Judah & the Lion
A Nashville-based indie folk trio helmed by singer/songwriter Judah Akers, Judah & the Lion blend harmonies and acoustic instrumentation with soaring pop melodies and hooks with occasional electronic elements. After an early CCM phase, the band transitioned into a secular act and found chart success with their 2014 debut, Kids These Days. Their breakout came two years later with the single "Take It All Back," from their sophomore album, which featured a curious melding of hip-hop and indie folk that topped the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in 2016. Their sound continued to evolve on 2019's more personal Pep Talks. Singer/guitarist Akers met mandolinist Brian Macdonald and banjo player Nate Zuercher through mutual friends and the three began playing together in late 2011. Initially aligning themselves with the Christian music scene, their debut EP, First Fruits, was a worship-themed record that blended expansive folk and bluegrass with rich, old-timey harmonies. A year later, they returned with the more secular-oriented and pop-leaning Sweet Tennessee EP, which bore more of a resemblance to the uplifting nu-folk of Mumford & Sons and launched them into the Top 20 of the Billboard bluegrass and folk charts. Building on that momentum, they finally released their first full-length album, 2014's wistful Kids These Days, which rose to number four on Billboard's folk chart. For their follow-up, Judah & the Lion worked with producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) to deliver 2016's Folk Hop n' Roll, an album that further blended their myriad influences from hip-hop to indie rock and folk. By the end of that year, their breakout single "Take It All Back" had reached number one on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart and they followed it up in February 2017 with the similarly successful "Suit and Jacket," as well as releasing a deluxe version of Folk Hop n' Roll. A double single, "Pep Talk" b/w "Quarter-Life Crisis" appeared in 2018 and was later included on Judah & the Lion's third full-length, the expansive and deeply personal Pep Talks, which came out in 2019. ~ Timothy Monger
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