Though the Academy Awards are often dominated by big-name films with huge budgets, director Debra Granik's family drama/rural crime thriller Winter's Bone (2010) caused quite a stir on the awards circuit last year. The film grabbed four Academy Award nominations, two Independent Spirit awards, and the Village Voice critics even bestowed Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor on the small, independent feature.
Set in rural Missouri's Ozark Hills, Winter's Bone contains an equally impressive soundtrack of old time string music, folk, and country, heavily featuring the contributions of Marideth Sisco and the other musicians in her band, Blackberry Winter. The group of veteran Missouri musicians has been on tour since late May promoting their brand-new album, In These Ozark Hills.
In advance of the band's concert at the Cedar Thursday July 7, Gimme Noise spoke with Marideth Sisco while she and the band took a short break at a rest stop in Connecticut, en route to Boston.[jump]
As the film's title suggests, Winter's Bone is a bleak film. The 17-year old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is stuck caring for her younger brother, her sister, and her catatonic mother while her meth-cooking father is out on the lam. After not showing up for his trial, the authorities are threatening to take the family's home, so Ree decides to track down her father through the tangled web of the backwoods drug community surrounding her.Despite the dark premise, Blackberry Winter's songs add a nice dose of Ozark authenticity to the thrilling tale. Unmistakably filmed in the Ozarks of Missouri, the film's director Debra Granik also insisted on finding local musicians to add to the soundtrack. The band came together as a result of the film, though Sisco knew many of the other musicians from other projects in the area. Sisco's calming voice opens the film, as she sings a slow, melancholy rendition of "Missouri Waltz."
Blackberry Winter performs what Sisco describes as old time string music. Their music certainly isn't the frenetic brand of Americana that Trampled by Turtles play, but the older musicians of Blackberry Winter don't seem to mind. "We may not play dancing music," Sisco says. "But it certainly is foot tapping music. We play a couple of barnburners, it's not all ballads."
The folk music traditions of Appalachia are another obvious comparison to Blackberry Winter's sound, but the Ozark styles that the group draws from are unique to the area. "[The music of the Ozarks] is close to Appalachian music but it's not the same," remarks Sisco. "The rhythmic structure is slightly different, and it's not quite as hard-driving. I've talked with some people about this since being out here in Appalachia, and they all agree with me too."
Blackberry Winter performs a range of songs live and on record, ranging from traditional folk numbers to songs penned by members of the band. Sisco isn't the only singer in the group either: on the soundtrack for Winter's Bone, banjo player Van Colbert, fiddler Billy Ward, singer Linda Stoffel, mandolin/dobro player Bo Brown, and rhythm guitarist Dennis Crider also sing lead on at least one song.Sisco has been singing for as long as she can remember, and she jokingly quips that she " missed out on stagefright because I didn't realize you were supposed to be scared on-stage."
Though the band was assembled for a very specific purpose, they're showing no signs of packing it in and heading home. The band's 17-track new album, In These Ozark Hills, was only recorded this spring, a testament to the group's strong musicianship and years of experience playing. According to Sisco, the tour reception so far has been very encouraging as well. "Too many people have said they want us back for us to stop playing together," she says.
With their easygoing demeanor and the band's years of practice behind them, Blackberry Winter are sure to be a treat to see live. Minnesota's own old souls in The Roe Family Singers will open the show.
Blackberry Winter (Music from Winter's Bone) with The Roe Family Singers Thursday July 7, 2011 $15 in advance/$18 at door 7 p.m. The Cedar 416 Cedar Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55454