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Featured Artist: David Wax Museum

Photo by Rich Gastwirt.

“Harder Before It Gets Easier” isn’t just the name of the hit single by folk-rock band David Wax Museum; it’s also a way to describe their slow but steady climb from grassroots-everything—albums, touring, videos, etc.—to just-about mainstream success.

The two core members are vocalist David Wax—who also plays jarana, a Mexican string instrument similar to guitar, and Suz Slezak: vocalist, fiddler and donkey-jawbone extraordinaire. (Really. She plays the quijada, a percussion instrument made from a donkey’s jaw.) Together with a slew of contributing musicians, they spice up traditional American roots and indie rock sounds with Mexican folk melodies. It might be hard to imagine blending such distinct genres so seamlessly, but as  New York Times writer James C. McKinley Jr. brilliantly describes it, their style is like “lonesome Appalachian harmonies over mariachi horn lines and rhythms you might hear at a rural dance in Veracruz or San Luis Potosí.”

“Harder Before it Gets Easier,” (from their latest album Knock Knock Get Up) fuses rural Mason-Dixon harmonies with South of the Border rhythms. The song begins with creative percussion patterns and an accordion accent, before Wax’s rootsy, storytelling vocals chime in. When Slezak’s soulful croon picks up during the chorus—backed by Latin-influenced violin melodies and jangly percussion—altogether it crafts such a unique blend of sounds that you’re immediately drawn in; there’s just so much to listen to. It’s like a Kaleidoscope for your ears.

See the music video for this song below; but be advised—it’s distractingly cool, and a little trippy, to the point where it almost takes away the spotlight from the song. (So listen to it with your eyes closed, first.)

Be sure to catch their set on Friday at this year’s Jam!

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