This young Colorado-based bluegrass foursome has come a long way since forming a mere five years ago. In 2007, they won band competitions at both Telluride and RockyGrass, the only group ever to sweep both in one year, and did so due to a very tight traditional sound bursting with the Ozarks, Appalachians, and plains. I'm particularly enamored of Chris Elliott's jumpin' banjo, but Alex Johnston wields a viviacious mando, Jessica Smith a distinctively pine-tops voice (and bass fiddle!), and Taylor Sims graces us with the trusty ol' six-string gee-tar. Each member then takes both lead and harmony vocal roles, doing so magnificently. You could put this group under Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver in concert and impress the estimable Lawson no end.
Rounder string-rasper Michael Clevelad contributes a nimble and swingin' fiddle on half the cuts, with Sally van Meter contributing a resophonic guitar on three. The entirety of the release is note-perfect, the product of a group that's worked its ass off to get to this level. One can only imagine what would have resulted had ensembles like Poco adopted a stronger impulse in this direction, and Tangled in the Pines presents a glimpse of that, having a strong tang of that estimable old pack. Then there's Cuba Vera Swing with its feel-good Andy Griffith vibe by way of Tennessee Ernie Ford, an instrumental that lets Spring Creek frolic down by the river on a warm solstice noon.
The group appears on the influential Rebel label, but it won't be long before they're at the head of the roster there and sitting beside other labels' estimables: Yonder Mountain String Band, the Stringdusters, Quicksilver, all the Pinecastle artists (Ernie Thacker, Nothin' Fancy, etc.), and the more established acts. With such combustibly energetic and flawless performances as are heard here, the bluegrass renaissance is obviously well under way, and we can only hope the perfect storm of strings, voices, and backwoods moods does nothing but gain speed and force.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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