The Tillers are Mike Oberst, Sean Geil, Aaron Geil & Joe Macheret.

The Tillers got their start in August 2007 when they started thumping around with some banjos and guitars and a big wooden bass. Their earliest gigs were for coins and burritos on the city’s famous Ludlow Street in the district of Clifton. The songs they picked were mostly older than their grandparents. Some came from Woody Guthrie, some were southern blues laments, and many were anonymous relics of Appalachian woods, churches, riverboats, railroads, prairies, and coal mines.
Their look didn’t fit the stereotype. They were clearly recovering punk rockers with roots in city’s west side punk rock and hardcore scene. The punk influence gave their sound a distinctive bite, setting them apart from most other folk acts- a hard-driving percussive strum and stomp that brought new pulse and vinegar to some very old songs. But their musical range soon proved itself as they floated from hard-tackle thumping to tender graceful melody, all the while topped by Oberst and Geil’s clear tenor harmonies.

They began picking up weekly gigs around the city’s bar scene. It didn’t take long before their signature treatment of classic folk songs became the preferred versions of Cincinnati locals. Their audiences swelled, growing into an assortment of grey-haired mechanics, neo-hippies, farmers, punkers, professors, and random strays all stomping, clapping, singing, and belting outbursts of “John Henry!” “Darlin’ Corey!” Ever since, the band has come to each show with the same energy. They are magnetic showmen, mature musicians, and colorful storytellers.

The Tillers have since won over Cincinnati’s bar and festival scene, and launching tours with tireless momentum. They were awarded CityBeat Magazine’s Cincinnati Entertainment Award for best Folk and Americana act in 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 & 2015. Their relentless gigging has taken them throughout the East coast, the Midwest and West, the Appalachian south and to the UK and Ireland opening for the St.Louis crooner, Pokey LaFarge. In the summer of 2009, veteran NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw featured the Tillers on a documentary about US Route 50. Brokaw showcased the group’s song “There is Road (Route 50)” as a testimony to the highway’s role as a connective tissue of the nation.

Musically, the band wears many hats. Their sound has proven to be an appropriate fit with a wide range of musical styles- traditional folk, bluegrass, jazz, punk rock and anything else they might run into. They have shared the stage with a broad swath of national touring acts, ranging from renowned folk legends such as Doc Watson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Guy Clark, Country Joe McDonald, Jerry Douglas, Iris Dement, Pokey LaFarge and The Carolina Chocolate Drops to rambunctious rock daredevils like the Legendary Shack Shakers.

Always moving, the Tillers continue to enter new territory. Their musical growth can be heard through the scape of their many releases, 2008′s debut record Ludlow Street Rag, 2010′s By The Signs, 2011′s Wild Hog in the Woods, 2012′s Live from the Historic Southgate House, 2013′s Hand On The Plow and many more bootleg releases. The band’s lineup has also taken new shape. In February 2010, long-time bassist Jason Soudrette fondly parted ways with the group, being replaced by Aaron Geil, brother of guitarist Sean. In 2015 the band added fiddler Joe Macheret (Joe’s Truck Stop/Urban Pioneers) to the ranks. Recalibrating has not slowed their pace.

They continue to plot their travels around the map, electrifying new places and making new friends wherever they go. From place to place, they carry with them more instruments, new songs, and funnier stories. They are Cincinnati’s traveling minstrels. Expect to hear from them soon.

If you’re wondering where the music of Nashville troubadour WOODY PINES comes from, look to the streets. It was on the streets as a professional busker that Woody first cut his teeth, drawing liberally from the lost back alley anthems and scratchy old 78s of American roots music, whether country blues, jugband, hokum, or hillbilly. Heavy rollicking street performances are the key to some of today’s best roots bands, like Old Crow Medicine Show (Woody and OCMS’ Gill Landry used to tour the country in their own jugband), and they’re the key to Woody’s intensely catchy rhythms, jumpy lyrics, and wildly delirious sense of fun. Woody traveled all over the streets of this country, road testing his songs, drawing from the catchiest elements of the music he loved and adding in hopped-up vintage electrification to get that old country dancehall sound down right.

That’s why the songs on his new self-titled release WOODY PINES (released May 28 on underground label Muddy Roots Recordings) are so hot. This is gonzo folk music, the kind of raise-the-rafters, boot-shakin’ jump blues that used to be banging out of juke joints all over the South in the late 1940s, but now it’s burning into the earholes of a younger generation of Nashville kids, all looking for music with deep roots and something to hang on to.

It’s tempting to call Woody Pine’s newest music “rockabilly,” and in fact he recorded the new album at Sputnik Studios in Nashville, famous for recording rockabilly and psych-twang heroes JD McPherson, Jack White, and Sturgill Simpson. But it might be more accurate to call Woody’s new songs “hillbilly boogie;” a rarely remembered genre of American music made famous by the Delmore Brothers. Hillbilly boogie sits at the exact moment when the buzzed- out, electrified hillbilly country music of Appalachia (which itself drew heavily from country blues), first hit the sawdust-floored honky-tonks of old Nashville and Memphis. It was the moment exactly before the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Woody writes with a wink to this critical time on songs like “Anything for Love” and “New Nashville Boogie,” drawing in modern references at will to make his points. He also dives deep into the tradition, drawing up gems like the old gangsta- folk song “Make It to the Woods” from the Mississippi Sheiks. In Woody’s music, there’s never an idea that roots music should be a recreation of an older time. Instead, he taps the vein of this music that’s still beating today, finding common ground with the old hucksters and bar-hounds who created the music in the first place.

When Woody Pines sings “when the train rolls by, I get a faceful of rain,” this isn’t some hipster dilettante twisting a faux-handlebar mustache and singing about old-timey railroads, this is a dedicated student of Woody Guthrie who used to hop freight trains to get from town to town. This is serious roots music that’s as much a way of life as an aesthetic choice. This music isn’t for dabblers; you gotta feel it in your bones. Let Woody Pines help.

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