Brooklyn, as you well know, is not south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and Bushwick looks nothing like the Appalachian Mountains. Yet some of the sweetest and most genuine sounds to come out of the borough these past few years have been bluegrass-based. While Brooklyn’s best-known exports may be grandiose—from the chamber pop of Grizzly Bear to the avant-everything sounds of Dirty Projectors—this little grassroots scene has been growing ever more lush, thanks to such local promoters as Paper Swan.
A ramshackle collective that has been organizing Bushwick loft parties since 2007, Paper Swan has recently branched out to venues like the Jalopy Theatre, an old-timey Red Hook stage that’s a perfect match for the Paper Swan aesthetic. The artists assembled at tonight’s show have a genuine love of vintage bluegrass—and, more often than not, the dazzling chops to match—but they sing and play with the fiery fervor of teenagers. It feels hot and full of heart, in other words, and TONY faves Free Advice are an especially good example. Led by Paper Swan cofounder Travis Stewart, this freewheeling trio offers original songs that touch on the surreal romanticism of John Hartford.
And of course, the great thing about folk music is that it grows like weeds—little shoots of green spring up everywhere, even through the cracked concrete of wintertime Brooklyn. How very reassuring.—Sophie Harris
Follow Sophie Harris on Twitter: @SophieMeve