First Listen: The Misty Mountain String Band “Brownsboro”

wineryphotoBluegrass  with a great instrumental melody line. Harmonies galore, a whole mess of banjo, and a real nod to the past while remaining contemporary. That’s what the latest from Louisville’s The Misty Mountain String Band sings to me. With adequate breaks for displaying great musicianship (you can tell these folks know how to play), thematic elements and metaphors well-known to the bluegrass genre, and really just great songs without any of the fuss. Instruments, voices, and stories, this is what it is all about. (photo courtesy of band)

“Boxcar Moon” is powered through by a wonderful lead vocal, that is friendly, inviting, happy to hear coming through my ears. The harmonies again are fantastic here. It’s a slower paced, just kind of moving along and drifting, which I dig into and

Anyone who has an instrumental/fiddle tune on their record is A-OK In my book. Brownsboro is familiar but unique. It sounds like it could be a traditional bluegrass instrumental from 50 years ago, or an original written 5 months ago. Just walks that line between the old and the new perfectly. I love listening to the different musicians swap off on the melody line, adding in their own flourishes, keeping it light, airy, but damn the talent. A great tune.

The bands cover of ‘Steam Powered Aereoplane’ (from one of the first records I dug into when I started on the bluegrass path via John Hartford) is another reason I have a newly formed respect for the band before even listening. The banjo is loose and the arrangement flows nicely. The way all the instruments slow introduce themselves into the mix and come together in the launch into the verse. The vocals are strong and pay homage enough to the original, while making it their own. This right here makes me smile. The first mandolin break, and I am hooked. I will be listening to this track again and again.

The dynamic of swapping lead vocal responsibilities is something I can appreciate and gravitate towards. It keeps things interesting and shows that this band really is a collaborative effort. What gets me is those harmonies, they are really something else. Not quite traditional, not quite modern, somewhere in between and extremely effective. Just pleasant. It’s bluegrass, its good bluegrass. Not necessarily breaking any crazy new ground, but doing it well and keeping the tradition alive and well. ‘Brownsboro’ is a prime example of the reason why I first got into bluegrass music to begin with. The Misty Mountain String band are doing it right.