Mighty Poplar on World Cafe
Mighty Poplar
Studio Session
  • "Up on the Divide"
  • "Story of Isaac"
  • "Kicking Up the Devil on a Holiday"

Mighty Poplar features some of the best bluegrass players around, inspired by the Bluegrass Album Band, a supergroup of grass players from the 1980s. Greg Garrison, of Leftover Salmon, Chris Eldridge and Noam Pikelny, of Punch Brothers, Andrew Marlin, of Watchhouse, and Alex Hargreaves, of Billy Strings, got together to make a traditional, real-deal bluegrass record.

The band’s self-titled debut album was a chance for five friends to play “real deal bluegrass,” like Bill Monroe did over 75 years ago, and is a masterclass in form, with songs from Bob Dylan, The Carter Family and Leonard Cohen all spun in a new light.

Eldridge points out there’s nothing quite like it: “There’s a kind of rhythmic heartbeat to the music that’s very distinctive. It doesn’t exist in any other music.”

They join us to crowd around a microphone for a mini-concert, like they were sitting around a campfire, that spontaneity appealing to Pikelny:

“Just capturing something that happened in that moment in time. Like, this snapshot that happened, and we’re going to choose this take, even if there’s this little asterisk at one point.”

From the stage of World Cafe Live, they also talk about why they wanted to adhere to old-school formula when it came to making the music they love, the joy of experimenting in studio and not being afraid to make a mistake.

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