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Trampled by Turtles are from Duluth, Minnesota, where frontman Dave Simonett initially formed the group as a side project in 2003. At the time, Simonett had lost most of his music gear, thanks to a group of enterprising car thieves who'd ransacked his vehicle while he played a show with his previous band. Left with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, he began piecing together a new band, this time taking inspiration from bluegrass, folk, and other genres that didn't rely on amplification.
Simonett hadn't played any bluegrass music before, and he filled his lineup with other newcomers to the genre, including fiddler Ryan Young (who'd previously played drums in a speed metal act) and bassist Tim Saxhaug. Along with mandolinist Erik Berry and banjo player Dave Carroll, the group began carving out a fast, frenetic sound that owed as much to rock & roll as bluegrass.
Trampled by Turtles released their first record, Songs from a Ghost Town, in 2004. In a genre steeped in tradition, the album stood out for its contemporary sound, essentially bridging the gap between the bandmates' background in rock music and their new acoustic leanings. Blue Sky and the Devil (2005) and Trouble (2007) explored a similar sound, but it wasn't until 2008 and the band's fourth release, Duluth, that Trampled by Turtles received recognition by the bluegrass community.
Duluth peaked at number eight on the Billboard bluegrass chart and paved the way for a number of festival appearances. When Palomino arrived in 2010, it was met with an even greater response, debuting at the top of the bluegrass chart and remaining in the Top Ten for more than a year. Two years later, their crossover appeal landed them at number 32 on the Billboard 200 pop charts upon the release of their sixth album, Stars and Satellites.
In addition to major bluegrass and folk festivals, they began showing up at Coachella, Bumbershoot, and Lollapalooza. The official concert album, Live at First Avenue, followed in 2013, recorded at Minnesota's most famous venue. A year later, the band returned with the darker-toned Wild Animals, which bettered its studio predecessor on the album charts, reaching number 29. Trampled will release their latest album, Life Is Good On The Open Road, on May 4, 2018.
A Midwesterner by birth, singer-songwriter Frankie Lee is a traveller by nature. His father was in the horse business, and the family moved around a lot — Michigan, Texas, Minnesota, Tennessee, among other places — which accounts for his sometimes vague answers to questions of where he “comes from.” Lee spent a couple years in college before dropping out to become a folksinger. (Lee often returned to Minnesota in subsequent years, spending entire summers, he said, working alone on a farm.)
He moved to Austin, TX, and got his first paying gigs on the folk/country scene. He played clubs like the Scoot Inn and the Longbranch where he met JT Van Zandt (who he later worked for) who introduced him around the up and coming East Austin scene. After almost seven years in Austin, it was off to Los Angeles. The first show he played in LA was with an up and coming band named Dawes. As time went by, it was obvious Lee didn’t belong in LA, but he stayed a few more years chasing the music and the women only to find he couldn’t keep up with either.
After 10 years away, he returned home with a bag of new songs and recorded them right away. Minneapolis was the right fit for the sound he had in his head at the time. A band was assembled through drummer JT Bates that included Jeremy Ylvisaker (Andrew Bird) and Mike Lewis (Bon Iver) amongst others. Most of the songs were cut live the first night and appeared as they were on Lee’s locally released EP Middle West.
It was Middle West that connected him to a wider world and American Dreamer that brought him there. American Dreamer was recorded over a period of time he spent working on a pig farm and living in St. Paul, the songs were written in the early morning commutes from city to country. That’s where these songs sit best, opening up as you get further away: a vision from a man alone in time, capturing the sound where dreams and reality meet. The album was released in England in 2015 by London label Loose, who were the first label to sign the likes of Sturgill Simpson, The Felice Brothers, Hurray For The Riff Raff. Loose released the album in America alongside Thirty Tigers on July 8, 2016.
American Dreamer is “Nostalgia for the Future.”