About/Press


"Out standing in their field." - John Cohen
The Down Hill Strugglers** is an old time string band based simultaneously out of Kentucky, Louisiana and New York. They have released an album on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and are featured on the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film, "Inside Llewyn Davis" produced by T-Bone Burnett. The Down Hill Strugglers band formed while hanging out at the home of their mutual friend Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders, where they also met friend and mentor John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers.

By carrying the music of the old rural America forward The Down Hill Strugglers are extending the legacy of the New Lost City Ramblers by bringing archaic sounds into the present, and challenge audiences reject a dystopian future animated by disco beats and their ilk.

The Greek legend of Sisyphus is: "Sisyphus (/ˈsɪsɪfəs/;[1] Greek: Σίσυφος, Sísyphos) was a king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth) punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever."  The Down Hill Strugglers are the opposite, desperately struggling to keep a huge boulder from rolling down a hill.

The Down Hill Strugglers are:
Walker Shepard - fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, voice
Jackson Lynch - fiddle, banjo, guitar, voice
Eli Smith - banjo, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, Jews harp, pump organ, voice
They are often joined by John Cohen - banjo, guitar, mandolin, voice, brain

Some Quotes About the Band:

"Many string bands have the tunes but not the chops. Some have chops and tunes, but can't achieve lift-off, marching along politely like so many historical reenactors. But the Down Hill Strugglers hit the trifecta, pulling their bows deftly across the best numbers in the old-time songbook with more grit and style than just about any group fiddling away today." 

- Nathan Salsburg, Curator, Alan Lomax Archive.

 “The Down Hill Strugglers bring back the true spirit of Old Time Music, where every singer invented his own performance. Besides being excellent musicians on fiddle, banjo and guitar, pump organ, harmonica, etc., they sing with the high voices that echo the sounds of young artists heard on the old 78s, evoking the spirit of the “Golden Era” of recording, and the mystery of their own identity.

They have built their repertoire from some of the best music of the past and they keep it alive and lively. They have found resonance with the intensity of rural music, while delighting in the nuances that preserve the individual uniqueness of the genre. This is music that will keep your mind dancing.

The Down Hill Strugglers are reaching for new musical highs, and they play the kind of music I want to hear.”

- John Cohen, New Lost City Ramblers.

“A really excellent stringband! They make this old music alive and present.”

- Bob Fass, WBAI 99.5fm New York.

“The Down Hill Strugglers are, to my ears, the very best interpreters of traditional material presently going.”

- Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker

“Here’s three of my favorite people to play and sing with ever, kicking musical ass all over the landscape. If you like your trad/roots benter and hotter than normal, you’ll love this!”

- Peter Stampfel, Holy Modal Rounders and Fugs.

Selected Appearances by the Down Hill Strugglers:

  • The Kennedy Center - Washington D.C.
  • Newport Folk Festival - Newport, RI
  • The Library of Congress - Washington D.C.
  • Vancouver Folk Festival - Vancouver, BC, CA
  • Jalopy Theatre- Brooklyn, NY
  • Brooklyn Folk Festival - Brooklyn, NY
  • Washington Square Park Folk Festival - New York, NY
  • Lime Kiln Theatre - Fries, VA
  • Great Lakes Folk Festival - E. Lansing, MI
  • The Freight and Salvage - Berkeley, CA
  • The Old Town School of Folk Music - Chicago, IL
  • Club Passim - Cambridge, MA
  • Caffe Lena - Saratoga Springs, NY
  • Ashokan Center, NY
  • UC Berkeley, CA
  • Oberlin College Folk Festival, OH
  • Westport Bluegrass Festival - Ireland
  • Borgas International Folk Festival - Bulgaria
  • Black Banjo Gathering - Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
  • Pickathon - Portland, OR
  • Duke University - Durham, NC
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Woodsongs - Lexington, VA
  • Mountain Stage - Bristol, TN
  • Hillbilly Days - Pikeville, KY
  • Whispering Beard Folk Festival - Friendship, IN
  • City Winery - New York, NY
  • Bowery Ballroom - New York, NY
  • The Bell House - Brooklyn, NY


The Down Hill Strugglers with John Cohen at the Washington Square Park Folk Festival. (Photo by J. Lee)
On the porch with suits.
** The Down Hill Strugglers were formerly known as The Dust Busters.              

3 comments:

  1. The Down Hill Strugglers

    https://youtu.be/td5cAwO5NA8

    ReplyDelete
  2. You guys were fantastic October 13th at the KDHX Folk Music School here in St. Louis. Have a great tour this time around! Dan

    ReplyDelete