In the band’s debut performance in Texas, Bumper Jacksons will bring their unique blend of bluegrass, jazz and swing music to University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Bayou Theater at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at 2700 Bay Area Blvd. in Houston.
“We’re performing songs from our new album, ‘I’ve Never Met a Stranger,’” said Jess Eliot Myhre, band manager, clarinet and washboard player and co-founding member.
The album features original songs and traditional numbers, re-imagined with fresh, contemporary arrangements and three-part harmonies.
Myhre said one of the things she and her five bandmates most enjoy doing is attending music festivals.
“We meet different people from all kinds of musical and cultural backgrounds,” said Myhre. “When we get together to jam in the campground, there’s a bond that’s formed that’s like no other.”
The name of the album, “I’ve Never Met a Stranger,” is about knowing people in an intimate way through music without necessarily even knowing their names. Profoundly, special human connections can be made by expressing and receiving the human experience through music, she said.
Almost eight years ago in Washington, D.C., Myhre, a clarinetist and longtime student of New Orleans-style jazz, met Chris Ousley, who would ultimately become her Bumper Jacksons co-founder and songwriting partner. Since then, they’ve been working together to refine their unique sound. She describes it as a melding of the bluegrass and square dance music that was Ousley’s musical influence growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania, with her own traditional New Orleans jazz background.
“We played music festivals and house parties and met people along the way who sat in on our sets,” she said. “Slowly, those guys became members of the band, and it’s why we have such a unique instrumentation. It happened organically.”
Bumper Jacksons features a horn section composed of a trumpet, clarinet and trombone player, and on the opposite side of the stage, a pedal steel guitar.
“The pedal steel makes those ‘swoopy’ sounds you hear in country music,” Myhre explained. “Ours is a special and unique arrangement of instruments. We have a brass band punch, but with the pedal steel guitar, we can allude to country music as well. We are able to tie the brass band sounds of the city with country and Appalachian influences.”
Myhre said that she hopes to bring UH-Clear Lake students in the audience on a narrative journey through different kinds of human experiences.
“We write about joy, but also loss and regret,” she said. “And please, get up and dance! We are fun and danceable, but there is important introspection to be found in our slower music.”
To purchase tickets to Bumper Jacksons online, visit www.uhcl.edu/bayou- theater/events-tickets.