Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line will bring their traveling carnival of Appalachian-roots-rock back to the Pocahontas County Opera House stage on Sunday, March 16, at 7 p.m.
The high energy, Nashville-based quintet performs Struthers’ original story-songs with tight, three-part harmonies, backed up by fiddle, claw-hammer banjo, acoustic guitar, bass and drums.
In November, Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line’s music video “Bike Ride” debuted in the top spot on the Country Music Television’s Pure 12-Pack Countdown.
Struthers was first catapulted into the spotlight when she led her band to a blue ribbon at the 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival, where previous winners have included Nickel Creek and The Dixie Chicks.
With the release of Carnival last April, Struthers re-emerged as a band-leader with a smart, affecting cycle of songs sporting a timeline that stretches from the antebellum 19th-century South to the middle of the last century. Reflecting her background in literature—she taught English before undertaking a full-time career in music in 2008— the tunes are deftly-told stories that survey the American terrain from a uniquely focused point of view.
“I realized that I was writing a collection of story-songs from a female perspective,” Struthers said. “I was able to arrange them chronologically, as teenagers, then women, then old women. The album has a narrative, from girlhood to death.”
The instrumentation and form of Struthers’ music draws on her traditionalist roots—her father, Alan, is himself a bluegrass musician— but with the addition of drums, Carnival takes a bend toward more progressive roots-rock bands like Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers.
“I’m really passionate about the stories in the old ballads and story-songs,” Struthers said. “I’m trying to bring that element of traditional music forward into a contemporary sonic space. I want story-songs to live on in a way that will be accessible to more people. That’s my artistic mission. When we hear another person’s story, we gain perspective and are changed; we’re able to see our own lives through new eyes.”
Carnival marked the recording debut of Struthers’ touring band, the Party Line – which takes its handle from one of the record’s songs about the early days of rural telephone calls. The gifted group of instrumentalists includes Struthers’ longtime collaborator P. J. George, upright bass, harmony vocals, pedal steel guitar, accordion and banjo; Joe Overton, clawhammer banjo and harmony vocals; Aaron Jonah Lewis, fiddle, three-finger banjo, baritone fiddle, mandolin; and Drew Lawhorn on drums.
Opera House doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available in advance at pocahontasoperahouse.org and at the Fourth Avenue Gallery in Marlinton. Youth 17 and younger are admitted free of charge.
The Pocahontas County Opera House is located at 818 Third Avenue in Marlinton. Performances at the Opera House are informal, family-friendly and open to all. The entrance and main seating are accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to attend; special accommodations can be arranged upon request by calling 304-799-6645.
The Opera House Performance Series is presented with financial assistance through a grant from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. Support is also provided by Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals, the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, NRAO, Pendleton Community Bank, the Law Office of Roger D. Forman, Brightside Acres, Allegheny Mountain Radio, Stephen and Cynthia Olson, Sam and Dru Kusic, David and Carole Cobb, Doug Bernier, New Hope Lutheran Church, Kim Dilts and J.T. Arbogast.