By Matt Wickstrom
Formed in the summer of 2013, Lexington’s Restless Leg String Band has quickly garnered a considerable fan base with their high-energy and charisma. On May 13, the group released their highly anticipated self-titled debut album in a celebratory show with partners-in-crime Moonshine District at the Envy Event Complex.
The Lexington quartet sought out comrade Jay Brafford to assist in producing the record, which was recorded at Graytful Gardens in Gray, Kentucky. According to guitarist Casen Baumgardner, each member set up in a different room whilst recording — Baumgardner in the bathroom, mandolinist Alex Guagenti in the living room, bassist Joe Schlaak occupying an office space, and fiddler Ishi Wooton setting up camp in the corner of the small house’s main room.
“All the instrumentals were recorded live with no overdubs or added effects,” Baumgardner said. “For the vocals we went back and did all the harmonies and main vocals. Sometimes we had to re-do them and other times we didn’t. We wanted them to sound as clean as possible.”
Due to conflicting schedules, the members of Restless Leg String Band often had to travel to Graytful Gardens to record in one or two-man pairings. According to Baumgardner, Wooton and Guagenti would often join him during recording sessions, with Wooton and Schlaak also venturing out to do mini-sessions by themselves. With a handful of songs written a part of the record and many more waiting in the wings, Baumgardner says he’s always searching for new writing inspirations, joking that he often jots a couple lines down on his phone, only to come back to them later, perplexed on what melody he had accompanying them.
“In the past I’ve come up with a melody or chorus, and built off of that,” Baumgardner said. “‘Time Marches On’ I actually wrote in the RV about two years ago on the way to Bowling Green. I started strumming some chords on my guitar and ended up recording them on my phone, and built it up from there.”
Music fans can “shake a leg” with Restless Leg String Band the next two weekends at Kentucky music festivals. The group will perform Saturday, June 4 from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the inaugural Mountain Groove Music Festival on Jenkins Family Farm in Irvine, Kentucky. The lineup for the festival features only Kentucky acts, including fellow Lexington acts Moonshine District, Driftwood Gypsy and Eric Bolander.
Then on Saturday, June 11, Restless Leg will be performing during the after-party at the 43rd annual Festival of the Bluegrass, held in Lexington at the Kentucky Horse Park. The historic, rootsy bluegrass festival will also showcase performances from Lonesome River Band, Blue Mafia, Town Mountain and rising Lexington act The Wooks.
For future records, Baumgardner hopes to enlist the musical prowess of Jonathan Bramel, who often joins the Restless Leg String Band on stage when he’s not playing banjo with Vessel, out of Louisville. Other potential collaborators include Vessel saxophonist Myron Koch and saxophonist Brandon Stephens.
Restless Leg String Band’s debut album can be streamed for free on Spotify and purchased locally at CD Central, Wildcat Market and Homegrown Collectives.