The Carper Family
11pm, Stephen F's Bar
"It went from five people, just the regulars, to crazy. One hundred people for happy hour."
That's Beth Chrisman, fiddler for the Carper Family, describing the band's first real gig, Monday evenings at the Hole in the Wall, something that started early in 2010 and ended about 18 months later. Chrisman, stand-up bassist Melissa Carper, and guitarist Jenn Miori aren't related, but they sing like they are.
The trio concentrates on music popular around World War II, cowboy songs from Gene Autry, honky-tonk by Hank Williams, and original material in the vein of the Carter Family. Besides authenticity, the Carpers update the ancient with songs like "Who R U Texting 2Nite?"
"One thing that's cool is that we all came to the music on our own before we had the band," Miori explains. "It came together just like butter."
"It was so easy to sing the harmonies," Chrisman adds. "We all liked the same songs."
Debut Back When, released late last year, brought a wave of recognition locally, but the Carpers' attendance at last month's Folk Alliance conference in Memphis drew even louder raves. Old-time music boosters Ginny Hawker and Tracy Schwarz served as mentors. They discovered they had influential admirers like Americana champion Jim Lauderdale and twangabilly guitarist Bill Kirchen. Best of all, Leslie Rouffe, a well-known Nashville-based radio promoter, has taken them under her wing and Ken Irwin of Rounder Records will probably be following them around this week.
"We called it the rocketship to stardom," Miori laughs.
Back When was recently nominated for an Independent Music Award, an international competition with Keith Richards among its judges, and there's a trip to Norway for a festival this summer already on the books. The Carper Family's future seems as strong as its love for music that's close to being antique.
Or as Carper chose to deadpan: "Yeah, we're kind of obsessed with it."