- - Monday, July 20, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s something prophetic about Bumper Jackson co-founder Chris Ousley hailing from Laurel, Maryland, a midpoint between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Mr. Ousley lives midway between modern music — the world in which he plays and records — and the traditional country, two-step, New Orleans funk and other sounds he and his group recreate.

“When Jess and I met, we were playing in a contradance band,” said Mr. Ousley of meeting Bumper Jackson co-founder and lead singer Jess Eliot Myhre. “We loved playing music together so much, it was natural.

Somehow Mr. Ousley’s love of old-time Appalachian music and Miss Myhre’s love of New Orleans jazz and funk — she was based in New Orleans, where she honed her art and developed her major vocal chops — melded into a signature sound in an act that grew from a duo to a six-piece band.

Looking back, the duo sees the rapid-fire growth of the group from Dec. 2011 onward as the result of their desire to push the limits of country two-step.

“A lot of it was organic,” said Miss Myhre. “We had people who were in core bands — jazz bands, bluegrass bands, old-time bands — and doing jams. Soon it just seemed enough of us stuck together that we became a band.”

The band, which is releasing its latest album, “Too Big World,” has become a regional favorite for its original music and its twists on traditional tunes that are so creatively revisited that some people don’t even realize they are classics.

One example on the latest album is the Appalachian tune “Come All You Virginia Gals.”

“It’s all about how you shouldn’t go with the [women] from that state because they’re too poor, backwards and religious [outliers],” said Mr. Ousley. “Jess took the whole song and revised it with lots of auxiliary percussions and big-stacked harmonies. Now it sounds like something completely new and original, though it’s a traditional song.”

Creating new Bumper Jacksons’ music is done in a “not intentionally closed shop.” Although the bandmates are proud of the band’s membership in the local and regional music scenes, Mr. Ousley, Miss Myhre and the group’s bass player, Alex Lacquement — who was professionally trained at the Eastman School of Music — are the main musical decision-makers in concert with the group’s studio engineer, friends and bandmates.

Chris, Alex and I mainly choose what we are excited about and want to do,” said Miss Myhre. “When Chris and I started this, we didn’t have any grandiose dreams except to pay our bills, have fun and challenge ourselves.”

That may soon change due to new partnerships that have the band poised to play festivals and large venues throughout the U.S. — and gain more radio exposure.

“I feel like the rooms we play and the places we travel are beyond what we dreamed,” said Miss Myhre. “Now that we’re [close to] playing bigger festivals and rooms, that is just so cool. That’s the fun and freeing and adventuresome parts of being a musician.”

If you go

WHAT: Bumper Jacksons’ “Too Big World” Album Release Show with Junior League Band EP Release Show

WHERE: The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, Virginia, 22305

WHEN: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

INFO: Tickets $20 by calling 703/549-7500 or visiting TheBirchmere.com

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