photo by Andrew Dickinson
words by Chance Solem-Pfeifer
Even if they feature an ever-growing and ever-rotating cast of roots music-loving characters, at the heart of Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band is a man with encyclopedic knowledge of American roots music, a makeshift percussion piece called the “Snuffledinkle” and a glass contraption meant to hold liquid.
And as far as that last bit goes, by the time a Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band performance is over, it will likely be holding some. Granted, you’re spitting into a jug all night, but it’s also evidence of the boundless physical enthusiasm these Lincoln musicians have for their strain of old-timey music.
Now music historians might place them in the third wave of American jug band music, which was popularized for the first time before the Great Depression, but the more localized context for Root Marm is a pair of musicians Ian Egenberger and Josh Kornbluh. The pair were tired of lugging heavy amplifiers around O Street and seeing meager compensation for their work in the rock band Sweet Dirties. Consider the portability of acoustic Americana and Ian’s Lincoln homestead on a plot he calls the Chicken Farm which actually does play host to live fowl, and you’re all the way home, once you add a few capable jug players.
In Root Marm, that meager compensation becomes less of an issue as the band finds refuge in the nontraditional venues of houses and street corners. And still, they’ve described their most rewarding moments as children instinctually dancing to their music at farmer’s markets. Therein lies the attraction to what they’re doing, and quite probably it’s timelessness.
They say they’ve had as many as 13 players on stage at one time, including appearances from harmonicists, steel guitarists, accordion players and tap dancers. On Hear Nebraska FM, they joined us in their most barebones fashion. Guitar, voices, percussion and, of course, the jug.
Don’t fly the coop, kids. Here is Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug Band.
Chance Solem-Pfeifer is the host of Hear Nebraska FM. Happy holidays to all of the great folks at KZUM who make this show possible. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.