Midwest band The Barley Jacks do things a little differently.
Their third album, Coming Down the Mountain, is out—10 years after their previous album. To get the album, The Barley Jacks joined a growing number of musicians and crowdfunded the work. At the time this review was written, Coming Down the Mountain had brought in over $9,000.
And while the group considers itself bluegrass, it is not such in the traditional sense. The Minnesota-based group consists of Brian Wicklund, who plays fiddle and mandolin and takes the lead on vocals; Mike Cramer, guitar and harmony; Kevin Rowe on bass; and Joel Arpin on drums. That’s right, there is no fulltime banjo player in the group.
For the album, veteran five stringer Cory Walker played banjo on four tracks and Wicklund played on two others. Ten of the eleven tracks are written by Wicklund. The other song is the 1965 Beatles track, “I’ve Just Seen a Face.” Wicklund has said in interviews that he did the song for a UK tour and enjoyed seeing so many in the audience singing along and it was a matter of time before the group recorded it.
Coming Down the Mountain features excellent musicians and singing, but cannot be labeled as traditional bluegrass. Group members note their backgrounds in blues, R & B, Celtic and bebop. The best among the cuts are the title track, “Open Door” and “Walk Alone.”