Band’s Music Has Been Heard on Oscar Isaac and Margot Robbie Film Soundtracks and 61-Million-Selling Video Game Red Dead Redemption 2

“The Down Hill Strugglers are, to my ears, the very best interpreters of traditional material presently going.”
–Amanda Petrusich (New Yorker Magazine)

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.

“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

“I have a lot of vinyl at my place. This new LP by the Down Hill Strugglers, Old Juniper,’will have a place in that collection. These guys are a first rate string band! Walker, Jackson and Eli have absorbed the old tradition, and the songs and tunes they wrote for this album are outstanding.”
–Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan, Asleep at the Wheel)

The Down Hill Strugglers – the Appalachian-style folk trio that’s had music in the soundtracks to films Inside Llewyn Davis (starring Oscar Isaac) and Dreamland (with Margot Robbie); two of whose members have had music in the over sixty-one-million-selling video game Red Dead Redemption 2; and who have played The Kennedy Center, Newport Folk Fest, The Library of Congress, Brooklyn Folk Fest, NPR Mountain Stage – have recorded its first album of all originals. Old Juniper releases August 16 on Jalopy Records. It’s the band’s first album in seven years and first since the passing of band member John Cohen (New Lost City Ramblers).

Today, Jalopy shared “Valley By the Stream,” written and sung by band member Walker Shepard, who moved out of Brooklyn and now lives in an old farmhouse in rural Wisconsin:

Formerly on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (under the band name the Dust Busters), The Down Hill Strugglers carry forward the sounds of the old, rural America. Eli Smith, Jackson Lynch, and Shepard harmonize in the high, lonesome style and the band plays an array of instruments, including fiddle, banjo and guitar, as well as harmonica, banjo-mandolin and old fashioned pump organ.

Old Juniper is the first new album from the Down Hill Strugglers since 2017 and is its first album of original music. The band wrote songs that are true to the deep and diverse roots of the old time string band style where they feel most at home but that also reflect the experiences and feelings of the band members living modern lives.

Take the jaunty, humorous social commentary song “Let The Rich Go Bust,” the second single, written by Smith, coming out July 16. It kicks off with a reference to the 2016 election before touching on police brutality, Smith’s experience of the COVID pandemic, wealth disparity and tent cities.

“Whistle Won’t Blow,” reflecting a sound that the Carter Family would’ve recognized, glides atop a lap steel guitar. The instrumental title track takes some unlikely turns via a distinctive chord progression partway through.

A beautiful rendition of the traditional “The Girl I Left Behind Me” is a bonus track that appears on the LP and will be released at a later date as a single. Instead of using the traditional tune, they paired the words with a fiddle tune from Zambia that they heard from an old 78rpm record reissued on the Secret Museum of Mankind series.

The album was recorded live to tape with the band playing around one microphone.

The title track was recorded on a summer night in band member Walker Shepard’s sister’s barn in upstate New York. Astute listeners can hear the sound of crickets in the background.

The band formed while hanging out at the home of their mutual friend Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders, where they also met bandmate and mentor John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers. Lynch and Smith are based in Brooklyn.

Band members Eli Smith and Walker Shepard spent two and a half years working on in-game music for the new hit video game Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games), on which Smith served as Traditional Music Consultant. Smith plays banjo, guitar, jaw harp, mandolin and whistling while Walker Shepard plays the fiddle. Players find Smith in the game, in the role of a cowboy, sitting at a campfire playing guitar. He also appears on the official soundtrack playing the banjo. A reviewer for said, “If there is anything here in this game that feels actually, genuinely perfect, it’s the music.