The Sycomores’ roots run deep in gospel music. Growing up, Jessica Kirk and Zack Harold’s families both had southern gospel groups that traveled across West Virginia and its surrounding states. When they started playing music together in 2014, they quickly realized they not only shared similar backgrounds, but also had similar ideas about how to approach faith-based music.
The two started writing songs together, combining traditional themes of Christian music with the sounds of country, bluegrass, folk, and rock music. They invited Josh Holstein, a multi-instrumentalist who plays in their church and has recorded several bluegrass gospel albums of his own, and Richard Harold, Zack’s dad and the group’s pastor, to join the band and dubbed their group The Sycomores.
“Traveling Mercy” the debut album from The Sycomores, can be best described as Americana gospel. The music is heavily influenced by the hymns and southern gospel sounds the band grew up with blended with the country, rock, folk, and bluegrass music that populates their respective record collections.
The title track, featuring West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s “Mountain Stage” drummer Ammed Solomon, debuted on WTSQ’s “Musician’s Edition” in November 2017. Co-host Roger Rabalais asked the band “has Steve Earle ever heard this song?” — a testament to the album’s wide range of musical influences. The songs are delivered with the sincerity and old-time conviction custom to traditional gospel music, and uniquely crafted to achieve diverse appeal.
The Americana influence can be heard on tracks like “Mary Magdalene’s Song” and the band’s haunting arrangement of the gospel standard “My God is Real.” Other tracks like “Out of Egypt” showcase a strong rhythm and blues influence, while “Over and Under” enjoys a traditional country flare. But it’s Kirk and Harold’s lyrics that make The Sycomores’ music truly stand apart, offering honest looks at life and faith, and reinterpreting familiar Bible stories from new perspectives.