Saturday at Barefoots Joe: folk band ‘The Last Bison’

By Kathleen Hartsfield
Staff Writer

On March 2, Barefoots Joe will host The Last Bison, a band from Chesapeake, Va. The group’s seven musicians include a violinist, a cellist and an organist. Members include lead vocalist Ben Hardesty and his sister, Annah.

Joe Dresser of the Barefoots Joe leadership team described the band’s sound as “integrating southern Virginia rootsy, gritty music with the sensibility of classical music.”

The music is reminiscent of that of other folk-leaning bands such as Mumford and Sons and Fleet Foxes.

Like many Union students, members were raised in Christian homes, said Barefoots Director Joy Moore.

Some were classically trained and others taught themselves to play their instruments, Moore added.

The variety of musical influence each band member has had results in a more ambiguous genre that may be best identified as “folk.”

Beneath the rich layers of strings and harmonies, the words of the songs themselves engender in the listener a longing for an honest existence.

“You’ve left me with a sense of compassion for the ones who can’t pick themselves up off the ground,” goes the song “Switzerland,” the first track off the album “Quill.”

This track was met with enthusiasm from the blogosphere, Dresser said. The Hype Machine, a site that tracks how often songs are blogged about, listed “Switzerland” among the top 30 tracks of the week last year.

“The Last Bison has been garnering attention since we first approached them last fall,” Moore said, adding that the group was recently featured on NPR’s World Café and has been booked for the Newport Folk Festival.

In November, The Last Bison signed to Republic Records, the same label as The Avett Brothers, Florence and the Machine and James Blake.

Last semester, Barefoots Joe began an ongoing YouTube series called Sound on Film. Ben Wright of the Barefoots leadership team leads this project. He said Barefoots Joe hopes to film a video of The Last Bison for Sound on Film.