In October 2013, Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman will release their first album as a duo, We Made It Home, and you can hear in the music their joy at building a life together. Produced by bluegrass/roots music legend Laurie Lewis, the album projects comfort and intimacy. Their voices raised in harmony, their instruments intertwined, Melody and Jacob’s original songs and carefully chosen covers tap into their collective eclecticism. Under the layers of rich acoustic tones and powerful vocals, the songs draw from the realms of astronomy, ethnomusicology, feminism, folklore, and family history. The power of Melody and Jacob’s duets make these different topics seem natural together, like a fascinating dinner table conversation, and the ease with which they create music together can only be born from two people who have traveled long miles, both dreaming of coming home.
Before meeting in California, Melody Walker and Jacob Groopman both grew up surrounded by sound. The daughter of a blue-collar songwriter father, Melody grew up listening to everything from the Beatles to Bill Monroe. After studying percussion and voice at Humboldt State University and in India and Brazil, she co-founded the women’s world fusion a cappella group AkaBella.
Originally from Richmond, VA with Appalachian musical ancestry, Jacob fell hard for his first love, rock ‘n’ roll, but it was Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead that turned him on to American folk music. He studied jazz guitar at Oberlin College, dabbling in jug band music before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area and jumping into the local bluegrass and roots music scene, where he met Melody.
On We Made It Home, Melody Walker’s songs well up from her diverse philosophical interests. The beautiful song “Black Grace” combines scientific and religious definitions of heaven to create a secular humanist gospel song of remarkable depth and power. “Yellow Haired Girl” reminds the listener of early feminist anthems like The Carter Family’s “Single Girl,” but draws more from the legacy of singer-songwriters like Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco who unmask the brutal reality of our culture’s exploitation of women. Throughout We Made It Home, Melody and Jacob craft old traditions with modern twists. From the folk roots sounds of “Billy the Champ” (an ode to a boxing ex-circus chimp), to the somber mandolin and vocal subtlety of “Sweet Sunny South,” and from the refreshing and just down-right-fun cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” to the closing track, a flawless take on Peter Rowan’s song “Mississippi Moon,” it’s a jubilation to hear these two playing music together.