In August of 2003, AJ Roach released his debut full-length album, ''Dogwood Winter'' on his own New Folkstar Records label. The response to ''Dogwood Winter'' over the next three years – from hardened critics and music lovers alike – would be overwhelming. The record would prompt eminent songwriter, Tom T. Hall to declare AJ “a true poet”, and to cite one of the songs on ‘Dogwood Winter’ (Hard Bein’ Right) as his “new theme song”. Legendary BBC Radio 2 personality, Bob Harris would place ''Dogwood Winter'' in regular rotation on his weekend radio show and would later name the record as one of his year-end favorites.
AJ’s sophomore effort, ‘Revelation’ -- now available State-side on Waterbug records -- was recently released on the Lucky Dice label in Europe to an even more astounding reaction from critics and fans. ‘Revelation’ debuted on the Euro-Americana chart at 16 and quickly found it’s way to the 1 spot. With ‘Revelation’, Roach has managed to incorporate such diverse instrumentation as banjo, mandolin, trumpet, trombone, Wurlitzer piano, glockenspiel and accordion, while at the same time staying true to the Appalachian roots that defined his first record.
While the nature of the revelation referred to in the title is more personal than religious, religious imagery is used throughout the record. “Thematically”, says Roach, the record deals with the rift between the person you like to believe you are – or that you want others to believe you are – and the person that you know in your heart of hearts you truly are. I believe that gap exists for most people, but so many of us just aren’t willing to admit it to ourselves. This record is my attempt at being honest with myself about it.”
Roach was raised in the deep hollows of mountainous Scott County, Virginia, home of such legendary acts as The Carter Family and the Stanley Brothers. Growing up, AJ was fed a steady diet of bluegrass and traditional mountain music that strongly flavors his own vivid and haunting, yet contemporary tunes.
AJ''s relentless touring schedule since the US release of ''Dogwood Winter'' – at times playing as many as 260 dates per year -- has paid off. In May of 2004, he was the winner in the general category of the coveted Chris Austin Songwriting award at MerleFest, placing him in the company of such seasoned veteran artists as Gillian Welch and up-and-comers like Tift Merritt and Adrienne Young. AJ has made live performance appearances on a wide assortment of radio programs in the US, as well as numerous performances on BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Northern Ireland. In addition to live appearances on National Dutch Radio, AJ and his band have also appeared live on Dutch Television.
While both ‘Dogwood Winter’ and ''Revelation'' are stunning achievements, nothing compares to hearing AJ in a live setting. His performances are so powerful that it is commonplace for audience members to be moved to tears. As a master storyteller, AJ’s dry and cutting wit between songs has become nearly as celebrated as his performance of the songs themselves. The Glasgow Herald had this to say about one of Roach''s recent performances: "Roach took the audience packed into the estimable Fallen Angels Club, on a backwoods travelogue that was virtually a masterclass in illustrating how much sophistication goes into creating so-called primitive music."
Other artists that AJ has shared concert bills with over the last few years include: Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Steve Earle, James McMurtry, Jeffery Foucault, Anais Mitchell, Kris Delmhorst, The Old Crow Medicine Show and The Be Good Tanyas.
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