I’m sure there won’t be a shortage of actual music writers putting keyboard to screen about Steep Canyon Rangers’ brand-pickin’-new album, Tell The Ones I Love. In spite of that, sometimes I am just so taken with something that I simply have to write about it. I’ve owned the CD for two weeks, and I’d need algebra to figure out how many people I’ve talked to about it in person, let alone through social media.
“If Barbie talks to an average of 20 people a day, tweets to approximately 3,000 followers, has 825 ‘friends’ on Facebook and fell in love with an album fourteen days ago… how many superlatives has she used in the last two weeks?”
I assure you, I will only offer my honest opinion. I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist, I’m a Cheshire-catist: my glass is only half there. In addition, I am also a passionate audiophile, so the Cheshire-catist in me is usually prepared to find something lacking in an album. I know most people assume that an LP will invariably have tracks on it that would be best classified as “B-Sides;” in fact, I think most listeners actually expect this to be the case. But I’m not most people. As an audiophile, I demand more from music than the musicians — I’m experiencing the songs as a combination of sound engineer and poet. For me, a song that fully delivers is going to alter my perspective, revamp my mood, carry me into another world for two-to-four minutes and leave me wanting more.
I had to write this review, because Steep Canyon Rangers’ Tell The Ones I Love absolutely, positively delivered. I’m talking about an “expensive furniture store” level of delivery. They showed up on time, didn’t trample my flower bed, and immediately put together an entire living room collection of beautifully constructed, uniquely designed songs in the listening room of my brain. One thing that the Rangers didn’t bring was a set of laurels. Even after winning a Grammy for their last album, Nobody Knows You, this constantly touring sextet from Asheville apparently sees no need to rest, whether on their laurels or otherwise.
From the soft picking at the start of the first track, the project builds and expands, taking bluegrass to the edge of a variety of musical genres. Still, Steep Canyon Rangers have not abandoned one of their trademark skills, the ability to write a new song that is crafted so closely to early Bluegrass music, one might think that Bill Monroe was sitting on the tour bus with them while it was composed. From the story of Blind Willie in bassist Charles Humphrey’s “Bluer Words Were Never Spoken,” to mandolin player Mike Guggino’s instrumental, “Graveyard Fields,” the heart of Bluegrass is well cared for in the hands of the Rangers.
Opening the album, “Tell The Ones I Love” gently eases the listener into the LP with a quiet, steady rhythm and minimal music. After the first sixty seconds, however, this four minute song hits full speed. Sublimely woven, it crashes through the speakers like a runaway locomotive. Not coincidentally, this cut is filled with train references, although I suspect the lyrics are really telling a far more abstract tale.
To read the full review (with photos), go here.
Barbie Angell is a poet, short story writer, satirist and artist in Asheville. This review was originally posted on her own web site.