Blending elements of modern jamgrass bands like the Avett Brothers, the burbling sounds of old-timey mountain music and even the drum and electric instrument phases of the Osborne Brothers in the 1950s, the Westbound Rangers have created a highly personal and addictive style that will appeal to many acoustic music and bluegrass fans.
Uptempo pieces like “Pushwater” and the manically rhythmic and addictive “Stonewall” will move audiences and listeners alike with their insistent beat and galloping drive. While not strictly bluegrass, these tunes have a wonderful, rollicking tempo that captures and holds the listener’s ear. At the same time, the band has a great feel for slower, more elegiac tunes. They do a mid-tempo version of “Big Scioty,” which has become more popular as an uptempo instrumental. “Time,” with its ancient musical structure and contemporary lyrics and pedal steel, sounds like something the Infamous Stringdusters might have recorded.
The band’s also been influenced by the late John Hartford, and they do a stirring version of one of his greatest tunes, “Tall Buildings,” complete with a rock-solid a cappella ending that perfectly matches the mournful theme of the lyric. “Natchez Under The Wheel” also has a wonderful Hartfordesque quality that fans of the late singer-songwriter will appreciate. “John Henry” clearly shows the band’s jamgrass feel, rocking out on a bluesy 12-bar rhythm heavy on syncopation and rock-influenced vocals over a traditional song everyone will recognize. The closing cut, “Old Yellow Dog,” demonstrates the band’s faithful understanding of the pre-bluegrass mountain music of players like Riley Puckett.
Combined, these disparate influences create a unique sound for the Westbound Rangers, modern and contemporary at times, other times harking back to the earliest string band styles. If that sounds like something you have an appetite for, I recommend diving into Southern Bread & Butter For It and taking big bites. (Westbound Rangers, 1205 Meridian St., Nashville, TN 37207, www.westboundrangers.com) DJM