Forlorn Strangers released their self-titled debut album yesterday, and the resulting cohesive work of art filled with family harmonies and eloquent lyricism is ever-present on the first listen. Having played their first official show in May of 2015, the Nashville quintet has made it a long way in the past year, and their upcoming fall tour is bursting at the seam with shows throughout the East Coast.
Comprised of sisters Abigail Dempsey (fiddle, percussion, vocals) and Hannah Leigh Lusk (mandolin, percussion, upright bass, vocals); Chris Banke (guitar, mandolin, vocals); Benjamin Lusk (banjo, guitar, vocals); and Jesse Thompson (upright bass, dobro, guitar, vocals), the group began years ago as a songwriter collective between Ben, Hannah and Banke. This collaboration quickly morphed into a band that today divides up all the writing between the five members.
The now tight-knit unit recorded two EPs before taking the next step to a professionally produced album, funded entirely by a successful Kickstarter campaign. The album was recorded at John Prine’s Nashville studio The Butcher Shoppe, and was produced by Grammy award winner Phil Madeira, whose professional influence is evident throughout the album.
“We’ve grown through this process of just being a business and making big financial decisions,” said Hannah. “It’s all great, but it’s not always peaches and cream. I think that ends up serving the music better, and our relationships are definitely still strong.”
Banke defines the group’s style as “Americana-Fleetwood Mac,” and the harmony-driven, family band feel of “Forlorn Strangers” undeniably reflects that description. Bands like Fleetwood Mac, The Band, and Crosby Stills & Nash are big inspirations for Forlorn Strangers. “Groups that were like a family or like a unit – that’s something that’s obviously transcendent about their music, that’s the music as a whole that we really jive with and what we aspire to be,” Hannah said.
The band’s songwriting process is very comprehensive in that each member of the group writes his or her songs and brings them to the table to brainstorm and determine whether it’s cohesive with the band’s sound. Hannah’s favorite song on their self-titled album is “Down in the Trenches” because everyone in the group takes a turn singing lead. “There’s a thread of continuity in the album and we’re pleased with how it came out sonically,” she said. “One of our biggest hopes is that people can follow that thread to us.”
The band is excited about the album’s single, “Leave it on the Ground” where Dempsey’s voice projects and guides the melody, while Hannah’s harmonies offer a breezy and carefree ambiance. The lyrics reflect upon simpler times and getting through hard situations, which preserve the underlying themes of fresh starts and rebirth throughout the album.
Having embarked on their album release tour this week, Forlorn Strangers is looking forward to traveling to the West Coast for the first time together, but right now their favorite places to perform include Charleston, South Carolina, and anywhere along the Blue Ridge Mountains. “We love to play live, we love making music with each other, and we love sharing it with people,” Hannah said. “It’s a real joyful experience. So we want the audience to be a part of that.”
Forlorn Strangers will continue to tour extensively all over the country this fall. You can buy their album on iTunes or Amazon, and the album is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music. Check out forlornstrangers.com to find a tour date near you!
Written by Anna Norwood