Starting with Hot Rize and Front Range, Colorado has a long tradition of bluegrass bands with unique identities based on great vocals, interesting original material and strong instrumental skills. To that list, we can now add Spring Creek, which like its namesake rises cool and clear from the headlands of the Rocky Mountains to deliver a refreshing drink of cool, clear music pleasure.
Brimming with great original material and a fresh sound and style, Spring Creek won’t necessarily appeal to bluegrass traditionalists. But like Infamous Stringdusters banjo star Chris Pandolfi wrote for IBMA in his keynote address, the whole genre is growing and expanding because bands like his, the Avett Brothers, and others are deliberating expanding their approach to songwriting, instrumentation and vocals to create their own unique personae within the style. For those who like their bluegrass with a unique twist, Spring Creek will sound like just the ticket.
Taylor Sims writes a large portion of the material, which he delivers in a laconic, rock-influenced vocal delivery. The title tune, in particular, has a funky groove and an almost Motown feel to its structure that makes it instantly catchy and memorable. Sims also contributes some very powerful flatpicking guitar to the band. Mandolinist and fiddler Alex Johnstone brings an intensity and fire to the band, both in his playing and his songwriting, which he shares with Sims on tunes like “See Me On.” You can really hear the impact of Rocky Mountain-based jam bands in his work, instantly giving his a strong musical identity. Banjo player Chris Elliott lays down wonderful lines and also contributes original material like the strongly swinging “C-Bob Swing” and the rocking closing number, “Kimono Cowboy.” And Dan Booth adds excellent bass and vocals, bringing a cool original called “I’ll Bet It All” to the band’s repertoire.
Not content to laying out strong originals, the band even re-imagines “With Body And Soul” as a funked out, rock-style tune that works surprisingly well. It’s just part of an approach to the music that never completely forgets their roots, but always pushes the musical envelope to find something unique and new to say.
Hold On Me, with its exquisite production work by the multi-talented Sally Van Meter, is a very strong piece of work from a band with a great future. Spring Creek may never win the hearts and minds of bluegrass loyalists, but with the boundaries of the style spreading as new young fans and players come under bluegrass music’s spell, this is one band that could play a key role in the music’s future prosperity and growth. (www.springcreekbluegrassband.com) DJM