Eccentric, off-beat music has never been so accessible as it is when performed by Grand Rapids folk outfit The Northern Skies. With a barrage of fiddles, violins and ethnic percussion blended in with a modern alternative sensibility, the band exemplifies everything new and everything old at the very same time.
On Dec. 17, The Northern Skies will release its second full-length album, Thick As Thieves -- an album filled to the brim with guest performances from area musicians, Erin Zindle and Randall Moore of The Ragbirds.
"I had a batch of songs that I really felt strongly about playing," said front man Eric Engblade of the album. "Even though we'd recently become a three-piece band, I wanted to get them recorded. So I had this great idea: I know so many cool musicians, so I asked them to come in and record different parts."
The result is an album with an overwhelming amount of musical density, which completely smothers the American right to pigeonhole a band into a particular genre.
"It sounds a little more full," Engblade said. "These are class-A musicians. You can't go wrong with these guys. Having them on our record is an honor."
But Engblade is quick to point the album's completion, not only to the help of his fellow musicians, but to the supporters of The Northern Skies.
"We started recording at Michael Crittenden's studio, Mackinaw Harvest," Engblade said. "But we ran out of money halfway through. The reason this album happened is because we're so blessed to have such great fans, friends and family members."
The band started a Kickstarter page to fund the album, and managed to raise more than $3,000. After that, they wrapped up recording at Stonehouse Studios with Peter Fox.
The CD release show will take place at Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids on December 17. Big Dudee Roo will also perform in support of its own album release on the very same day.
"Also, this show is really close to Christmas," Engblade added. "So we decided the only practical option is to throw an ugly Christmas sweater party. If we see you in an ugly sweater, you get a free sticker."