Thursday, March 31, 2016

Judah & the Lion at the Gramercy Theatre

Vocalist/guitarist Judah Akers wrote some songs while in university in Nashville, Tennessee, and wondered what they would sound like with banjo and other traditional instruments. Fellow student Brian Macdonald of Illinois was transitioning from guitar to mandolin and learned that another student, Colorado native Nate Zuercher, played banjo. Coming together in 2011, the three students immediately sensed that they should continue playing together. They recruited drummer Spencer Cross and became Judah & the Lion. The band released its second album, Folk Hop 'N Roll, on March 4, 2016.

Headlining at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Judah & the Lion merged Americana bluegrass, folk, blues and soul with modern pop and hip hop for a wild mix. While on several of the band's recordings each of these sounds was refined and cultivated, on stage the lines were more blurred for an overall loud pop rock sound with only hints of the other genres. The marriage of southern twang with urban beats was promising until the banjo and mandolin began sounding exactly like electric guitars. When the songs were more linked to their roots, however, they boasted of integrity, particularly the acoustic songs that featured vocal harmonies. The brief hip hop segment was fun, and most of the set highlighted a joyous feel that kept more than a few hips swaying. Judah & the Lion is a creative genre-bending band which is very close to defining for itself how to combine its optimal strengths.

Visit Judah & the Lion at