The Farewell Drifters find themselves in the revived argument over the definition of bluegrass. The younger generation of performers whom are currently taking the music in a different direction are dealing with the same thing that my age group, the newgrass generation, dealt with forty years ago. There is nothing wrong with music fans that simply prefer traditional bluegrass music over more progressive fare; those who want to keep the old school sounds alive and pure. The problem is that there is a smaller group of hardshell bluegrass purists who want to decide whether the musicians and bands who are heavily influenced by the genre can also be a part of the bigger, overall bluegrass family.
The easy solution is to categorize the music so the blinkered among us are properly warned of impending musical diversity. So, to be clear, this new album by the Farewell Drifters called Echo Boom is not bluegrass music. But, the project is full of original bluegrass-influenced jams with a nod going to the bright, acoustic music of the 1960s and ’70s that influenced the members of the group as they were growing up. The Drifters, who came together over the music of the late John Hartford, are following the same path as new acoustic artists like Sarah Jarosz, the Punch Brothers, and the Decemberists.
The highlights on Echo Boom include the infectious and fiddle-driven “Tip Of The Iceberg,” the Beatles-esque “We Go Together,” and the Beach Boy harmonies of “I’ve Had Enough.” If you like the sunny music of the 1960s as well as the sounds of the current crop of new acoustic artists, this is a fun, road-trip-worthy CD. As the Drifters say in the final cut: The common ties that bind are stronger than the lines we draw. (Heart Squeeze Records, 1145 Fernbank Dr., Madison, TN 37115, www.thefarewelldrifters.com.)DH