I kicked off Pop Diversifies Artist Profile series with Pheonix-based Jared & The Mill, which lead me to this week’s pick, Judah & The Lion.
Judah & The Lion hails from Nashville, Tennesse and has come to be known as one of the cities most genre-bending bands. With folk twang and instrumentation, pop punch, hip-hop beats and a rock drive, they have assimilated defining characteristics of their vast influences into their own unique sound that has progressed significantly over time.
Judah Akers, Brian MacDonald, Nate Zuercher, and Spencer Cross make up the line-up of the band who first come together in 2011. Judah & The Lion, as their name suggests, initially aligned with Christian music. Their debut EP, First Fruits, being a heavily worship-themed record. Though with their next release Sweet Tennessee took a more secular turn.
Religious affiliation wasn’t the only thing to progress in Judah & The Lion’s music. Their early releases were pretty straight forward folk, but each release held a little more experimentation. Sweet Tennessee (2013) and Kids These Days (2014) took on a nu-folk or indie-folk sound much akin to Mumford & Sons.
The band truly broke the mold last year with Folk Hop N’ Roll where they introduced thumping hip-hop beats under their folk base, and poppier vocals atop. This was the record that really caught my attention. With such prominent influences that I had rarely heard combined. In fact, when I first heard the single Take It All Back, I was at first transplanted back to a number of pop/punk shows I’ve attended in the past. To top the gang vocal shouting “So I take it all back, take it all back, take it all back / I take it all back just to have you” under staccato mandolin and banjo was interesting enough, but add the metronomic drum machine high hat and 808 and I knew then I had to listen further.
Judah & The Lion is certainly an inventive departure to the common folk music that has been so popular since Mumford & Son broke nu-folk into the mainstream. With their penchant for reinvention, I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
What are some of your favorite genre-bending artists?