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Country band has family-style harmonies, even though they’re not related

By Zack Harold, Life editor

Let’s just get this out of the way.

The Carper Family, coming this Saturday to the Culture Center Theater, is not actually a family.

At least, not in the flesh-and-blood kind of way.

Instead, the Austin, Texas-based trio performs tightly knit traditional country music with harmonies so tight ... well, you’d swear the members share at least one parent.

The band takes its name from upright bass player Melissa Carper, who is actually the group’s newest member.

Fiddler Beth Chrisman and guitar player Jenn Miori met up at a picking party in Austin and began performing as a duo.

They recruited Carper in the winter of 2010 to help play a wedding gig. But once the trio realized how natural their harmonies sounded, Carper became a permanent fixture of the band.

Still, why name the band after Carper?

“I feel bad about it,” she said. “My last name sounds like ‘Carter.’”

The group is certainly influenced by the first family of country music, the Carter Family, along with other Grand Ole Opry stars.

But they also take cues from the western swing of Bob Wills and the bluegrass music of Bill Monroe.

And while the band members are all devoted fans of early country, each came to the genre by a different path.

Carper grew up playing for her family’s country band.

“My parents would play Hank Williams and Patsy Cline around the house, and that’s what we played in our band too,” she said.

Chrisman grew up in Alaska, where she was heavily influenced by that state’s bluegrass scene. Miori didn’t get into country music until she moved to Texas for college.

Those influences carry over into the original songs Chrisman and Miori write for the group.

“I don’t know that it’s a conscious thing, it’s just because we’ve immersed ourselves so much in that style,” Carper said.

Their latest album, “Old Fashioned Gal,” also contains several songs written by the band’s friends in Austin.

The town is a hotbed of musical talent but Carper said it’s also a very supportive environment. The album was produced in Austin and features many Austin-based musicians.

“I think it’s really inspiring and it’s helped us out a lot,” Carper said. “I don’t feel like it’s competitive. That’s one of the really nice things.”

Last month, the album was nominated for best country album in the Independent Music Awards and two songs, “Old Fashioned Gal” and “Foolish Ramblin’ Man” were nominated for best jazz song with vocals and best country song, respectively. Winners will be announced this summer.

Meanwhile, The Carper Family’s touring schedule is picking up, including more than a half-dozen music festivals this summer from California to Norway.

That means a lot of time on the road and a lot more people asking “Wait, you’re not really a family?”

Carper has her response ready.

“We’re not related, we just feel like we’re family,” she said.

The Carper Family will play the Culture Center Theater on the West Virginia State Capitol campus this Saturday at 8 p.m. The concert is sponsored by Friends of Old Time Music and Dance.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Children under 13, VISTA volunteers and community volunteers get in free.

To purchase tickets or get more information about the show, visit www.footmad.org or call 304-415-3668.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-4830 or zack.harold@dailymailwv.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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