One of the highlights of IBMA’s World of Bluegrass for me is time spent at the California Bluegrass Association suite, and one of the highlights of time spent there is watching and learning about bands from the West Coast that are new to the scene. In 2013, one of those bands was Front Country. Hailing from the San Francisco area, the group is made up of Jacob Groopman on guitar and vocals, Melody Walker on guitar and vocals, Adam Roskiewicz on mandolin, Jordan Klein on banjo, fiddler Leif Karlstrom, and bassist Zach Sharpe. Front Country began to make their mark in 2012 when they won the RockyGrass band contest. The group then parlayed that momentum by winning the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band contest the following year, and Walker also won the MerleFest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest in 2013.
The West Coast sound found in bluegrass, over the years, has included sweet music from Laurie Lewis, David Grisman, the Earl Brothers, the Golden State Boys, Peter Rowan, and more. The grooves emanating from west of the Mississippi River have proven to be open-minded, progressive, and contemporary while also very traditional at times. Front Country follows that unique path.
Sake Of The Sound is produced by Kai Welch, and the album features a couple of classic songs combined with five originals written by members of the band. The cuts that feature that sweet and earthy West Coast vibe include the Laura Wortman-penned “One Kind Word,” the innovative title-cut written by Walker, Kate Wolf’s “Like A River,” and the Roskiewicz instrumental “Daysleeper.” Other highlights include a wonderfully atmospheric take on “Rock Salt And Nails” and a rollicking groove on Bob Dylan’s “Long Ago, Far Away.” (www.frontcountryband.com)DH