What: Newfound Road in concert.
When: 8 p.m. today.
Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
Venue website: www.barkinglegs.com
When some people think of bluegrass music, the lightning-fast instrumental melodies and multipart harmonies may seem to color it an uniformly upbeat genre. In recent years, Newfound Road's dark, bittersweet material has challenged that notion.
Lead singer and founder Tim Shelton said he simply writes about experiences that affect him. Those moments of inspiration just happen to be uniformly downbeat, Shelton said.
"We're not the happy, hoppy, bouncy bluegrass band, even though some of the instrumentals can sound that way," he said.
"There's a certain level of [ticked]-off aggression in our bluegrass music.
The acoustic stuff tends to be more sad. I just love that feeling singing. I don't know why; I don't know what's wrong with me, but I do."
Shelton began playing music at age 16 as a bassist for his church in Ohio. He soon formed a band, The Beacons, which performed regionally in the Buckeye State as well in Indiana and Kentucky.
Shelton founded Newfound Road in 2001. Originally, the group primarily performed gospel music, but over the years, member changes have helped shift the emphasis to secular styles.
With the release of its second album, "Somewhere Between" in 2003, Newfound Road began performing bluegrass music, but in recent years, acoustic country and rock have worked their way into the mix as well.
Shelton said the influx of new members in the last five years has provided the kind of freedom to continue shifting away from gospel and bluegrass while keeping a foot in both genres.
"The guys in the band now are capable of playing all kinds of music," he said. "We all love and listen to different kinds of music. It's been an easy transition, musically."
As their stylistic experimentation has opened up new markets to Newfound Road, Shelton said he has had to learn to develop his skills as an entertainer. He'll show the fruits of that effort when the band takes the stage tonight at Barking Legs, where the band made its Chattanooga debut last year.
Shelton said he's confident the group's engaging live show will fill even more seats this time around.
"We try to have fun, and I think it's contagious," he said. "The better the live show is, the better everything gets."