The Sommers Rosenthal Family Band is one of the most exciting and diversely talented family bands on the scene today. Led by patriarch, Phil Rosenthal (former lead singer of The Seldom Scene), the group plays an eclectic mix of folk, bluegrass, and jazz stylings, featuring close vocal trios and adventurous instrumental solos. Lead vocals are split between bluegrass stalwart, Phil, and daughter, Naomi Sommers, a highly regarded singer-songwriter in her own right. Son, Daniel Rosenthal, serves as the group's wildcard, by adding virtuosic yet understated bluegrass trumpet solos, as well as harmony vocals, bass and other stringed instrument accompaniment. Phil’s wife, Beth Sommers, adds beautiful harmony vocals to the mix as well, completing the family band.
The Sommers Rosenthal Family Band draws their repertoire from songs written by each members of the group, as well as new arrangements of traditional American folk and bluegrass tunes. On their new album, Down the Road, the group revisits several classic bluegrass songs written by Phil Rosenthal in the seventies and eighties, and give them new and exciting arrangements. “Muddy Water” has been given a dark and eery treatment, with electric guitars, Dobjo, and flugelhorn weaving melodies behind Phil’s powerful vocal. “He Rocks Me to Sleep” and “Where I Don’t Belong” have both been given new instrumental sections written by Daniel. “Liza” is a haunting and catchy new tune with lyrics by Naomi and music by Daniel. The group also brings new life to traditional songs such as “Worried Man Blues”, “Midnight Special”, and “East Virginia Blues”. “Down the Road” features Phil singing lead with Daniel and Naomi filling out the trio for the chorus and the unorthodox yet grooving trio of banjo, mandolin, and flugelhorn as accompaniment. “Down Home” is a new instrumental by Phil, pairing his energetic clawhammer banjo with Daniel’s sprightly trumpet, a combo that is completely original, yet sounds right at home.
Phil Rosenthal is known to audiences worldwide as the former lead singer and guitarist of the seminal bluegrass band, The Seldom Scene. He is also highly regarded as a songwriter, whose works have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Nick Cave and many others. On Down the Road, his wonderfully warm and burnished Johnny Cash-like baritone resonates with emotional authority. His virtuosic work on guitar, banjo, mandolin, and dobjo all shine throughout the album. He has been called “a roots music master” by Billboard Magazine, and “one of the most expressive singers in traditional country music” by The Washington Post. Phil has performed with a who’s who list of bluegrass musicians, including Emmylou Harris, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, Jonathan Edwards, Bill Monroe, and many others.
Naomi Sommers is highly gifted vocalist with a tone and style of singing that is completely singular. Her beautifully warm and rich voice, combined with her straightforward and honest delivery, create a sound that is truly captivating and timeless. With roots in folk, bluegrass, jazz, and old-time country, her recording career began at age 5, when Phil enlisted her services on his children’s music albums. Since then, she has developed her own solo career, and has put out several records under her own name, the last of which, Gentle As the Sun, received much critical acclaim, both at home and abroad. Bluegrass Now Magazine has praised her “remarkable voice” and Sing Out! Magazine has called her singing “as beautiful as you are likely to hear... with lyrics that read like good poetry”.
Daniel Rosenthal is a highly regarded trumpeter and composer. Conservatory trained, he has performed with such jazz legends as Steve Lacy, Bob Brookmeyer, Anthony Braxton, Joe Morris, among others. He is a member of the Grammy nominated jazz and latin group, the Either/Orchestra, with whom he has recorded and toured throughout North America, Europe, and Africa. He has also performed and recorded with famed Ethiopian musicians Mulatu Atstatke and Mahmoud Ahmed. His solo work has been praised in DownBeat Magazine, and All About Jazz has called him “a young trumpeter with a bright future”.
The Sommers Rosenthal Family Band have been called “the real deal... just plain timeless” by the Hartford Current. Look for them performing throughout the Northeast and beyond, in support of their upcoming release, Down the Road, with more to come!
Photographer: David Ebling