Hellwater goes for nontraditional Americana

2012-03-21T16:35:00Z Hellwater goes for nontraditional AmericanaDavid Burke The Quad-City Times
March 21, 2012 4:35 pm  • 

Jason Leonard can safely call the style of music his band Hellwater plays “Americana.”

That encompasses everything the one-year-old band has in its arsenal, including traditional country, bluegrass, blues, folk and roots music, mostly on acoustic instruments.

The band, based on both sides of the river in the Quad-Cities, returns Saturday night to the Rock Island Brewing Company as an opening act for the Chicago-based roots band Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys.

Leonard, who plays guitar, banjo and harmonica as well as sings, is joined by Liz Somes on vocals, Jim Robinson on lead guitar, Jason Williams on drums and banjo, and Eric Ware on washtub bass.

“We don’t use traditional instruments some of the time,” Leonard said.

The band members come into Hellwater with a variety of influences, among them Robinson’s love of jug band music.

Leonard said the band is more guitar-driven than a traditional bluegrass group might be, although he now plays about half of the Hellwater tunes on banjo.

Most of the band’s material is originals, but the few cover songs Hellwater plays are album tracks with which the public probably is not familiar.

Also the group’s main songwriter, Leonard said he gets his influences from “story songs,” particularly those by Johnny Cash.

“I loved how he could create a character and just see where it would go from there,” Leonard added.

Leonard said he could see why there’s a wave of Americana and roots groups growing both locally and nationally.

“From what I’ve noticed, roots music appeals to a wide variety of people,” he said. “You’ve got older people who have been listening to it for a long time, and you’ve got different groups who will listen to it, too. It’s got a little bit of everything. Some of it’s edgy, some if it’s progressive.

“But all of it’s good to kick back to.”

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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