The Two Sides of Rachel Sumner
“The Two Sides of Rachel Sumner”
Side One: Traditional Bluegrass with Pretty Saro
Side Two: Originals with The Rachel Sumner Band
On January 15, Rachel Sumner returns to Club Passim with a truly ambitious show. Rachel’s debut solo EP, Anything Worth Doing, showcased the diversity of Rachel’s musical talent and interests: from folk to indie to country to pop; from stripped-down acoustic to honky tonk to lushly arranged strings and woodwinds. She celebrated all of this with a sold-out show featuring an eight-piece band at her musical home, Club Passim.
What was largely, and perhaps surprisingly, absent from both the EP and the show was any sign of the bluegrass music for which Rachel had become so well-known. Rachel will rectify this upon her return to Passim on January 15: instead of performing with one large band, Rachel will perform two sets with two different bands. First, Rachel will play a set of bluegrass classics in collaboration with the band Pretty Saro; then, she will re-take the stage with the aptly named Rachel Sumner Band to perform a set of her originals, both old and new.
And to top it all off, at Rachel’s request, Passim will serve their brunch menu for that evening’s show. So come to Passim for both sides of Rachel Sumner (and a side of French toast).
Note on food service: tonight we will be serving brunch for dinner! Our regular dinner menu will not be available, and we will instead be serving our full brunch menu. See passim.org/brunch for our brunch menu.
Praised by audiences for her powerful, lonesome voice and haunting songs, Rachel Sumner carefully spins melodies that get caught in your head and delivers them “with an attitude and drive in her guitar playing…sure to strike a chord and dig deep into your heart. ” (Red Line Roots)
Rachel may be best known as the former guitarist and singer-songwriter from bluegrass string phenom Twisted Pine, but it is in her recent venture as a solo artist that we are beginning to fully recognize her dynamism as a writer and performer. Whether she’s fronting her new band of lush, low-voiced strings or appearing with only a guitar, you’ll be mesmerized by her elegantly intricate arrangements and captivated by the delivery of each and every word. Now, you may be getting the idea that all of her songs are delicate, crystalline confessionals; they are most certainly not. Rachel is both a Willie Nelson and a Patsy Cline of indie-folk – writing the heartfelt but catchy songs and conveying their emotional complexity with candor and an achingly beautiful yodel. And it is her diverse love of pop, classical, country and everything in between that she draws upon to synthesize into her own unique sound.
In 2011, Rachel relocated from the west coast to Boston as a classical flutist, intending only to study Composition and Film Scoring at Berklee College of Music. She didn’t play any other instruments – she hadn’t even thought to strum a string on the guitar at that point. Rachel might have begun her formal training in wind ensembles and orchestras, but folk music was important to her family and had been fueling her musical passion from the very start. Rachel’s debut solo EP Anything Worth Doing was released in November 2018, and she has begun work on the follow-up to that, her debut full-length record due out in 2020.
The once non-existent band, Pretty Saro, burst into the Boston bluegrass scene in early 2016, shaking up the definition of American roots music. Since then the four-piece string band has crafting their invigorating blend of contemporary songwriting, burnin’ bluegrass traditionals, and pop sensibilities into a sound that is uniquely their own. Dynamic arrangements and high-energy performances enhance the Saro’s (sair-ohs) stories of commitment and desertion, taking the listener on a journey through their personal experiences.
Pretty Saro draws their inspiration from acoustic giants such as Nickel Creek, Crooked Still, Hot Rize, and John Hartford to name a few. Maxfield Anderson (mandolin), Devon Gardner (fiddle), Alex Formento (guitar), and Joe Everett (bass) bring together their wide array of musical backgrounds, to create music that follows in the footsteps of their heroes, without fear of wandering off the beaten path.
The band has appeared on stages throughout the Northeast at FreshGrass Festival, Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Club Passim, Daryl’s House Club, and is currently coming off a win in the 2018 Telefunken Band Competition at Podunk Bluegrass Festival.