Every sound that sits on the singular stylistic plate of Harpeth Rising is geared toward advancement.
That translates into advancement of visibility, something to which the Nashville quartet is always attuned, having recorded and released four independent albums in its first four years. But advancement also applies to the music itself, the product of a novel instrumental makeup (violin, banjo, cello and percussion) and a wildly broad spectrum of influences (classical, folk, Western swing, jazz, Latin and more).
So it's a touch ironic that the band's best description of its forward-thinking sound and career is revealed through a backward glance.
"The truth is, we're making original music," said violinist and co-founding member Jordana Greenberg. "In that sense, there is no way to really define it right now. That definition comes further down the road when you're looking back at something.
"Right now, the best thing I can say about what we do is 'original.' Definitely we're interested by a variety of different genres. We have very strong classical backgrounds, but we also grew up listening to folk music and blues and rock 'n' roll. So these are all things incorporated into our writing to create our brand and our own sound. We're just not exactly sure what to call it."
With numerous Nashville area awards to its credit, the band, which will be at Natasha's Bistro & Bar on Sunday for a performance designed to celebrate the release of its new album, Tales From Jackson Bridge, has taken its eclectic string-and-percussion music to such esteemed gatherings as the Cambridge Folk Festival and London Folk Festival, and to the airwaves on the Lexington-produced WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.
Greenberg, a California native who now lives in Bowling Green, planted the seeds for Harpeth Rising while performing as a folk duet with banjoist Rebecca Reed-Lunn. From there, very specific ideas surfaced about where the band's sound should go.
"We started by playing old-time music and traditional bluegrass," Greenberg said. "From there, we began writing our own songs. Once we really delved into original songwriting, we realized we wanted to fill out the sound with a full group. We knew that what we wanted to go along with our instruments would be cello and percussion. From there we just got very, very lucky because had wonderful friends who happened to play those instruments. So at first the changes were intentional. Then it became a matter of luck."
Nashville cellist Maria Di Meglio and Memphis percussionist Chris Burgess complete the band's lineup. But their additions triggered another avenue of exploration for Harpeth Rising — vocal harmony every bit as audacious as its instrumental voice. On Tales From Jackson Bridge, that extends to jazz phrasing on Burn Away Your Troubles, California-flavored folk-rock on Ghost Factory and barbershop quartet accents on It Don't Really Matter.
"We love to sing so much, and writing harmonies is, for all of us, one of our favorite things about being a musician and writing original music," Greenberg said. "We all studied our instruments for so many years — 16 or 17 years — before we even started singing or writing. So the harmony writing is still very new and exciting."
In the end, however, all of Harpeth Rising's adventures have to be countered against the reality that this is a young band that works independently and tours constantly just to be heard. That keeps the collective eyes of its players very much on what is ahead of them.
"We don't have a record label and we have no big money behind us," Greenberg said. "So it's all a matter of getting the people who love our music to tell other people about it. Right now, that's starting to happen in more exciting ways than it ever has before."IF YOU GO
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 24
Where: Natasha's Bistro & Bar, 112 Esplanade
Tickets: $7. Available at (859) 259-2754 or beetnik.com.