Posts Tagged ‘Newgrass’

Steep Canyon Rangers: Nobody Knows You

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Bluegrass emboldened with newgrass, country and gospel

Having hooked up with Steve Martin in 2009, this quintet gained mainstream attention that mirrored the renown they’d built in bluegrass circles over the previous decade. After backing Martin for a tour of his 2009 album, The Crow, and collaborating for last year’s Rare Bird Alert, they now return to their own work and original material. The only cover in this lot is Tim Hardin’s “Reputation,” sung at a tempo that inches towards the Association’s 1967 blues-rock cover and with harmonies that expand upon the Byrds’ 1968 version. The original tunes are all rooted in bluegrass instrumentation, but interweave elements of newgrass, country and gospel. The songs include stories of earnest courting, lost souls, tenuous relationships and natural pleasures. The band’s harmonies are strong, perhaps even a tad in your face in spots, and contrast with playing that’s tight and enthusiastic, but relaxed and delicate enough to have soul. The latter is the sort of thing that can escape players with bluegrass-quality chops, and though you get to hear the instrumentalists solo, they do so without having the band drop into the background. The album’s one instrumental, “Knob Creek,” is fittingly, an ensemble piece. The Rangers are a talented band with taste, chops and enough invention to keep their music growing. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

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The Greencards: The Brick Album

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Genre-blending Austin-based acoustic string band

If you imagine an intersection where the traditions of country and bluegrass meet the inventions of newgrass and the changes that swept through British contemporary folk, you’ll have a sense of the music spun by the Greencards. Their songs feature the tight harmonies of country and bluegrass, the sophistication of jazz, and the pluck of folk. As on 2009’s Fascination, the band traverses numerous styles from song to song, but unlike the contrasting colors of their previous outing, here they explore varying shades of their progressive string-band sound. The opening “Make it Out West,” though sung about modern contemporary emigration to the coast, still manages to conjure pickaxes and transcontinental rails with its rhythm. Similar   changes are also heard in the jig “Adelaide,” while the album’s second instrumental, “Tale of Kangario,” hints at South American styles.

Vocalist Carol Young moves fluidly from country to jazz to pop, occasionally transitioning within a single song. The bass and plucked mandolin of “Mrs. Madness” provides a ‘30s supper club setting for the verses, slides into contemporary harmonies on the chorus and adds modernly picked fills. The longing of “Faded” and harmony blend of “Naked on the River” lean more toward pop harmony groups like the Rescues than to traditional bluegrass or country, but the mandolin (courtesy of guest Sam Bush), fiddle (from recent addition Tyler Andal) and guitar (from the band’s other recent addition, Carl Miner) keep the song anchored to the group’s roots. Vince Gill adds a duet vocal on “Heart Fixer,” and several dozen fans star as financial supporters, with their names emblazoned on the covers.

You can imagine several of these songs turning up on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or another lovingly curated television show’s soundtrack. The Greencards have combined their diverse musical interests in a showcase that highlights the ingredients without sounding forced. They sound modern, but still rooted, a group whose acoustic framework is still recognizable to bluegrass, country and string band fans, but one that could also appeal to contemporary pop listeners. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Heart Fixer
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