One Ton Pig turns 12 this year, which, in band years, seems to place The Wort Hotel’s resident bluegrass group squarely in a hip middle-age: A time where the band is both young enough to write new music and work out the kinks on stage and just old enough to reflect on its members’ experiences with lineup changes, fatherhood and the loss of dear friends.
On “Parade of Song,” One Ton Pig’s latest album, all of that seems to be on display.
“The last couple of years has really been a transitional period for the band,” said Michael Batdorf, the band’s guitarist and principal songwriter.
It has also been a busy few years full of happy moments (the birth of Tim Farris’ and Marty Camino’s first children), transitional periods (Camino’s replacement of Greg Kramer on bass) and times of devastating heartbreaking (Candice Miller Kwiatkowski’s death last June). Batdorf said One Ton Pig’s fans — and members — were waiting for the band’s take on it all.
“I feel like fans and ourselves alike were kind of waiting for a response to these times,” Batdorf said, “and I feel like more than anything, that’s what this album embodies.”
“Parade of Song,” the band’s fifth album, isn’t just a collection of barroom-ready bluegrass hits, though songs like “Dead Man’s Bells” are sure to get two-steppers’ feet stomping. Instead, something about the line that kicks off “Final Kiss” — “Oh happiness, oh the things we’ll miss, I can see down canyons deep and the feeling of a final kiss” — contrasted with the song’s quick, upbeat tempo sticks seems to set up the whole album, which dances between the good times and bad all the while inspiring quick pangs of nostalgia, as good bluegrass tends to do.
The album is also deeply personal.
Batdorf wrote the title track, “Parade of Song,” to respond to the loss of Miller Kwiatkowski. The lyrics came to him “naturally” but he found it “the most difficult song to write.”
“That song in particular happens to hit very close to the heart so, emotionally, it was difficult,” Batdorf said. “It was something that felt like it needed to happen for me.”
In that song’s recorded version, where Karee Miller Jaeger, Miller Kwiatkowski’s sister, joins the band on background vocals, Batdorf’s emotions rise to the surface as he and Miller Jaeger pick through a chorus that pays tribute to their lost friend and sister.
Batdorf recognized that dwelling on hardship, however quickly, might be a risk for a band built to bring danceable barroom energy to the stage. Still, he thought taking a risk by putting a more somber song like “Parade of Song” forward as the title track of the album was consistent with One Ton Pig’s style.
“The band is built on risks,” he said, noting that the group’s choice to add drums to a bluegrass group was already “rocking the boat.”
Taking another risk, like leading with “Parade of Song,” has only pushed the album’s message forward. It’s also a testament to the strength of a band that’s made tradition out of Tuesday nights for the past 13 years.
“We’ve been on the road, we’ve traveled, we’ve toured, we’ve pulled back, we’ve had life lost, we’ve had life gained,” Batdorf said, “and here we are still making music together.”
“Parade of Song” will be available for purchase at OneTonPig.com and for streaming on all major services Tuesday. The band will celebrate with a release party set to go from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Tuesday at the Silver Dollar Showroom. ￼