It's not like Madison has a shortage of Americana bands. Which makes it all the more impressive that the Gambol has managed to set itself apart with a raw and energetic cocktail of honkytonk, blues and folk.
Now, for its self-titled debut album to be released this Thursday, the five-piece crew of recent University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates are building on that sound.
"We juxtapose that American roots that we identify with with a little more contemporary rock," said Jack Ringhand, the band's frontman.
The Gambol will perform music from the album at a release party at the High Noon Saloon, 701A E. Washington Ave., on Thursday, in a billing with fellow folk band Them Coulee Boys. Tickets for the 8 p.m. concert are $8.
The album is a considerable milestone for the band that Ringhand first began patching together about three years ago. The folk guitarist and singer, who had performed as a solo artist for some time, felt increasingly inspired by bluegrass music from ensembles like Minnesota's Trampled by Turtles.
Soon he began writing folk music with multiple parts in mind.
"I just had my ear to the ground, and just got a sense of how these songs are arranged," he said. "The beauty of these songs is that they're structurally inherently simple."
Eventually, Ringhand met a violinist named Anna Grassman through their jobs working an industrial dishwasher at a student union kitchen. The two began talking about their shared passions for music, and before long, they began to collaborate on Ringhand's vision. Eventually, three others jumped on board to complete the ensemble.
Ever since, the band has forged an identity centered on a riff-heavy, improvisational mix of instruments, with banjo, harmonica, and violin interweaving to form flavorful country grooves. Grounding the instrumentation are the vocals — Ringhand's gravely country twang, bolstered with harmonies from bassist Neal Cragg.
According to Cragg, that through-line of high-energy Americana remains a core part of "The Gambol." However, he said the record also taps into a deeper version of that sound. For one thing, Cragg said the band felt more comfortable exploring different flavors of Americana on this record, compared to their 2016 EP "Don't Wake the Painting."
"The new record is a broader expression of the kind of music we like playing," he said.
Plus, there's that rock-heavy edge. Cragg joked that the sound is a mixture of the jamboree-style Mumford and Sons from 2011, with a pinch of the new alternative-rock-focused version of Mumford and Sons from recent years.
"This is the truer sound of what we've been trying to achieve," he said.
Both Ringhand and Cragg give a lot of credit to their producer, Ken Coomer, one of the original members of the celebrated alt-country group Wilco. The Gambol traveled to Coomer's Cartoon Moon studios in Nashville in December to record the new album. There, they spent five days experimenting with and re-writing their material under Coomer's guidance.
"We ate, breathed and slept our band," said Ringhand.
Ringhand and Cragg are excited to show off the fruits of their labor. The show on Thursday night could be a good fit for anyone who likes Americana with some verve to it: The two noted that between their set and the Coulee Boys, Thursday night should have no shortage of high-energy folk music.