A modern progressive string band that draws from the past but tempers tradition with elements of jazz, jam bands, and alternative rock, the Belleville, Illinois-based Old Salt Union first gained attention in the mid-2010s through a series of self-released records and festival performances.
Appearances at Stagecoach and LouFest helped build word of mouth, and in 2015 the group won the FreshGrass competition, all leading to a deal with Compass Records in 2017.
Banjoist Ryan Murphey formed Old Salt Union with guitarist Dustin Eiskant in 2012. Mandolinist Justin Wallace and fiddler John Brighton followed not much later, with bassist Jesse Farrar -- Eiskant's cousin and a nephew of Son Volt's Jay Farrar -- arriving in 2014, after the group released the EP Western Skies. Old Salt Union issued the full-length Bridge and EP Woodshed in 2014, releases that helped push them onto the national bluegrass scene. The band played numerous shows as an opening act and as part of festival lineups, racking up over 200 performances in a calendar year and setting the stage for the 2016 release of the Cut and Run EP. Eiskant left the band after that record; his replacement was Rob Kindle. Early in 2017, Old Salt Union signed a record contract with Compass. They released their eponymous debut for the label in August. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi