Jeff & Vida
Jeff and Vida’s nine years of performing and songwriting, have seen them delve into many different genres of music; country, honky-tonk, rockabilly, even a little rock and roll. But throughout their career, which has included four critically acclaimed albums, literally thousands of live shows in the U.S. and Europe, and a move from New Orleans to Nashville, bluegrass has remained a key influence in their style and sound. Nowhere is this more evident than on their new CD, Selma Chalk.
The new record features thirteen original songs, a stellar band, and an enigmatic name. Inside the CD jacket, selma chalk is defined as “an impurity in the most fertile soil of the South”. Intentional or not, the title seems an apt metaphor for the music contained within- an outsiders’ take on fertile traditions of Southern and Appalachian string band music. Indeed, a number of tracks do fit neatly into what might be called a ‘traditional bluegrass’ sound. More often than not however, the record bends bluegrass instrumentation around material that’s a little edgier, a little bluesier and a little rougher than your typical bluegrass album.
While past projects have showcased the duo’s ability to move between genres with ease, incorporating a variety of instrumentations and sounds, their latest effort is more sonically centered. With an impressive group of musicians, Jeff and Vida create a sound that combines the raw intensity and high lonesomeness of bluegrass with a diverse palette of influences. Their combination of incisive songwriting, high energy arrangements, and gritty vocals stand out from much of contemporary string band music.
Songs like “Heartache Train”, the quick, hard-edged romp which kicks off the record, capture the listener immediately. The band showcases its chops on catchy instrumental hooks and scorching solos while Vida’s unmistakeable, whiskey soaked vocals meld with Jeff’s bittersweet harmonies to deliver the lyrics with equal intensity. As the record progresses, the music continues to impress with soaring fiddle lines, intricate banjo and mandolin parts, hard driving acoustic guitar, and the unexpected but welcome twang of an arch top guitar. While Jeff and Vida certainly seem to have found the right mix of sounds and players for this record, the superb songwriting for which the duo has become recognized remains front and center. Each track seems to invite the listener into a different world. While the exuberant “Boxcar Blues” dwells on the unique thrill of traveling home; the poignant and melancholy “Alabama Sky” relates almost exactly the opposite sentiment with equal prowess.
Jeff and Vida met in New York City in 1997 but soon left for New Orleans where they began writing and performing on a regular basis. They quickly became a force on the New Orleans music scene, winning multiple awards and building a solid following among fans and critics alike. They began touring full time in 2001 and have since played more than 200 dates a year across the United States and Europe. They released four studio recordings, along with a live disc, to wide critical acclaim.
Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Jeff and Vida relocated to Nashville where they became part of the burgeoning alternative music scene. A performance at the Ryman Auditorium and a New York Times article which featured them alongside Nashville neighbors Old Crow Medicine Show, Gillian Welch and Todd Snider, is a sure sign their music is welcome wherever they choose to hang their hats.
RECENT PRESS QUOTES
”Selma Chalk is contemporary bluegrass at its finest.” -Bluegrass Unlimited
“they continue to shape some of the most potent, bluegrass-influenced sounds around.” “in Vida Wakeman they have one of THE contemporary Americana vocalists” -Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ (UK)
“There’s no holding back Jeff Burke on the mandolin, and the players on banjo, fiddle and other instruments are some of the best you’ll hear anywhere…the virtuoso playing isn’t standard – it’s dazzling” -Music News Nashville
“Jeff & Vida make music that is real and true. Theirs are the songs you long to hear late at night on the interstate, in poolhalls and smoky whiskey bars.” -New York Times Magazine
“enough variety to appeal to the lovers of solid traditional bluegrass as well as contemporary sounds. I recommend you give a listen to this unique band.” -Bluegrass Music Profiles
“Jeff & Vida bring a rockabilly flavor, or even rock ’n’ roll twang, to traditional bluegrass music. Vida has a girl-next-door voice that crackles with emphasis at well-chosen moments. The couple share long-practiced harmonies that make a listener wonder what joyous collaborations the two must enjoy when they’re relaxing around their Nashville home.” -Longmont Times
“Don’t pin this down as being just a bluegrass record – it’s a happy-go-lucky celebration of all Americana can be.” -Americana UK
“Wakeman’s lyrics are original, like a Southern poet” -Bluegrass Notes
“Their striking arrangements are electrifying and result is music that is unforgettable.” -Brunei Times
“ It was a beautiful mix of pleasure and pause. And a welcome — and rare for Jazz Fest — taste of High Lonesome for those of us closet hillbillies in the crowd. No jazz. Plenty of Heritage. “ -Chris Rose, Times Picayune
“Oh, how I love the bluegrass/ country sound of Jeff & Vida” -Maurice Hope, Flying Shoes
“In a musical landscape where artists are increasingly distinguishing themselves from the pack with cheap tricks and gimmicks, Jeff & Vida distinguish themselves by their stripped down and solid musical performances and the unassuming attitude with which they ply their trade.” -What’s On (UK)
“Jeff & Vida perform their barnstorming tunes for edumacated bar owls who favor the pre-Toby Keith era. Like fellow Nashville fringe artists Todd Snider and Gillian Welch, J&V make music with a wellspring of Opry context-but none of the schmaltz.” -Lawrence.com
“Vida is remarkable in her ability to make the commonplace sound dramatic and vice versa…the songs feel timeless” -Offbeat New Orleans
“this long-serving duo seem to have a knack for turning misfortune into artistic gold. For a band without a drummer, Jeff and Vida lay down some of the funkiest, swingin’ sounds around” -Whisperin’ & Hollerin