EAST VILLAGE, NY—Alyssa Altschul and Doug Graham met in grade school in a small town north of New York City. As teenagers, the two celebrated their love for American roots music by singing and strumming guitars by many upstate mountainside campfires. The duo founded an Ithaca-based six-piece psychedelic rock band called Blindman’s Holiday during their college years in the 1990s, but after five years, Altschul broke away to pursue studies in jazz voice and contemporary improvisation at the New England Conservatory of Music. The now-married Grahams moved back to New York City in 2003, where they entered the jazz and singer-songwriter circuit. Billed as a solo artist, Alyssa Graham released an album of jazz standards in 2005, a second album featuring folk, jazz and pop influences in 2008 and a third folk country-inspired album in 2012. A recent life-changing Mark Twain-style adventure through America’s backwoods led The Grahams back to who they were way back by the campfires—a country music act with bluegrass roots. The result was The Grahams’ Riverman’s Daughter album.

At Chez Andre in the Standard Hotel East Village on Feb. 17, The Grahams showed no sign of a criss-crossing musical journey. The Grahams presented a 60-minute set of Americana-rooted original songs. Perhaps there was a lingering remnant of jazz training in Alyssa Graham’s powerful voice, but coming from underneath her wide-brimmed cowboy hat, it sounded pretty country tonight. Alyssa is a small woman, but her voice was big, evidenced by her acoustic guitar-playing husband Doug repeatedly asking the sound engineer to lower the volume of her vocals on his stage monitor. Doug flamed the campfire feel by adding rich lilting harmonies, and a fiddle player ramped up the barn dance feel, particularly on the sing-along “Revival Time.” The quintet, steeped in ageless backwoods sensibilities, skillfully brought a blissful set of earthy rural sounds to a city of hipsters.

 

Visit The Grahams at thegrahamsmusic.net.

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