Members of Dustbowl Revival
Tickets start at $43
Thursday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m.
Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center
750 E. Shaw Lane, East Lansing
If the “Dustbowl” in Dustbowl Revival conjures mental still frames from John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath” or the coarse folk guitar of Woody Guthrie, well, then you’ve got this perpetually world-touring eight-piece band all wrong.
The DNA of American roots music is tightly wound in its sound, but listen to the Dustbowl Revival — performing Thursday at the Wharton Center — and you’ll often feel as if you’re overhearing a party pouring into your ears off New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. Zach Lupetin, the group’s guitarist and one of its primary songwriters, said his band’s live show is deliberately a trek though a myriad Americana stylings and differing levels of emotional vibrancy.
“That’s always what we try to do — make a live show; be something that people have never seen before, never heard before,” Lupetin said. “It’s a journey through different eras of American roots music. With our last record we started to really collaborate as songwriters, and create our own sound. It’s a fun thing to be constantly experimenting.”
Dustbowl Revival formed in 2007 after Lupetin, a University of Michigan graduate, made his way to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. The band’s steady evolution through the ranks of the industry sees Lupetin on the road for the better part of each year, but he isn’t complaining.
“You’re away from your family a lot, and it can wear you down. But it’s also our job to bring music to people,” Lupetin said. “There’s worse jobs you could have. I think it’s a blessing to be able to share your art with people.”
The group found a larger audience in 2015, thanks in part to an appearance by legendary actor Dick Van Dyke in the music video for “Never Had to Go,” a track from the album “With a Lampshade On.”
The video features Van Dyke dancing jubilantly with an exaggerated grin across his face. The album and video’s release was followed by appearances on some of the larger folk music festivals, including Delfest, Floydfest and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.
The band earned a big sonic boost for its eponymous 2017 album by way of Grammy Award-winning producer Ted Hutt. Hutt brought to the band his experience as a founding member of Flogging Molly and producer for notable punk groups like the Gaslight Anthem, Dropkick Murphys, Lucero and the Bouncing Souls. Hutt received a Grammy for his particularly lush work on Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Remedy,” which seized the Best Folk Album award in 2015.
“Ted was an instrumental force in our last record. He was generous with his time and helped us sort of shape and twist the songs into new forms,” Lupetin said. “What a great producer does isn’t necessarily helping you write the songs. Instead, they’ll steer you in the right direction and create a cohesive storyline through all the songs. I think he gave us the courage to be vulnerable.”
But with all the traveling in the world both behind and ahead of them, Lupetin and his band are excited for a return to Michigan.
“It’s such an embracing music-listening community. We’ve gone all over the state and we rarely get to come to East Lansing. So this will be the first time in a long time, and we’re excited to bring some new tunes to them.”