As a felled branch floating down the river is at once a nod to what was and to the ever-changing nature of what is, so too is Driftwood. The five-piece Americana band from upstate New York plays music firmly rooted in the past with a foot-stomping fervor that is all about living in the present.
While the acoustic configuration may tempt one to label them a bluegrass act, Driftwood’s sound owes as much a nod to ’60s R&B, ’70s country rock, and contemporary pop as it does to folk and traditional Appalachian music. Live, it all comes together in a frenetic performance that has made the band a returning favorite at festivals and dance halls for much of the last decade.
Childhood friends Dan Forsyth (guitar) and Joe Kollar (banjo/guitar) have been performing together since 2005, and upon pairing themselves with classically-trained violinist Claire Byrne, began making a name for themselves as Driftwood. The trio’s fast-paced arrangements of Americana standards, vocal tradeoffs, and penchant for genre-bending improvisation quickly found them an audience around the bonfires and barrooms of their native Binghamton and beyond. By the time upright bassist Joey Arcuri joined up in 2011, Driftwood was averaging over 150 shows a year, building a dedicated following of fans, known as “Drifters,” up and down the east coast.
For their fifth studio album, due out in Spring 2019, Driftwood retreated to the Catskill Mountains to write and record in the storied home of Rip Van Winkle. They spent ten days working with Simone Felice, the award-winning producer of the Lumineers’ Cleopatra, and sound engineer Pete Hanlon, whose many credits include work with O.A.R. and Rachel Yamagata. The resulting eleven tracks on Tree of Shade showcase an evolution in the band’s sound, shying away from their usual barn-burners in favor of mellower, more contemplative songs by Forsyth, Kollar, and Byrne.
The quieter tone of the new album is by no means indicative of a band that is slowing down. Driftwood recently added full time drummer Will Sigel to their lineup and released their second live album, recorded at the legendary Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV. In 2019, they take to the road in support of Tree of Shade, with high-profile festival gigs lined up on both coasts.