Roots at the crossroads of americana.
The dictionary definition of “hinterland” refers to an area lying inland from a coast or far from an urban area. Defined in that strictly geographical sense this band formed by four students at the Indiana’s Purdue University chose well. Likewise, in the more metaphorical meaning of hinterland that refers to a person’s wide range of interests these guys have chosen aptly once again. In this debut album that skips seamlessly across country, bluegrass and folk in The Hinterland Band show how their roots run deep.
‘Indiana In Stereo Sound’ is perfect road trip material as The Hinterland Band cruise through their gears from gentle country to pedal to the metal bluegrass. Harmonies and uplifting trumpet notes blow a warm breeze through those windows. Though some of their stories do not have a happy ending, the pleasure they give in telling them makes riding with these boys feel the world is not such a bad place after all.
A foot stomping fiddle sets opener ‘Indiana Wind’ off at pace before abruptly stopping to introduce Zach Riddle’s folksy, wearied vocals, “The Indiana wind is a melancholy friend/ It’l blow ‘til the end/ ‘til your old bones bend”. Grammy winner bluegrass fiddler Michael Cleveland adds a distinctly old-time feel. The more sedate tempo of ’Angel’s Arms’ provides the backdrop for Cleveland’s fiddle to dip and dive around the sad tale of a man who’s “..sleeping tonight/ In an angel’s arms”.
From these bluegrass roots the band turn their collective hand to a more country pop vibe for ‘Cecilia’. Riddle’s seen it all before ruefulness is amplified by the distant trumpet as he accepts he may be “knocking on your door” once again despite all the accompanying perils.
Somewhere in between their hoedown and soft country The Hinterland Band truly find their groove. ‘Cottonwood Trees’ is a pleasing folk ballad that waltzes along with a hint of swing to a tale of acceptance. Riddle lowers his voice to little more than a whisper on ‘Coal’, a slow acoustic muse about the bleakness of a miner’s life above and below ground.
‘Galaxy, Virginia’ gives full vent to the band’s musicianship. To a moderate beat they create a panoramic soundscape boosted by Jacob Lamberson’s keys, B3 and glittering brass from Jeff Parker. From old sailor “Grandpa Tom” down the generations with glimpses of magnificent detail nothing changes much because, “no-one ever dies here in Galaxy, Virginia”. Alternating singing with a screenplay voiceover adds further nostalgia.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, with a title of ‘So On and So Forth and So Long for Now’, is the album’s most luxuriant stretch. Performed live, this rolling introspection that reaches orchestral proportions must turn into a glorious jam.
There is a hypnotic timelessness to ‘Indiana In Stereo Sound’ that draws the listener into these intriguing stories. If this is flyover country then it is well worth making an unscheduled landing for The Hinterland Band.