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Jazz-grass band MilkDrive mixes up eclectic acoustic music

The Austin, Texas-based quartet is playing Friday at Oklahoma City's Blue Door and Saturday at Tulsa's The Vanguard.
by Brandy McDonnell Modified: January 31, 2013 at 4:55 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

Naturally, the multi-instrumentalists bring the sounds they were raised on and the influence of the bands they've played with to MilkDrive. Jeffries grew up in a family bluegrass band; Ludiker, who has toured with Asleep at the Wheel, hails from Spokane, Wash., and a clan of champion fiddlers; and Lone Star State native Beken, who has played with Texas country singer-songwriter Bruce Robison, learned fiddle through the Suzuki method.

Bassist Matt Mefford started out interested in rockabilly, turned to jazz and connected with Ludiker and Beken when all three played in the South Austin Jug Band.

“I was always a roommate of them,” Jeffries said. “We were all doing other gigs — you know, paying the bills and stuff — then we'd come home on a Sunday and a Monday, we'd just pick up a gig somewhere here in Austin.”

As their fleet-fingered picking and canny compositions garnered them more gigs, folks started asking if they could sing.

“We were like, ‘Well, we do, but we've never done it together,'” Jeffries said. But they started adding lyrics and vocals to their repertoire.

After dropping a live album, “MilkDrive Live '09,” the quartet gathered in a Nashville studio to record 2011's “Road from Home.”

“When that first album came out ... we all quit our other bands and started focusing full-time on doing MilkDrive,” Jeffries said.

“We were much more prepared as we were a full-time band doing our second album.”

The band penned about half the tracks on its 2012 album “Waves,” which also includes originals from fellow Austinites Robison and Drew Smith as well as a rootsy rendition of the Beatles' “Dear Prudence.” Percussionist Roy “Futureman” Wooten of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones played Kenyan goatskin hand drum and coffee nut bean shaker on the Fab Four cover, while Noam Pikelny of the Punch Brothers lent his banjo to the intricate instrumental “Benny's Bus.”

“Here we are three or four years later with quite a large repertoire of original music and music of friends of ours,” Jeffries said. “It's exciting.”

by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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