The Grass is High and Rising
by Emerald Butler
Wisconsin has been growing its unique jam-band style of Bluegrass. One of those uniquely styled bands is High and Rising. The trio is made up of Jym and Laura Farley on guitar, bass, and vocals, and their friend Ben Rohde on percussion. High and Rising describes their sound as Groovy Grass.
“We are pretty bluegrassy but a little bit more groovy,” bassist Laura Farley explains. “We kind of coined that term to help describe our sound. It’s not totally your traditional bluegrass. We’ve got a lot of original music that weaves in and out of bluegrass and incorporates some blues and maybe even a little bit of jazz components.”
The band officially formed at the end of 2019 but has been coming together through years of friendship and companionship. “My husband and I have been playing music together for over 10 years,” Laura shared. “It’s kind of been an evolution.” The couple first met through friends in college but didn’t reconnect until years later through those same friends. They’ve been playing music together ever since. Jym and Laura have 4 boys who they bring along with them on several of their musical adventures. Laura shared that although the boys aren’t playing instruments with their parents full time right now, they still help out with setting up and manning the merch table.
The couple had another group for nine years called The Merry Weathers, which all three of the musicians were a part of before springing into High & Rising. The Farley’s live on the Western side of Wisconsin and their drummer Ben lives a couple of hours south along the Mississippi River. The trio does quite a bit of traveling for their music. “In the mid-west, there’s just a ton of really great things going on,” Laura said. “I think there are a lot of emerging artists in the root’s genre too that is creating an awesome vibe and a really cool scene.”
“It could be taken many ways,” Laura admitted after being asked how the band got its name. The inspiration for the band’s name came while Jym and Laura were traveling out west. We’ve taken lots of road trips out west into lots of mountain regions. Of course, elevation and being high and rising was part of it.” Laura also told of how the couple was listening to a Johnny Cash album while traveling. On the album was Cash’s 1959 single release of Five Feet High and Rising. “It’s kind of a combination of those things how the name came together,” Laura answered.
High and Rising will be releasing their debut album on September 24th. The trio gathered several bigger-name musicians from the mid-west area to be on their album including Adam Greuel and Davy Lynch from Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, Ernest Brusubardis IV and Ryan Ogburn from Chicken Wire Empire, Augie Dougherty from Armchair Boogie, and more.
“We are really excited about the songs that we’ve written for it. It’s been a work in progress throughout the pandemic,” Laura added. The album is produced by Kenny Leiser who Laura said has a bit of a traveling studio. The group started the album around the beginning of the pandemic. “It’s been a pretty long time coming,” she said, “at least it feels that way to us.”
Laura said they wrote a lot of the songs on the album during the pandemic, but they’ve been holding on to some of the songs for about two years. The tentative title for the album is Howl which is one of the tracks on the album. “Howl is probably the most powerful song on the album.” Laura wrote the song for her sister who passed away from cancer a few years ago. “My siblings and I called each other wolf when we were kids. We always acted like we were a wolf pack, so the song is about that—about losing one of the pack. It’s a pretty emotional song. I think one of the things we go for as a songwriter is to write something that people can relate with. For people to actually grab on to that and feel something, I feel like it’s kind of success as a songwriter.”