The Riverbreaks at DC9

Washington DC folk rock band the Riverbreaks perform at DC9. Photo: The Riverbreaks

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2013 — The Riverbreaks are for all intents and purposes a band that is local to Washington DC. This is the city they claim as their residence, and up until recently all core members of the band lived within the DC city limits. However, front man Ryan Bailey has now relocated to Nashville and this puts the spotlight on what currently drives the Riverbreaks sound.

Riverbreaks’ southern origins put a distinctive stamp on everything this band plays. Even before hearing their recent performance at DC9, it would have been hard to pinpoint their sound and style much further north than Richmond, Virginia.

The band’s roots are actually in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the original members of the band’s family connections are scattered even further across the South. With Bailey now in Nashville, it is not a surprise that this locale is putting a noticeable new spin on the band’s sound. Or at the very least, there is something in there very much like a Nashville vibe that coincides with the music they’re playing today.

What has been notable lately is the laid back approach the band takes during their live performance. Even between songs, this band takes its time. There is never any urge to rush, and the impression they give is an engrossing lack of urgency that does not stand in the way of musical immediacy.

A lot of the band’s laid-back approach flows out from the instrumental and vocal skills of front man Ryan Bailey. He is the obvious focal point of the band. His vocals take on the characteristics of old-fashioned crooning, and his acoustic guitar style is distinctly up-tempo.

The rest of the Riverbreaks crew fills out the band’s sound, which makes them more than just Bailey. Guitarist Jesse Prentice-Dunn keeps everything in check with even-keel guitar playing that is more measured when compared to Bailey’s. 

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Keyboardist Andrew Satten is careful to never overwhelm the band’s sound. Yet he adds ample amounts of atmosphere to the Riverbreaks sound.

And Drew Ball skillfully anchors the rhythm section on bass. The band also lends a quirky, country-style atmosphere to some of their songs by adding in a violin.

In an urban environment like DC, the appearance of a band like the Riverbreaks is a welcome change of pace that at times feels like the antithesis of the urban influence that infuses most bands today. In the end, the Riverbreaks can be most accurately described as simply a good old-fashioned Southern band with strong, distinctive ties to folk and rock.

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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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