Soulful folk duo Rising Appalachia returning to Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Soulful folk duo Rising Appalachia returning to Lake Tahoe

Sisters Chloe, left, and Leah Smith of Rising Appalachia bring their genre-bending sound to the Crystal Bay Casino on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Courtesy photo |

If you go

What: Rising Appalachia (w/ opener Arouna Diaria)

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28 (doors open at 8 p.m.)

Where: Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room

Tickets: $15 (advance); $20 (door); $35 (booth seat)

CRYSTAL BAY, Calif. — Leah and Chloe Smith didn’t mean to start a band.

In 2005, the musically inclined sisters from Atlanta were merely trying to show their parents a token of appreciation for giving them a childhood engulfed in melodies.

The only appropriate gift, they felt, was the same offering their parents granted them: music.

“We wanted to record an album as a Christmas gift for them — just for fun,” Leah said in a phone interview Monday. “To pool all our musical resources and say ‘thank you’ for giving us so many of those musical resources.”

Assembling in a friend’s basement studio in Atlanta, Leah and Chloe, with the help of several other musical friends and family, unspooled an album steeped in the banjo-and-fiddle-centric Appalachian sound their parents raised them with.

Southern hip-hop and spoken-word poetry, influences of their teenager years, were also meshed into the 14-track album. They called the batch of songs “Leah and Chloe.”

To say the eclectic album was well received — by their parents, friends, and the public who stumbled upon it — would be a massive understatement. Essentially, “Leah and Chloe” went viral in Atlanta.

“We got so much positive feedback, and we realized we were being handed a really strong opportunity,” Leah said. “We started really taking pride in the nuances of our musical upbringing; and taking it more seriously; and investigating how we could make music we loved.”

A band arose: Rising Appalachia.

Eleven years, six albums and 25,000 miles touring the U.S. later, the harmonizing, multi-instrumentalist sisters are still dazzling listeners with their diverse, genre-defying sound.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, Rising Appalachia brings their infusion of folk, soul, world music, poetry and more to the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room.

“We really try to stick to locations and venues that we look forward to visiting,” said Leah, whose band made the most of their time during Rising Appalachia’s last stop at Tahoe. “We explored the Lake Tahoe region, did some hiking trails, got in the lake, did some swimming — it’s a beautiful part of the world.

“A big part of our policy in our touring is to try and actually know the region where we are and get some time to be a local, even if it’s just for a brief moment. I’m certain that we will make space to be on the lake again, or at least hike the outer edges of it.”

When they’re on stage, Leah said Rising Appalachia — which also includes Biko Casini (percussion) and David Brown (stand-up bass, baritone guitar) — strives to stir up an intimate, attentive relationship with the audience.

“We try to be more than just a concert,” Leah said. “We try to make it a sound journey that keeps you participating from the second you walk in the door to the very last; something that takes you through a love song next to a dance party and then after that maybe something that’s in our own activism and pushes for community and collectivity.”

Indeed, activism plays a big role in Rising Appalachia’s ethos. For instance, the tour they’re on, called “The Groundswell Tour,” is in support of the Prison Yoga Project, a nonprofit organization that works to bring yoga and mindfulness to American prisons.

Leah said the song “Spirit’s Cradle” off their latest self-produced album, “Wider Circles,” was dedicated to the people — prisoners, families, friends — who have been affected by injustices of the penal system.

As a whole, “Wider Circles” chronicles the musical journey Leah and Chloe have been on since the semi-accidental incarnation of Rising Appalachia in 2005.

Needless to say, they’ve come a long way since then.

“It’s a reflection of where we are in our own work,” Leah said. “It felt musically mature. It’s something we’re very proud of, and it feels like a culmination of so many years on the road and so many years just slowly starting to find our own voices.”

Read more about Rising Appalachia at risingappalachia.com.