To paraphrase the old adage, if Wayward Roots didn’t already exist, we’d have to invent them.
Formed in 2008 with one foot in the backwoods, one foot on the highway and somehow yet a third foot on the stage of some dive in Appalachia – the ‘Roots have cut their teeth individually and as a band with consistent performances and regional tours in and around their native Ann Arbor, MI for the last three years.
Wayward Roots have a sound that’s both old and familiar and strikingly new; steeped in the bluegrass and roots tradition with a predilection toward a new acoustic style and flavors of adventurous jazz and the occasional detour into the far-out zone – sometimes all in the same tune. Speaking of tunes, it’s not just about the playing; Wayward Roots write original tunes to extend the vocabulary of the ones you know and make you hungry for more of the ones you don’t. Collectively, their rich musical histories make hearing and seeing them as much fun for the listener as it obviously is for them, and their chops combined with their intuitive improvisational skills make this band much more than the sum of its impressive parts.
They’ve honed their collective chops around Ann Arbor and out-of-town festivals like Hoxeyville, Noreast’r, and Farmfest,. They’ve shared the stage and traded licks with friends like Railroad Earth, Vince Herman and Sam Bush. Now Wayward Roots are set to expand their scope in 2013 with an impending second record and appearances both near and far. Buy them a round when they come to your town.
Jason Dennie (mandolin, vocals) grew up on a steady diet of acoustic music. The sounds of guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo were common to his ears from the start – his grandfather and uncle were good friends with the great Bill Monroe, and Jason was at the sidelines of many a bluegrass festival in his youth. By the time he had an interest in doing some picking of his own, guitar was the instrument he chose. Some early influences were Tony Rice, Doc Watson, Stephen Stills and Neil Young, and a unique synthesis of all these and more are what make up Jason’s award-winning sound (multiple CAMMY Awards, Detroit Music Awards nominations, and more). He’s now a multi-instrumentalist, solo artist, and oft-used sideman to many notable Michigan artists, and his mandolin work has been featured on numerous recent recordings by the likes of Jan Krist, Dave Boutette, Annie & Rod Capps, Stella, The Milroys, Julianne Ankley… and now, Wayward Roots.
Todd Lang (guitar, vocals) grew up on jazz, blues, rockabilly and funk – not your typical bluegrass background. He also channeled Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran in various rockabilly acts. Though Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Norman Blake and other greats were constantly on the menu as a kid, Todd went through the electric guitar portal before being bitten by the acoustic bug. Todd’s melodic approach to improvisation and multifaceted take on acoustic music provides a refreshing departure from traditional bluegrass picking. In addition to WR, Todd has a passion for family, simpler times, and whiskey. He’ll likely buy you one if you are nice.
Tony Pace (dobro, vocals) was born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI. He developed a love and an ear for music early on – at home, there was always a guitar around and everything from Motown to honky-tonk graced the airwaves of the family radio, courtesy of his father. When Tony started playing guitar was his mainstay, with a focus on rock & blues but an interest in all types of music. Eventually Tony was drawn to the sound and spirit of acoustic roots music, with one instrument in particular capturing his attention: the resophonic guitar, or dobro, began to speak to him with it’s lonesome, haunting sound. In 2003, shortly after his father passed away, he bought his first one and it has been his main instrument ever since. Over the last several years he has immersed himself in the bluegrass and acoustic music scene in and around Ann Arbor. Through this network he met Todd and Wayward Roots was born.