Local rootsy act Sweet Olive String Band readies for New Orleans Jazz Fest

While jazz musicians make up a large chunk of the performance lineup for the 2014 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Sweet Olive String Band is one act that proudly fits the “heritage” label.

Related: Read more on the all-AXS Jazz Fest Guide

The local New Orleans-based foursome offers its take on classic American music, specifically southern and rural styles. The performers call their sound "old tyme country and blues," and that’s an apt description for their blend of acoustic guitar with fiddle, dobro, mandolin and bass.

Roots music has been making a comeback in the past several years, with bands like Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, and the Avett Brothers giving that sound a mainstream rock appeal. Fans of those groups who want to expand their horizons should consider checking out the Sweet Olive String Band. The String Band is less rocking and more traditional-sounding than those acts, but there’s enough of a connection to appeal to the open-minded festival attendee.

The String Band is comprised of members who have been performing this music for several years, and in some cases, decades. Those who follow New Orleans music will recognize the names of all four band members: Mike Kerwin, Pat Flory, Rob Schafer and Gina Forsyth. All are successful musicians who have performed at Jazz Fest in the past with other bands.

The veteran performers met more than a decade ago but came together as the Sweet Olive String Band only recently when Kerwin and Flory decided to join forces. The two men provide the lead vocals and harmonies for the group.

If you’re not familiar with the Sweet Olive String Band, you can get acquainted by watching their 2013 performance above at the Louisiana Music Factory. They played a half-dozen songs, including “If It Wasn’t for You” and “My Louisiana Home,” two key tracks from their recent debut studio album, as well as “Stranger in the Mirror,” which Flory calls “a mortality song” about the realization that you’re getting old.

One of the group’s standout tracks is the original song “Long Lonesome Road,” which describes the professional musician’s eternal quandary of touring while missing a special someone back home.

The Sweet Olive String Band will be performing on Friday April 25, the very first day of the 2014 Jazz Fest. Superstar acts like Santana and Public Enemy are also taking the stage that night, but if you’re a fan of roots music, consider making some time for the Sweet Olive String Band as well.

Sweet Olive String Band
Jazz Fest Performance: Friday, April 25, 2014
Genre: Swamp/Roots Rock
Go see this if: you want to hear old-fashioned southern roots music from an accomplished group of musicians.

For fans that aren’t able to make it to New Orleans, the AXS Mobile App presented by Verizon will live stream performances on Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27, for a total of six free mobile performances. The AXS app is available in the App Store on iTunes or on Google Play right now.