Listening to the old-timey Americana of Nashville-based Forlorn Strangers' new EP American Magic Tricks, you'd never guess the band formed in Palm Beach County. But it was at a local writer's group, attended by Hannah Leigh Lusk, Benjamin Lusk, and Chris Banke, where its harmonic seeds were sown.
"There's not a huge Americana scene in South Florida." Hannah Leigh Lusk told New Times about the region where she spent four years studying at Palm Beach Atlantic University, "but the people who care about it really care about it. The culture is so diverse, you have to work hard to find like-minded people. Each of us find in that genre something rich about our nation's culture and history."
Leigh Lusk grew up listening to bluegrass with her father playing folk music on his guitar. Since she was a teenager, she sang and wrote her own songs on guitar, but never far outside her bedroom, until Forlorn Strangers. Joined by her sister Abigail Dempsey on fiddle and Jesse Thompson on upright bass, the band made Music City their home base.
"Nashville is the exact opposite of South Florida. It's saturated. Everyone is a musician here. A lot of my favorite musicians are in South Florida because the music means something to them instead of all the commercialization of music in Nashville."
She explains that though she loves the Tennessee city; some of the band's favorite times were on the road, where their energies revolve completely around rehearsing and performing rather than worrying about their day jobs at restaurants, coffee shops, and moving companies. They find joy through their music, which they believe comes through onstage. Florida will have plenty of opportunities to experience those feels as the group will be playing eight shows in the Sunshine State on its February tour including February 7 at For the Love Festival.
After the tour, Forlorn Strangers plans to record a new EP in March followed by a full length in the summer. Its productivity stems from the fact that all five members in the band are songwriters. The band rule is, whoever wrote the song leads the vocals.
This diversity of voices led to Leigh Lusk pushing herself to provide a diversity of instrumentation to match. Though she originally played rhythm guitar with the band a year and a half ago, she switched to the mandolin. "I liked the sound and the rhythm of the instrument. We needed more push, and it filled a need in the band. I listened to Bill Monroe a lot and loved how he turned this fancy Italian instrument into bluegrass."
The band lately found another historic role model as inspiration, the recently departed Pete Seeger. "He's been our guidepost." Leigh Lush said. "He believed in bringing peace and love to people. Music's not about being famous; it's about reminding people we're alive."
For the Love Music Festival, noon, Saturday, February 7, C&I Studios, 541 NW First Ave.,
Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $35. Visit Eventbrite.
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