The last few years have been mighty good for string bands. There has an been an outbreak of younger, progressive bands mining the rich vein of bluegrass and a renaissance of traditional legends releasing some of the best albums of their long, rich careers. This has all combined to create a great time to be into bluegrass, string-band, and old-timey music.
One of those younger bands bursting onto the scene is Pennsylvania’s Mountain Ride who is set to make 2017 theirs. They are joining an every growing crop of bands, clearly schooled in bluegrass and string-band music, who are looking to push that familiar sound into new uncharted regions.
After a breakout 2016 that saw them cap it off with a high-profile gig opening for current string-band and jamgrass darlings Cabinet in Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve, Mountain Ride started 2017 with the release of their latest album, Time to Roll, an energetic explosion of old-time picking, tastefully colored with a stylish, new grass hand.
Time to Roll finds Mountain Ride expertly straddling that thin line between the traditional bluegrass sound, that is clearly the backbone and soul of what they do, and a more progressive, forward thinking sound that finds them sneaking in hints and references of everything from the lyrical fun of John Hartford to the musical adventurousness of Phish to the Americana-roots of The Band all delivered with a string band setup and a bluegrass heart.
This ability to subtly move through a variety of influences and styles can often sound clumsy for so many bands, but Mountain Ride pull this off effortlessly. This ability is aided by the band’s strong song writing which creates a wide palate of aural soundscapes over which Mountain Ride glides seamlessly throughout the whole album. They veer from the traditional chug of “Brokedown,” to the express freight-train banjo roll of “Without You,” through the contemplative strum of “Long Gone,” to the foot-stomping thrash of “Time to Roll,” crafting an album that is propelled along by unrestrained joy.
Time to Roll is a welcome addition to the evolution of bluegrass music. There is enough of that old-timey soul and picking to keep your grandfather smiling and enough combustible energy to keep you dancing all night. It is bluegrass for a new generation. It is quite simply a glorious mountain ride.
Time to Roll is out now.