Parsonsfield is a five-piece alt/folk band from Northampton, MA that infuses a rowdy, rock-'n'-roll spirit into its bluegrass and folk influences, blowing away any preconception of what you think banjos and mandolins should sound like.
Parsonsfield—Chris Freeman (vocals, banjo), Antonio Alcorn (mandolin), Max Shakun (vocals, pump organ, guitar), Harrison Goodale (bass), Erik Hischmann (drums)—has toured steadily since their debut in 2010. In 2013 they recorded their debut album Poor Old Shine (Signature Sounds Recordings), produced by Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive). The critics were impressed, with David Vescey from the New York Times noting, "I fully expect to hear more from this band as the years go on." and the U.K.'s Maverick Magazine calling it "A blistering energetic debut." During the winter of 2013–14 the band wrote and performed an original score in the acclaimed production of The Heart of Robin Hood at Harvard's American Repertory Theater, and they will continue the production for a four-month Broadway tryout in Canada in winter 2014–15.
They weren't always called Parsonsfield (the band started out as Poor Old Shine, but changed in July 2014). The new name was born of the inspired experiences recording two albums in beautiful, rural Parsonsfield, Maine, at Great North Sound Society, Kassirer's farmhouse studio/retreat. It was there they met current drummer Hischmann, who was working as Kassirer's assistant engineer.
"We owe a lot to what happened there," said Freeman of their time at Great North. "Our sound really changed when Erik joined ... it pulled us from being a more traditional string band to something that felt much more uniquely ourselves. It made us the band we are today."
As for the name change, it was certainly unusual—and a difficult decision (they learned that, to some, their old name carried an association with an antiquated derogatory expression). But it also sparked an unexpected creative musical leap.
"It gives us more freedom to explore different genres and styles without having the burden of expectation," says Freeman of the change. "Many people thought Poor Old Shine was a reference to moonshine, and thus assumed we were an Appalachian or bluegrass band. It's an opportunity to explore our own music with greater clarity."