Westport Roots Festival 2018 Artist Spotlight: Joseph Huber
While Joseph Huber first gained prominence as a member of the .357 String Band, he’s carved out a distinct name for himself as a captivating and prolific songwriter.
A multi-instrumentalist, Huber first picked up electric guitar at the age of 12, started writing songs around age 15, and had equal footing in the arenas of punk rock and folk music. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last year, he said, “When I was 20, I still had my spiky punk rock hair and a leather jacket, but I had a banjo instead.”
As a founding member, banjo player and one of three primary songwriters in the .357 String Band, Huber helped propel the band to a prosperous seven-year career that took them to stages across the United States and Europe. Slightly before the worlds of country music and punk started to merge in the early aughts, the Milwaukee-based string band became a dominant part of the “streetgrass” movement. Its searing, unbounded take on traditional folk instrumentation led them to support acts like The Avett Brothers, Wovenhand and Old Crow Medicine Show, among others. Even since its 2011 breakup, the group’s influence continues to permeate audiences around the country – those who crave grit and rawness with traditional sounds mixed in.
Huber was the first member of the string band to venture out into solo territory. In 2010 – as the band was nearing the end of its run – he released “Bury Me Where I Fall,” an album that firmly distinguished him from the more ballistic identity of his string band. On that album, Saving Country Music compared Huber to Townes Van Zandt, one of music’s most revered songwriters: “…using the stripped down style to not distract from the soul of a song, adding a lonesome tambourine for rhythm, and shading everything in a sepia, solemn shade that doesn’t make you hear the song, but feel it.”
Since then, Huber has also traversed the U.S. and Europe, and was listed by L.A. Weekly as one of 10 country artists to listen to in 2014. As he continues to evolve as a songwriter, the ability to feel something through his introspective lyrics and compelling, often darkly-shaded compositions shines through every new release. At this point, Huber’s solo catalog of four albums has surpassed that of his former band. He extracts the punk tenacity of the string band and strips it down to something even more exposed – something that endears and endures. Joseph Huber performs on the Westport Saloon stage at Westport Roots Festival on Sunday, May 27 at 7:30 p.m.