Artist: The Lonely Heartstring Band
Album: Deep Waters
Label: Rounder Records
Release Date: 06/03/2016
Fine bluegrass music might contain the gravity of a classical orchestra, or the wallop of a rock band. The beauty and complexities in it can be more awe-inspiring than either. In listening to Deep Waters, it’s readily apparent that The Lonely Heartstring Band plays ultra-fine bluegrass music, but that they also use the form to project unique personality. Named for a witty, but respectful nod to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Lonely Heartstring Band’s inspirations and principles clearly run deep and wide. Led by identical twin brothers George (guitar, lead vocals) and Charles (bass, harmonies) Clements, they’re rounded out by Gabe Hirshfeld (banjo), Patrick M’Gonigle (fiddle, harmonies) and Matt Wilter (mandolin).
Although the quintet employs traditional instrumentation, and Clements sings with a sprightly, Gaelic lilt, these songs all burst with a sense of exploration. Wonderful takes on Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” Bob Dylan’s “Rambling, Gambling Willie,” and Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” stand out for their inventive arrangements. However, it’s on their own compositions that these Berklee-trained experts make the most astonishing, yet easily assimilated impressions. “The Road’s Salvation” opens the album careening down an Appalachian trail. But things quickly travel into other territories. “The Tide” sprays pleading affection, and “The Look In My Eye” skitters playfully, both enduring as if pop songs that have been around for the ages. Elements of folk music light up “Steal the Night,” and given Clements’ soaring voice and the song’s elaborate melodies, hallmarks of none other than British progressive rockers Yes emerge. Hirshfeld’s ripping banjo adds to that feel, but also brings the song home. So does “Songbird,” with a gentle delivery of longing, and artful imagery.
These are musicians of dynamic imagination and massive musical talent. However, the music on their album feels as comfortable as a pair of long-worn leather slippers. A fascinating debut.
– Tom Clarke