Members of South Austin Jug Band's NEW BAND: MilkDrive. MilkDrive, the Austin alt-folk-progressive acoustic string band, actually got its start in the northern climes of Idaho, where principal songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Noah Jeffries grew up playing bluegrass and gospel in his family's family band and started writing amazing tunes at age 14. The first band he put together, 36 String Swing, toured the state as Jeffries studied jazz performance at Boise State University.
Jeffries moved to Austin and moved in with fiddling champion-mandolin player Dennis Ludiker, a member of South Austin Jug Band that Jeffries had met long ago when both were competing in the National Old-time Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho, as kids — as well as the young Brian Beken, who would also ultimately join the band.
Jeffries began recording his own tunes under the name The Noah Jeffries Project and then with Ludiker, the duo trading duties on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and bass on an underground demo called "BoLth on the Rampage." Soon after, Beken, fiddler for South Austin Jug Band and The Gougers and a multi-instrumentalist himself, joined the band so it could perform live.
With the addition of Matt Mefford on bass, the band was complete and became MilkDrive. It released its debut CD in June 2009, MILKDRIVE LIVE '09, with arrangements described as "impeccable" and picking so fast it's "unbelievable."
Ludiker won the 2009 RockyGrass Mandolin Contest and holds fiddling championship titles from the 2009 and 2008 Texas State-Fiddlers Frolics, 2002 Walnut Valley Music Festival and 2001 Washington State Open. Beken was 2004 Texas Flatpick Guitar Champion. Jeffries won a Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival Jazz Guitar Competition.
Awards are a great measure of technical prowess, but they reveal nothing about the musical soul so palpable in MilkDrive's music, the quartet's sound a textural, multi-layer mix of rhythms, tempos, flavors, downbeats, improvisation — and the confidence each possesses that comes from experience with an instrument (or instruments).
Fingers flying at breathtaking speed, original tunes that feel familiar at first but go beyond extraordinary, heart and brains behind dynamic performances: It's an uncompromising musical journey the members of MilkDrive are on.