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EMU, Goshen Alumni Go “Back To The Roots”

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For local group The Walking Roots Band, playing music together is a natural extension of collective friendship.

The band formed when four friends started playing music under the name The Federation during their time at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). It’s been together in some form or fashion for more than five years, but the last few months have been big for the local band.

The group now includes Seth Crissman, Greg Yoder, his wife Kristina Yoder, Jackson Maust, Mitchell Yoder and his wife Lauren Yoder, Adam Schmid and Mike Yoder. Most of the band mates are EMU graduates.

“We’re friends and we play music together,” Crissman said. “It’s sort of in that order.

“[It] just sort of naturally progressed and emerged from friendships,” he continued, adding “On a given night, we’ll get together and play bocce [ball] in someone’s backyard, we’ll get together and cook or we’ll get together and play a show.”

Sacred Space

The Walking Roots Band released its first album this month – a compilation of 11 “reclaimed hymns,” or spiritual songs that “had fallen out of the general circulation of being sung in churches,” Crissman explained.

The new album, “Shelter: A Hymn Reclamation Project,” is a patchwork of centuries-old, lesser-known sacred texts, more identifiable hymns and the band’s own unique touch.

For example, the song, “Come Down, O Love Divine” is based off text written in 1367 and arranged into a song in 1906, while the new album also includes a rendition of “It is Well With My Soul” with lyrics tweaked to reflect the Shenandoah Valley.

Crissman, 27, of Harrisonburg, wrote eight of the album’s songs, which is just the first of three albums the band hopes to produce in the upcoming months.

The next project will consist of folk songs, while other albums will be a collection of “farming songs.”

“A lot of the people in the group have connections to agriculture,” said Greg Yoder, a band member who has worked for a local farmer the past two summers.

“We think that connection to the land is really important; it’s sacred in some ways.”

Finding A Niche

Greg Yoder, 26, of Penn Laird, describes the band’s musical offerings as acoustic Americana that’s not exactly bluegrass, but rather “blue-ish grass.” It’s “folky” music with some rap intertwined, he explains.

“We’re hoping for a new category at the Grammy’s,” he said.

Bands such at The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons and The Steel Wheels influence the local group.

Group Effort

While the band’s style is hard to pinpoint, it’s also difficult to identify the lead singer or who plays which instrument.

The Walking Roots Band shows likely include six to eight instrument swaps, with all the members adept at some combination of the guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, accordion, Cajon – and the list goes on.

For more information on the band, the new album and upcoming tour dates, visit thewalkingrootsband.com.

Article courtesy Daily News Record, July 20, 2013

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