UMass Dartmouth’s Folk Heroes

By SAWYER POLLITT 

A&E Section Editor  

 

Photo Credit: Zack Wedge 

Cowboy boots and an Appalachian twang are an unusual sight here in New England. However, going against the grain of Southern Massachusetts is Jake Hunsinger and the Rock Bottom Band, and this past Saturday at the News Café in Pawtucket, RI, the yeehaw vibes were strong. 

Beginning only with vocalist and guitarist Jake Hunsinger (English/History, 2020), the group expanded to include bassist Jamie Doyle (Management Information Systems, 2021), drummer Zack Wedge (History, 2020), and guitarist Andrew Donnelly. The group plays the original folksy tunes written by Hunsinger himself as well as a number of well executed covers of country and folk classics.  

Walking up to the News Café I was dramatically overdressed and drastically unprepared for the night that waited ahead of me. After an $8 cover which goes entirely to the bands preforming and a $3 beer (or three), I settled in to enjoy a fouract set over the course of the evening. Sitting at a long bar illuminated with green neon and a subtle black light, I watched the performers setting up their gear, chatting with the audience, and getting ready to take the stage. 

 Acting as the master of ceremonies for the night, Hunsinger introduced the first act, vocalist and guitarist Beth Barron. A solo player, Barron sang sweet tunes with a gentle style. However, that’s not to say that she couldn’t turn up the heat and swing with the best of them. Next up to the stage was Jake Wasson M.D. (not a real doctor), Wasson brought a harder sound with his guitar and powerful harmonica skills. 

 These two sets of versatile and masterful performers opened the night in a wonderful way that set the mood, got feet tapping, and could have tackled any show in their own right. Next up was Hunsinger and The Rock Bottom Band. When they took the stage, those in attendance migrated to the rear of the bar, surrounding the stage and preparing for the upcoming set.  

After a bit of charming banter, the group began their portion of the night with explosive energy and a charisma that could soften hearts and lower inhibitions by word alone. Throughout their set, Hunsinger commanded attention as the front-man for the group. Wedge laid down a consistent and heart-pounding backbeat that kept the group on track. Doyle, swapping between standard electric bass and a badass electric standup base, kept the groove thick and driving. Donnelly, not to be outshined by the others, used his resonator guitar to play out technically impressive and unique solos.  

Following their set, the Torch sat down with the members of the band to chat about the show, the band, music, and more. This performance was the first paid gig for The Rock Bottom Band and speaking with Doyle, it was clear how important this night really was “Performing with Jake Hunsinger and the rock bottom band was one of the best things that’s happened to me as musician, this band is continuing to open up new gates for me as a performer and I’m excited to see where the future takes us”.  

Like all musicians, Hunsinger has his influences, and he cites his father as one of the most important. Chatting about his childhood, Hunsinger told the Torch that his father gave him his first guitar and taught him the chords that would inspire him to continue his journey into music. “Music is the only thing that makes sense in my head” said Hunsinger.  

After talking with Hunsinger, it was clear that I was speaking to a true musician and a true artist. Wedge added in his own commentary saying that for those who want more of The Rock Bottom Band can rest assured knowing that “this Bob Dylan meets Led Zeppelin meets Appalachian folk band has no intention of stopping anytime soon.”  

The band Hollow Turtle closed out the night with an electrifying set that even got this stubborn reporter onto his feet and dancing with the crowd. The News Café couldn’t have picked a better set of acts to play the night and the joint was most assuredly jumping well into the early hours of the morning.  

This show, presented by Hobo Castle Records, shook the building and for lack of a less cliché term, rocked the night away. If you ever get the chance to see Jake Hunsinger and The Rock Bottom Band, that is an opportunity one should surely take.  

Jake Hunsinger and The Rock Bottom Band can be found on streaming services, bandcamp, and CDs are on the way.  

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