Bluegrass Briefs – Sister Sadie, Under The Rocks , Bela Fleck

Our first round up of 2024 brings 3 constrasting albums from the nearest and furthest reaches of Bluegrass…

Sister Sadie ‘No Fear’

The last Sister Sadie album was over 5 years ago and, in that time, founding members Deanie Richardson and Gena Britt have had personnel changes and the small matter of a pandemic to contend with. But as a statement of intent for the future opening song ‘Willow’ is right on the money. As is the rest of the album. ‘If We Ain’t Drinking Then We’re Fighting’ leads with a fiddle line from Richardson that sounds like a barfight all of its own. The melancholy ‘Blue As My Broken Heart’ cools things down, although the fiddle remains strong, as is the singing of Dani Flowers.

The fiery ‘Pad Thai Karaoke’ and their comeback single ‘Diane’ are other stand out songs. But if you want to start your Bluegrass year off with a bang then this is the album for you. “I usually don’t listen to one of my recordings after they are done,” confesses Richardson. “I literally cannot stop listening to this one. Not because it’s ours, but because it’s damn good!” She’s right.

Under The Rocks ‘Honest Try’

Kelowna, Canada had no Bluegrass bands to call it’s own until Under The Rocks emerged.  They have nothing startlingly new to offer to start off with at least. ‘Anywhere I Am Is Where I’ll Be’ is a reassuringly traditional tune, with the elements we expect. Clear harmonies, high speed banjo and a fiddle soaring above it all. On ‘Walking Each Other Home’ Chloe Davidson’s voice and fiddle dominate a delicate tune which most certainly something different. ‘The Breakup Getdown’ is the instrumental workout that very Bluegrass album needs. ‘Bound For Glory’ is the road trip song with Jordan Klassen’s vocal showing the level of versatility the band can offer.

They have a slightly different take on lyric writing as well, as ‘Bound for Glory’ highlights. “With a subtle hurry he left his hometown when he hopped on a Greyhound Bus. A poor communicator and a social demonstrator who could always see the “I” in “us”. Bound by glory by an awful story between the bathroom and a guy named Gus.” Being the only Bluegrass band in the village may well have led them in some alternative directions and their album is all the better for it.

Béla Fleck ‘Rhapsody In Blue’

On the 100th anniversary of Gershwin’s masterpiece, another master Bela Fleck has offered his interpretation of some of his music. ‘Rhapsody in Blue(grass)’ takes that familiar main theme and it fits surprisingly well into a Bluegrass context. He has also made the inaugural recording of Gershwin’s ‘Unidentified Piece for Banjo,’ brought to Fleck by Gershwin expert Dr. Ryan Banagale. “It’s very much like a ragtime tune through a Gershwin lens” says Fleck. And it does have all the primitivism of Ragtime. The rest of the album includes an orchestral version, a blues-based Rhapsody in Blue(s) with bass and guitar solos joining fleck’s Banjo. ‘Rialto Ripples’ is another Gershwin price that translates well to solo Banjo. Not your average Bluegrass, but more than worth hearing in it’s entirety.

About Tim Martin 247 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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Martin Johnson

Americana UK will be chatting with Sister Sadie about their new album in the next couple of weeks.