Although a win at the famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival isn’t a guarantee of success, it’s sure going to raise your profile. Since last year, Trout Steak Revival (I’d love to see their business cards – ‘grill lightly in pan with butter, serve with lashings of banjo’) can add such a win to their PR strapline, but you’d hope from the contents of Brighter Every Day that official plaudits won’t be necessary on their march up the musical ladder.
Steve Foltz (mandolin and guitar), Casey Houlihan (double bass), Will Foster (dobro and guitar), Travis McNamara (banjo) and Bevin Foley (fiddle) call Denver, Colorado home and their music ‘indie-mountaingrass’. Labels aside, an arresting combination of Crooked Still’s crossover appeal paired with the languid prairie-rhythms of late 60s Country-Rock are the order of the day, the former bound up in tight arrangements and clever use of fiddle and banjo lines, the latter an intangible yet pleasing presence in the backbeat of tracks like Oklahoma and Ours For The Taking.
Oklahoma’s chorus temporarily halts the Bluegrass train for a harmonised couplet that wouldn’t disgrace itself on a Byrds or early Kristofferson song. Ours For The Taking’s verse melody is eerily reminiscent of the Dixie Chick’s take on Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide – it’s the best song on the album, a travelogue story designed to trigger the itchy feet of all but the most stay-at-home listeners. Prior to both of these, Union Pacific is a similar slice of wanderlust with some furious and accurate banjo picking. It sets the scene for an album which is a natural confluence of the music created by artists whose families migrated across the Rockies and the music they found when they arrived.
Brighter Every Day is another that benefits from the Country-rock feel, though after a slow start it quickly resumes the trademark Bluegrass fiddle and banjo stomp beloved of live audiences the world over. Of the second half of the album, Wind On The Mountain is frenetic, Days Of Gray adds a touch of pedal steel and a slower tempo as well as instinctive harmonies in the chorus, and Sierra Nevada is the de rigeur instrumental, a strident fiddle melody leading the band a merry dance.
Although Pie is a little throw-away, it’s a fun lyric, better suited perhaps to the live environment. It’s followed by Go On, a Bluegrass Blues sung by Bevin that makes you wish her voice had been used a little more to the fore on other tracks. They return to home country with closer Colorado River that neatly encapsulates the band’s multiple avenues of appeal. There is clearly a place for bands like Trout Steak Revival and Brighter Every Day is a welcome step forward. Telluride doesn’t lightly let go its gifts but when it does, it’s time to tune in.
Review by: Paul Woodgate