You gotta stop and smell the roses, or so people say.
The quartet’s debut album was launched March 10 by Mountain Fever Records, a bluegrass music-focused record label based in Willis, Virginia.
While “Roses” leans on bluegrass as a foundation, the album’s 10 songs echo with Americana and traditional country sounds created with melodies and lyrics by more than 20 songwriters from past and present. Jackson Hollow makes well-polished songs that go beyond bluegrass with some heavenly harmonies and award-winning musicianship.
The band features Cloverdale-area couple Tianna Lefebvre (vocals, mandolin) and Mike Sanyshyn (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), with Eric Reed (guitar/banjo) and Charlie Frie (bass, vocals).
Lefebvre and Sanyshyn met 30 years ago, got married a decade later and co-founded Jackson Hollow in 2015.
“We started this band with different players than we have now,” Lefebvre noted. “We were trying things out to see if they would fly, and it did take off, probably more than we expected, and the people we started with had other commitments and couldn’t continue in the fashion we wanted. So we got some others involved and rebranded, just went for it, with Eric and Charlie in the band.”
Lefebvre and Sanyshyn recently flew to New York to record interviews with Joey Black for broadcast on the SiriusXM music station Bluegrass Junction (channel 62), as an international showcase of “Roses.”
The album was recorded a year before COVID, but wasn’t completely mixed, mastered and packaged until this spring.
“We’d never really released anything commercially before this recording, other than a rough EP,” Sanyshyn explained. “It might feel like forever since we’ve had anything out, and it has been forever. With all the challenges of having the musicians working as sidemen for other people, it’s difficult to make the time for us. But now we’re all kind of pulling together to make this more at the forefront, especially the last few years. Now it’s time to make this project more of our priority.”
Sanyshyn, originally from Crowsnest Pass, Alberta, and Lefebvre, who grew up in Vancouver, met at a jam night in the early 1990s.
“After a few years of being together,” Sanyshyn said, “we discovered a picture of us that was time-dated on the print (of the photograph), and we realized that we were on stage playing music together two or three years before we actually became a couple, and later got married.”
Lefebvre sings with Dolly Parton-like energy.
“That’s definitely a compliment,” she said, “even though she’s not my biggest influence, and of course I love her, but my biggest influence is probably Pam Tillis, the similar sounding voice. Maybe people just look at me and the blonde hair and think, ‘Oh, Dolly Parton.’ I do get that and do appreciate it, she’s one of the greatest.”
The singer didn’t start singing country music until she was in her 20s.
“My parents were always very into country music and I was just trapped in the car with them, so I guess it just sunk in over time,” Lefebvre explained with a laugh. “When I started doing more contests and my cousin’s friend would take me to jams and stuff, he was in the country scene and we ended up at country jams. Then my parents encouraged me to sing country, and that’s how it happened.”
Sanyshyn’s path to professional music was paved by father Evan, president of the Surrey Branch #5 BC Old Time Fiddlers Association. He often jammed with Mike at local halls, prior to his passing on Feb. 3.
“My dad and grandfather were two major influences in my fiddling career, and I was inspired to play music because of them,” Sanyshyn underlined. “They exposed me to a lot of different styles of music, mostly traditional.”
Standout tracks on “Roses” include “Travelin’ Heart,” “Shallow Rivers” and “Look Who’s Talking Now.”
“The album is a love letter to the music that grabs us as artists,” Sanyshyn said. “We feel that through the songs on ‘Roses’ – which range from happy and joyful all the way to the sad and contemplative – we can showcase the bluegrass genre to those waiting to discover it, while respecting the pioneers who started it.”
The album is available on digital streaming platforms and also as a CD.
“We know that the bluegrass world still relates to physical copies, and it’s great to have some discs to sell off the stage at our shows,” Sanyshyn explained. “And some of the people at radio still request physical copies of CDs.
“That old-school way is kind of what we’re still about too, right?”
Look for Jackson Hollow on local concert stages this summer, and online at JacksonHollowMusic.com.