The Rifters “The Enchanted World”

Howlin' Dog Records. 2023

Enchanting fifth studio album that exquisitely captures the beauty and variety of the New Mexico landscape.

artwork for The Rifters album "The Enchanted World"The Rifters are a trio made up of Jim Bradley on bass and vocals, Don Richmond on a varied selection of stringed instruments and vocals, and Rod Taylor on guitar, mandolin and vocals who hail from Taos situated towards the north-central region of New Mexico and are currently celebrating their twentieth anniversary as a band. The three members first came together having been members of two of the most popular bands already active in the area with both Bradley and Richmond in Hired Hands while Taylor played with The Rounders. Their latest album ‘The Enchanted World’ is their fifth studio album following on from 2019’s ‘Passes and Peaks’ and finds the trio in fine form with ten of the fourteen tracks either originals or co-writes that collectively manage to capture the very essence of the state of New Mexico, its people and dramatic landscapes full of high mountains and desert beauty.

The album opens with ‘The Circle’ that pays tribute to the life of the modern-day rancher sung by Taylor with the true conviction that only comes from someone who has spent the last forty years splitting his time between being a working musician with being a working cowboy. This is followed by one of the standout tracks on the album, ‘The Greatest Mystery’ a song the band co-wrote with good friend Andy Wilkinson that wraps itself around the listener like a warm breeze from across the southern state whispering gently of the history of its land and it’s people replete with some exquisite mandolin playing and three-part harmonies to die for. Simply spellbinding. Next comes the title track which again throws the spotlight on the sublime harmonies as they sing about the choices and complications in today’s world.

As well as their soaring three-part harmonies the band use a myriad of acoustic and electric instruments to best use as they traverse a range of musical styles that at different times conjure up comparison with The Mavericks as well as another trio from across the border, The Flatlanders while at times the lyrical narrative offers a sagacious nod to Tom Russell. Those already familiar with the trio will probably be aware of their contribution to Eliza Gilkyson’s album of last year ‘Songs From The River Wind’ and that collaboration continues on this album with ‘At The Foot Of The Mountain’ a co-write between the band, Gilkyson, and John Gorka, whilst Gilkyson adds some magical harmony vocals to ‘So Many Different Things’

Though the band are keen to capture and extol the wonder and beauty of their home state there is still ample room to explore the more difficult and challenging topics of the twenty-first century. In particular the environmental message that comes with ‘The Dollar Worth Of Mother Earth’ a co-write between Taylor and local cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell, while ‘At The Rail’ is a dark exploration of the ‘jumpers’ that take their own lives jumping from bridges such as the one over the Rio Grande Gorge and is offered as a song of hope that those in such a dark place can still find the light. Throughout the album the trio are ably supported by Diamond Jim Richmond on pedal steel, Micheal Hearne on lead guitar and Pete Wernick on banjo whose contribution on the final track, a cover of John Hartford’s ‘Gentle On My Mind’ is particularly noteworthy.

So if The Rifters are a new name to you, and you enjoy the music of acts such as The Flatlanders, Tom Russell and even Dave Alvin then this album and this band would certainly be worth taking the time to become more acquainted with.

8/10
8/10

About Graeme Tait 118 Articles
Hi. I'm Graeme, a child of the sixties, eldest of three, born into a Forces family. Keen guitar player since my teens, (amateur level only), I have a wide, eclectic taste in music and an album collection that exceeds 5.000. Currently reside in the beautiful city of Lincoln.
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