Balsam Range

Writing about Balsam Range is like trying to write about George Washington or Robert E. Lee or Abraham Lincoln—it takes a minute to find something to say that hasn’t already been said.  After all, they’ve turned out nine albums over the last 14 years and have won so many group and individual awards that’s so many now, it’s hard to keep up. 

The newest effort, Moxie and Mettle, is no exception having already garnered an IBMA Song of the Year Award for “Richest Man.”  While technically Moxie and Mettle has been out for a while, there are several radio hits on it already as songs trickled out over nearly a year as a long tease for fans who were hungry for more after the acclaimed previous album, Aeonic.

“Richest Man” is that song that was made for Balsam Range, much in the way the group’s “Trains I Missed” was—it won “Song of the Year” in 2011. It’s the type of song that certainly connects with all types of people on the things we all have in common.

There’s plenty more to like on Moxie and Mettle. “Rivers, Rains and Runaway Trains,” written by frequent BR collaborator Milan Miller and Beth Husband has spent significant time on the charts as has “Santa Barbara,” written by Adam Wright (who also penned “Traveling Blues” and provided the cover art). Miller and Husband, along with Ann Melton also contributed “Grit and Grace,” another climber that offered the lyric from which the album gets its name.

There are still more songs to come off, likely the gospel number “His Tomb is Empty Now” and “Franklin County,” a solid entry into the bluegrass moonshiner niche.  Maybe just as remarkable as the awards garnered is the fact that the band still has all the original members after nearly a decade and a half, an unheard thing in bluegrass. Buddy Melton handles fiddle; Caleb Smith is on guitar; Tim Surrett on bass; Darren Nicholson on mandolin; and Marc Pruett on banjo. All take a turn as lead vocalist except Pruett.

Balsam Range continues to set the bar high and have cemented their place among the all-time greats in bluegrass. This album, even though it has already garnered honors and charted cuts, will have legs for some time.

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