Jump Up Devil are one of the newest blues/roots bands to come out of Michigan and yet they have almost 100 years of experience between them. They combine the rawness of deep country and delta blues and roots music with the more modern and urban sounds of boogie woogie and Tin Pan Alley. They’re as at home with a proto-blues folk song as they are hard-drivin’ electric blues. As roots music historians (Bruce actually does have a PhD in American Roots Music!) they search deep into the catalog of obscure blues and make them their own: sometimes changing musical arrangements, sometimes writing new lyrics, and sometimes just playing the songs in a new way. Their influences range from the folk songster stylings of musicians like Lead Belly; the great jug/string bands of the late ‘20s and 30s; the hard delta sounds of Charley Patton, Son House, and Robert Johnson; the great Piedmont/East Coast techniques of Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Blake; to the urban drive of pianists like Roosevelt Sykes and Meade Lux Lewis. Temper this with their own unique musical sensibilities that allow the possibility for anything to happen and you have the music and experience of Jump Up Devil!
Jump Up Devil are:
Bruce Conforth: Guitars, vocals
Bruce has been playing country and delta blues guitar for over 40 years. Growing up in New York City during the folk revival of the 1960s exposed him to the culture and history of American Roots music at an early age. While still in his teens and early twenties he learned guitar from such legends as Son House, Reverend Gary Davis, Robert Lockwood, and many others. In the 1970s he played with musical great Dave Van Ronk and performed at folk festivals across the country as well as such celebrated clubs as New York’s The Bitter End. His 1976 album “Ragtime, Blues and Jive” featuring fiddle great Kenny Kosek is considered a classic of its genre. He also has his PhD in ethnomusicology and American Roots Music and is a professor of folklore, popular culture and the blues at the University of Michigan. Through articles, lectures, and workshops he has established himself as one of the country’s foremost Robert Johnson scholars.
Anne Crawford: Fiddle, keyboards, vocals
Anne's musical and educational endeavors have stretched across such a broad spectrum of contexts and styles that it is particularly interesting to find her playing in her most current ensembles. She has studied Chinese history and literature at Harvard University, Music at the University of Michigan, harpsichord at the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam, and studied both harpsichord and violin at Oberlin Conservatory where she earned a Bachelor of Music degree. From there she went on to perform on both instruments in a variety of settings with a special emphasis on baroque and early music ensembles. Not limiting herself to musical performance she has written music for several plays staged at the Cotuit Center for the Arts on Cape Cod. In more recent years, she has immersed herself in ragtime, blues, jazz and gospel styles, finding expression with these idioms on both violin (or fiddle) and piano. Using traditional and aluminum-horned violins (Stroviols), she threads through fine and coarse textures that have been called “plaintive, pastoral, and brooding.” She appears regularly as violinist with the group Orpheum Bell whose latest CD – Pearls – has been described as “reaching deep into the past yet sounding completely fresh.” Her performances have ranged from the stage of Ann Arbor’s Ark to music festivals across the Midwest.
J.T. "Harmonica Buzz" Sunden: Harmonica, guitar, vocals
J.T. is a Michigan roots and blues harmonica player whose reverence for the country blues doesn't prevent him from having a whole lot of fun. He has a back-porch feel that actually belies crisp ensemble playing. While never "overplaying" his style explores the multiple boundary-crossings among folk, blues, bluegrass and country music and drops listeners right into this musical thicket.
Michael Shimmin: Percussion et.al.
Michael is one of the most sought after percussionists in all the midwest. He was a founder of the group Millish, plays regularly with Seth and May, Madcat, Kane & Maxwell Street, The Red Sea Pedestrians, The Starlight Six, and has appared on more albums than he can count. Michael is versed on a Drumset, Cymbals, Dumbek, Riqq, Tar, Bendir, Ocean Drum, Kanjira, Marimba, Shakers, Congas, Bongos, Udu Drum, Talking Drum, Mridangam, Bells, Cabasa, Hand Claps, Glockenspiel, Timpani, Guiro, Vibraphone, Dhol, Voice, Guitar, Bass, and Accordion.
Ben Rolston: Bass
Ben is a graduate of the University of Michigan Program in Jazz Studies and in addition to being an in demand session musician also has his own independent projects underway. Facile in everything from slap-bass to subtle bowed jazz and classically-inspired licks he brings a great expanse of musical ideas to the band.