Big Leg Emma’s luxurious roots rock has its antecedents in the music around western New York, where the bandmates grew up. Not only is Jamsestown, N.Y., in the heart of Amish country, but it’s also home to regional favorites Rusted Root and Donna the Buffalo.
The band bridges the space between folk-funk, bluegrass, and rock, although it’s their rich harmonies that make their mark. Guitarist Steve Johnson and mandolinist Charity Nuse, the band’s co-founders, have a sweetly intertwining singing abetted by violinist Amanda Barton, who grew up playing in her family’s bluegrass band.
Big Leg Emma’s journey began more than a decade ago. They released a couple studio albums in the 2000s as well as a live CD and a live DVD before calling it quits in 2008. “The business started overshadowing the music and we start losing ourselves, losing our soul,” Johnson says. “The business got too big. We needed a breather.”
The bandmates went their separate ways, with half the band joining Johnson’s new project and half joining Nuse. But the return of longtime guitarist Kev Rowe sparked some reunion shows in 2010 and signaled a change. Johnson immediately began writing songs, and the band’s chemistry improved.
“It was like, ‘We should’ve taken a break a long time ago.’ We came back and it was, ‘Holy cow,'” Johnson enthuses. “We’ve put the past to the past, and we’re just looking to the future now. We’ve never been as close as we are.”
The high energy is evident on their fittingly titled new album Revival. It’s the most polished, upbeat release in their catalog.
“Everything is maturing,” Johnson says. “We’re getting down to the craft. We’re more into it, with hours of grueling studio time sitting there with our computers, guitars and vocal mikes getting deep into it. We’ve never really done that. Good things are happening really fast. We’re not going anywhere. We’re here to stay.”
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