From their endless touring with nationally-acclaimed jam favorite moe. to recording and playing together as the Americana based Al and the Transamericans, for Upstate music fans, Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico are two names that ring a familiar tune. But their new collaborative side project, Floodwood, is an act on the bill that may not but the name is buzzing. Less than two years ago, the two joined forces with New York natives Nick Piccininni, Jason Barady, and Zachary Fleitz to create a new, progressive string outfit who, in the short time since their inception, have swept through the live scene, playing countless festivals and shows in the region. And with the release of a new album this fall, Floodwood isn’t just a group merely drifting along the stream. They’ve jumped into the scene feet first, plucking strings and packing energy to rise them out of the tide.
The band’s newest release, This is Life, is an album simple in theme, yet complex in form. Showcasing the diverse talent of the Northern-bred quintet, it draws on elements of jam, jazz, bluegrass, and roots to capture the signature sound associated with the Floodwood name. Birthed out of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, the album features Al Schnier (moe.) on guitar, Nick Piccininni (The Abrams Brothers, The Atkinsons, The Delaney Brothers) on banjo and fiddle, Jason Barady (Wooden Spoon) on mandolin, Zachary Fleitz (Wooden Spoon) on bass, and Vinnie Amico (moe.) adds a unique percussive dimension otherwise unseen in music of this kind. Al, Nick, and Jason all take lead on vocals, and the musical variation of the band makes each track on This is Life take on a form of its own.
“North Country Winds”, the album’s opening track, pays homage to the Floodwood’s northern roots. Schnier’s nostalgic lyrics paint the picture of an isolated Adirondack winter, and Barady opens up the number with a teasing of the mandolin – soon after the rest of the band follows suit; Piccininni’s fiddle stands at the forefront, and Fleitz and Amico’s rhythms drive the track. The album’s theme is reflected in the track, “Holy Sacred”, a playful tune with a simple message. The track showcases Piccininni on banjo and “This is Life,” are three words that repeat themselves throughout the tune.
Tracks like “Gravel Yard” and “Caught” are reflective of Schnier and Amico’s musical history of experimental jam. Weaving together improvisational, spacey elements with traditional bluegrass form, the tracks hit at the core of what classifies Floodwood as a progressive touring act. “Magnolia Road” is a tune with that signature moe. sound fan have grown to love, but the addition of Picinni’s vocals accompanied by strings give it a flavor of its own. “Stomp It”, “Spoon Kicks” and “Whiskey after Breakfast” are instrumental tunes whose energies are reflective of what one might find when catching Floodwood live. Naturally, these songs set themselves apart from the other tracks on This is Life.
While the album gives listeners a taste of the progressive powerhouse that is Floodwood, it merely skims the surface. They are a band not simply to be heard, but one to be seen. To appreciate Floodwood, one must dive deep, but not too deep. The spin they put on traditional form isn’t the only thing that characterizes Floodwood as progressive. These days, they’re moving along at a rapid pace, playing countless shows throughout the Northeast. And while touring and playing together may be fairly new for this Adirondack-born quintet, their music makes the message clear: for Floodwood, This is Life.
Currently, This is Life is available for digital download. To purchase the album, visit iTunes.
Key tracks: North Country Winds, Stomp It, Caught