Rising Appalachia

Sisters Leah Song and Chloe Smith of Rising Appalachia will perform Saturday at the Center Theater to close the opening of the “All That’s Left Behind” exhibit.

Folk music got its name for a reason.

“It’s always been music by the people and for the people,” Chloe Smith said. “It’s been street-based, both urban and rural, and it’s by people who write songs that reflect the times.”

For Smith, one of two founding members of Rising Appalachia (the other is her sister, Leah Song), there’s no better genre that defines her band’s music: an amalgamation of Southern, Appalachian and Irish folk music, with undercurrents of hip-hop and jazz.

Fresh off the release of its latest album, “Leylines,” Rising Appalachia will stop in Jackson on Saturday night as part of the Center for the Arts’ “All That’s Left Behind” exhibit, rounding out a night of experiential art installed throughout the Center.

Looking at the other artists behind the installation, Shrine, Aaron Taylor Kuffner and Mia Dungeon — one who builds towers out of trash, one who builds sonic sculptures and one who creates spectres from skulls and found objects — Smith said she was looking forward to meeting and working with artists who share a folk-oriented mindset.

“For us to be in a Jackson scene where we’re collaborating and in the same room with artists who are thinking in that same way, it’s really exciting,” she said. “We like the stage and what we do, but we get so much more when there’s some integration of other styles and thinkers.”

The title of their latest album, “Leylines,” speaks to that.

“The word means that there’s possible undercurrents around the country and the world that are related to one another,” Smith said, “spiritual places, places of power.”

Though the other artists are focused on the creation of space, Smith and Song are more interested in the veneration of space. In “Leylines” they sought to honor the demographic underpinnings of Appalachian roots music: Irish immigration, which brought the fiddle to the Appalachians, and the African slave trade, which brought the banjo. Both instruments feature prominently on their album, on which an Irish fiddler and a friend from Burkina Faso who plays a number of West African instruments provide background instrumentation.

“It’s a lot of original songwriting, but we wanted to make reference to that diversity within Appalachia,” Smith said.

And beyond honoring the roots of roots music, Smith and Song also brought the record into the present day. The refrain of “Make Magic” sees the two sisters audibly grapple with the world’s political and social polarization while refraining from making overt political comment.

Instead they seek to create art that rises above the chaos.

“We can be alchemists in a way, or blenders of the times,” Smith said, applying that label to Rising Appalachia as well as the other artists in “All That’s Left Behind.”

“And that’s the artist’s role,” she said. “It’s to reflect on the times and take in our common experience and turn it into something else — to turn into a piece of art.” 

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7062 or entertainment@jhnewsandguide.com.

Scene Editor Billy Arnold covers arts and entertainment. He apprenticed as a sound engineer at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio before making his way to Jackson, where he has become a low-key fan of country music.

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