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Judah & the Lion feel ready to roar

By Gary Graff
Digital First Media/GraffonMusic on Twitter

» See more SOUND CHECK

The three members of Judah & the Lion get the question all the time.

Judah is singer-guitarist Judah Akers. Not much mystery there. But is the Lion mandolinist Brian Macdonald or drummer Nate Zuercher?

"I don't know if we really pin that down, totally," says Macdonald, 22, a Chicago native and Nashville transplant with the band, which plays Friday, March 20, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. I used to have really long hair and Nate has the big beard, so we kind of used to say I was the mane and he was the face. But now my hair's short, so I don't know...

"We get asked that a lot, believe it or not, and we don't have a good answer. Maybe one day we'll just have a lion with us on stage..."

The rootsy Nashville trio, which augments itself with three additional musicians for touring, released its first full album, "Kids These Days," during September after a pair of well-received EPs. It marked a change in the group's sound -- "We wanted people to be able to dance to it, because a lot of the feedback we got during the first couple of years together was people liked our live performances more than the actual recordings," Macdonald says -- and the group is already "writing pretty consistently" for its second album, which will likely push even further in that direction.

"Kind of the vision for the next album is we want to fuse even more, like, strong hip-hop beats into what we're doing," Macdonald says. "The songs we have so far sound a little more poppy and hip-hoppy. It still has that rootsy, like. bluegrass kind of feel 'cause we're still playing all those instruments, so it's been kind of fun to play with."

Macdonald says Judah & the Lion has been playing a new song called "Take It All Back" during shows on its current tour opening for Mat Kearney, and the group hopes to get into the studio during the summer to start working on the album in earnest.

Judah & the Lion with Mat Kearney and Parachute

Friday, March 20. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St.

Tickets are $26.50 in advance, $30 day of show.

Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.

Web Site: www.royaloakmusictheatre.com

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