The Tillers Release “Hand On The Plow”

Image635101872202809304The Tillers don’t just sing and play their homegrown brand of joyful, driving old-time – they holler, stomp, swagger, and swing, fearlessly throwing themselves into the music and winding up in the hearts of their audiences. 

The trio hails from Cincinnati, just across the Ohio River from the hills of Kentucky and at the northwestern edge of Appalachian coal country, where much of the band’s traditional style comes from.  

But they’re not your typical folk revivalists – the self-described recovering punk rockers balance the drive and grit of their roots in Cincinnati’s hardcore scene with the country traditions of their old-time material.

"This trio from Cincinnati pulls their influence from just beyond the southern shore of the Ohio River where the Kentucky Hills brim with music lore, while the Appalachian Mountain looming just to the east lend their ghost stories of coal and cutting poverty to their muse.

It all comes together along with many other primitive American influences to create The Tillers sound that is both welcoming in its familiarity yet fresh with its take."

Recorded straight to tape, Hand on the Plow debuts the band’s new lineup, featuring multi-instrumentalist Mike Oberst with brothers Sean Geil on guitar and Aaron Geil on the upright bass. 

The winners of 3 Cincinnati Entertainment Awards, the trio are audience favorites for their live performances.

And Hand to the Plow brings all that verve to the album, from the swampy blues of “I Gotta Move” (featuring harmonica madman Col. J.D. Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers), to the joyous fiddle licks of “Treehouse,” to the ode to the band’s Cincinnati stomping grounds in “Old Westside.”

Playing folk music, you have to be just as much a historian as a musician,” says Mike Oberst. 

And through his family’s past, Mike is deeply connected to the very history documented in many traditional tunes.  In the 1940s, his grandfather was forced to sign away his farmland to the Sunshine Coal Company, and like many Americans driven from their land by the growth of coal companies, never received most of the money he was promised. 

It’s a story straight out of the coal ballads and protest songs of the Appalachian valleys, and so when the The Tillers cover union hymns and sing about the lot of poor folks in America, they do so with a deep awareness of that history. 

They’re also known for putting their music in the service of their convictions, playing benefit shows for homeless communities and collaborating with Ohio Citizen’s Action to combat mountaintop removal.


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