The Howlin’ Brothers: Ian Craft, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, vocals; Ben Plasse, upright bass, banjo, vocals; Jared Green, guitar, harmonica, vocals.

The Howlin’ Brothers: Ian Craft, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, vocals; Ben Plasse, upright bass, banjo, vocals; Jared Green, guitar, harmonica, vocals.

by James Cassara

With their traditional flannel shirts, denim overalls and plow boy hats The Howlin’ Brothers, who are not related by birth, may look like a bluegrass band but the music they create, while integrating specific bluegrass trappings and rhythms, clearly defines them as a modern day Americana string band.

In the finest custom of the genre, which has always lent itself to contemporary adaptations, The Howlin’ Brothers combine aspects of rock, pop, gospel, jazz, R&B, Dixieland, country blues, and who knows what else into the mix. The singular thread that hews together these various patchworks is a commitment to musical diversity and artistic growth.

Formed in Ithaca, New York at Ithaca College in 2003, the Howlin’ Brothers (Ben Plasse on upright bass and banjo, Ian Craft on fiddle, mandolin, and banjo, and Jared Green on guitar and harmonica; with all three sharing vocals and harmonies) developed an avid following by way of their vibrant, foot-stomping live performances. In 2005 the trio decided to pull up stakes and relocate to the warmer climes of Nashville.

Knowing the long odds of staking an individual claim in such a saturated environment the band went straight to work, recording three self-released albums, Mountain Songs, Long Hard Year, and Baker St. Blues in a span of five short years. Old Time All the Time, a compilation of live performances sold only at shows, caught the ear of guitarist/songwriter Brendan Benson of The Raconteurs.

Benson, whose musical tastes are firmly anchored in the 1970’s. Benson brought a more current ethos to The Howlin’ Brothers, encouraging them to broaden their approach while maintaining the stylistic integrity they had fashioned. That association has resulted in the band’s first national release.

Howl, with Benson producing and featuring contributions from Allman Brother (and Asheville native) Warren Haynes, was released by Benson’s own Readymade Records earlier this spring. In support of the album The Howlin’ Brothers have launched their most extensive tour yet. That tour includes a May 11 show at The Grey Eagle, a chance to celebrate the full blossom of spring with some fine music.

>> The Howlin’ Brothers at The Grey Eagle on Saturday, May 11. The doors open at 8p.m. for this standing room only, foot stomping 9 p.m. show. Tickets are $8 in advance, and $10 day of. It’s an all age performance, so feel free to bring the kids!