MilkDrive, the Austin alt-folk-progressive acoustic string band, has put the finishing touches on its debut studio album, ROAD FROM HOME, produced in Nashville with Bil VornDick (Alison Krauss, Bela Fleck, Bob Dylan, Ralph Stanley) that will be available in April 2011.
It actually got its start in the northern climes of Idaho, where principal songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Noah Jeffries grew up playing bluegrass and gospel in his family’s band and started writing amazing tunes at age 14. The first band he put together, 36 String Swing, toured the state as Jeffries studied jazz performance at Boise State University. He also played with Jason Boland and the Stragglers for seven years.
Jeffries moved to Austin and moved in with fiddling champion-mandolin player Dennis Ludiker, whom Jeffries had met long ago when both were kids competing in the National Old-time Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho – as well as the young Brian Beken, who also would ultimately join the band.
Jeffries began recording his own tunes under the name The Noah Jeffries Project and then with Ludiker, the duo trading duties on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass on an underground demo called “BoLth on the Rampage.” Soon after, Beken, a multi-instrumentalist, too, who has toured with Bruce Robison, joined the band so it could perform live.
With the addition of bass player Matt Mefford, who was in South Austin Jug Band with Ludiker and Beken, the band was complete and became MilkDrive. A year later, in June 2009, it released a live CD, MILKDRIVE LIVE ’09, with arrangements described as “impeccable” and picking so fast it’s “unbelievable.”
Ludiker, who has toured with Asleep at the Wheel, won the 2009 RockyGrass Mandolin Contest and holds titles as the 2010 World Fiddle Champion, 2009 and 2008 Texas State-Fiddlers Frolics and 2002 Walnut Valley Music Festival Winner. Beken was 2004 Texas Flatpick Guitar Champion. Jeffries won a Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival Jazz Guitar Competition.
Awards are a great measure of technical prowess, but they reveal nothing about the musical soul so palpable in MilkDrive’s music, the quartet’s sound a textural, multi-layer mix of rhythms, tempos, flavors, harmonies, improvisation – and the confidence each possesses that comes from experience with an instrument (or instruments).
The band has toured in Idaho, Colorado, California, Washington, New Mexico, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah and Louisiana and in 2010, performed at River City Roots Festival in Missoula, Mont.; Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs, Colo.; and Walnut Valley Music Festival in Winfield, Kan.
Fingers flying at breathtaking speed, original tunes that feel familiar at first but go beyond extraordinary, songs with themes universal but unique, heart and brains behind dynamic performances: It’s an uncompromising musical journey the members of MilkDrive are on.