then across the Midwest for shows in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa over the next couple weeks.

For more information on Mipso, their tour dates, or how you can get the new record, point your browser here. And make sure you check out “Marianne” on this month’s Trail Mix.

And, lastly, a big shout out to my fifth grade students at Powell Valley Middle School for coming up with the alternate answers for the “m word” quiz!!



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