Three years ago, Mill Valley resident Simon Linsteadt and Jan Purat were studying music at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley when they met Alex Bice and decided to start play some music together under the West Marin-inspired moniker of Steep Ravine

They gelled quickly, releasing Trampin’ On, their debut album of diverse, acoustic music with roots in bluegrass and folk, just a few months later. Bluegrass Today magazine said the trio had “a tight grasp on the second side of bluegrass. Trampin’ On is easygoing and peaceful, yet still features fine musicianship, enjoyable melodies and a unique blend of acoustic genres.”

The group toured extensively behind the album, and did the same with their second, The Pedestrian, which sees them spreading their wings without losing their deep ties to roots music. But as they headed into the latter part of 2015, the trio decided to break up and pursue other musical projects at the end of the year. But then fun won out, and the band decided to take a brief hiatus over the winter and dive back in, along with percussionist Jeff Wilson, for a summer tour and more recording sessions. 

“We have a bunch of new material in the works and we’re really happy to have come to this conclusion,” the band wrote on its Facebook page. “As always we are so grateful for the endless support we’ve received!” They’re in the midst of that summer tour now, with shows all over California, Oregon, Washington and Montana through late August, including a visit to the Sweetwater Music Hall on July 23.

Just as they did for Trampin’ On, Steep Ravine recorded The Pedestrian at San Francisco indie rock veteran John Vanderslice’s renowned Tiny Telephone Studios. Linsteadt recorded most of the guitar, mandolin, and banjo tracks alone in a cabin in West Marin, where he also captured the haunting hoot of the Great Horned Owl under a late night sky. The Pedestrian sees both Purat and Bice putting their own stamps on the music, with Purat diving into the soaring solos on violin and Bice adding a deeper groove on bass and percussion.

In writing the lyrics to the 10-track album, Linsteadt says he explored a personal but very universal inner dialogue—those conversations we all have within ourselves that nobody else hears, be they thoughts of nostalgia, longing or doubt. One of the standout tracks, “Grenadine” slips in and out of reality and dream as it explores the split between fast-paced city life versus the more peaceful life in the countryside. 

The 411: Steep Ravine performs at the Sweetwater Music Hall on Saturday, July 23 at 8pm. Tix. $12-17. Tickets ($12-17) and more info. The Pedestrian is available on iTunes and CDBaby. Stream the album on Soundcloud below.