As a musician, Will Branch has played around 2,000 shows in the past ten years. He's performed in bars, on boats, on the street, in coffeehouses, for young and old and all ages in-between. He's written his own songs and put his own stamp on music of the past. After years as a band member and bandleader, as well as many years in a successful duo, Branch is hitting the road as a solo act with renewed energy. Branch played guitar, sang and wrote songs for several years in John the Conqueroo, a modern-day jug band that performed on mostly homemade instruments, including a washtub bass and an electric slide guitar made from a steam tray. The Conqueroo made a CD and toured nationally under their own steam, playing extended stays in Austin and New Orleans, all the while maintaining a bread-and-butter schedule around the midwest.
Branch eventually gave his notice and put together his own group, the Will Branch Trio, an attempt to recreate the raw sound of old records. The trio functioned as a unit for about five years, during which time Branch improved as a songwriter and singer. All the while, he found himself learning from great local musicians like Lil' Rev, a great advocate of music that has depth and meaning, played the old-fashioned way – acoustically. A casual friendship with local musician Dave Fox had by this point become a working relationship, and the two were playing their acoustic blues and old-time fiddle tunes at coffee shops and clubs. Fox and Branch, as they named the duo in a burst of inspiration, became a busy enterprise. Local paper The Shepherd Express called their show "some of the best porch music this city has to offer ... smart [and] unpretentious."
Branch's current solo show is the result of all the influences that led him to this point – he is rooted in the traditions of American folk music, working hard to make his own contributions to this living art. "Press On," a collection of songs traditional and original, is the first solo recording by Will Branch. The album draws on the vibrant tradition of American old-time music, along with Branch's ability as an experienced songwriter. The material is the result of mixing with other local old-time musicians, who were the source of many of the songs. The end result is a powerful album that rewards repeated listening. Branch is joined on "Press On" by a cast of some of the best Milwaukee acoustic musicians. Dave Fox contributes old-time fiddle and his washboard skills to several tracks, including "Baltimore Fire," and "Empty Hands." Local legend Ken Haferman makes a rare studio appearance – his banjo leads off the track "Baltimore Fire." Susan Jeske-Dermody and John Nicholson, better known as the acoustic duo Frogwater, are featured on fiddle and guitar, respectively. Nicholson also plays banjo on the title track. Lil' Rev, a successful regional folk musician and award-winning harmonica player, plays mandolin and harmonica on the recording, along with supplying some background vocals.