Spirit Family Reunion is a touring band based out of New York that aims to deliver raw, high-energy honest music. They have self-produced and self-released two full-length albums, No Separation (2012) and Hands Together (2015), as well as multiple songbooks and other collections of recordings. The band will take to the road in support of their sophomore album, Hands Together, released this past April 14. The 12-song set was mixed by Paul Q. Kolderie (Radiohead, Pixies, Uncle Tupelo) and produced by the band in Coney Island, N.Y. Hands Together followed up the New York band’s critically acclaimed 2012 debut No Separation, a grassroots self-release that resulted in over 10,000 albums sold side-of-stage. Also issued on the band’s own label, Hands Together was released for the first time worldwide (through InGrooves Fontana in the U.S.).
After more than 250 live shows in support of their debut, Spirit Family Reunion have become a live favorite, stunning audiences at the Newport Folk Festival, Stagecoach, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass among other festivals, and touring with Levon Helm, Alabama Shakes, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Dr. Dog, Felice Brothers, Blitzen Trapper, Trampled by Turtles, and Hurray for the Riff Raff. Their spirited live show has received critical acclaim, with the SF Weekly naming them one of the best performances at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, noting, “The charge in the air was celebratory. We had been baptized." On seeing the band live for the first time, Detroit’s Metro Times wrote, “It was like when (Jon) Landau discovered Springsteen. When Aretha discovered Ray Charles.” NPR Music’s Bob Boilen stated that the band were his favorite find at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival.
In an effort to have no divide between the band and its audience, Spirit Family Reunion started playing live in New York City subway stations, farmers’ markets and street corners in 2009 before taking their performances to live music venues. The overflowing energy and lack of separation between the band and audience translated to the stage and also inspired the title of their debut album, one filled with a sound they call “open-door gospel”: gospel music not tied to any specific denomination.
Hands Together was tracked in a temporary studio once belonging to hardcore producer Don Fury and was recorded by the band’s longtime engineer (and longer-time bike mechanic) Andrew Gerhan (Sonny & the Sunsets). It was housed in one of the oldest buildings located on Surf Avenue in Coney Island, above the bumper cars, across from the elevated train and in between Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and the infamous Cyclone rollercoaster. Recording took place in bouts between tour dates, with sessions starting in late winter 2014 and completed in early fall when the area was a ghost town. (During the summer months in between, it was a circus outside.) The band maintained their high-energy classic sound in these sessions, armed such tools as a custom handmade banjo, thrift-store washboards and marching drums, and a vintage Neumann tube microphone they sang around. The studio setting also led to experimenting with some new sounds such as echoplex tape delay, a plastic recorder, and a portable electric organ called a “hymnmaster,” which according to the Internet does not seem to exist.