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Dear Brother delivers a largely traditional sound with progressive influences on their promising debut The Hours. They packed the album with nine solid originals by fiddler John Duncan and guitarist and lead singer Evan Swink. The title track is as good a newly composed neo-traditional song as you’ll hear this year, except maybe for the fourth tune, “Thing Of The Past.”

Ironically, the oldest song in the collection, “Little Sadie,” gets the most modern interpretation in closing the project. The progressive side also shows itself on some of the originals, an upbeat, swinging “Johnny Made A Break” and slower tempo, fiddle-dominated “Devil’s Wreck.” “Heartbroken, Lonely, and Blue” features Duncan on steel guitar coupled with folk influenced vocals and swirling fiddle playing. The sole instrumental, the fast “Cigar Court,” showcases their more progressive licks and longer jams.

Their traditionalism dominates the remaining six of the eleven selections. Although I’m not in love with the vocal delivery, the cover of Flatt & Scruggs’ “Why Don’t You Tell Me So” demonstrates their mastery of classic bluegrass instrumental work. Duncan’s fiddle shines throughout the project, both in breaks and fills, while Seth Reinhart plays some mighty fine backup on the banjo. That grounding in the roots of the music empowers musicians to explore musical possibilities.

The influences on the individual musicians often are easy to hear. Listen, for example, to the Tim O’Brien impact on the vocals for “Johnny Made A Break” and “Little Sadie.” Dear Brother also has a tendency sometimes to put everything but the kitchen sink into a song. That youthful exuberance, however, also drives the ensemble’s engaging hard bluegrass approach. Their potential makes Dear Brother a band to watch. (

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