Don’t judge a book by its cover, nor a band by its name.
The original grassroots of We Banjo 3 lie with banjo players Enda Scahill and brothers Martin and David Howley. However, after a few years of the three honing their craft together, Enda’s brother Fergal joined the group on fiddle, evolving their popular sound even further. As a result, the two sets of Galway-based brothers have an ever-expanding following on the Irish American Festival circuit. They also headline their own shows with their mighty back-catalogue of beautifully crafted songs and albums.
‘Open The Road‘ is on track to be another success for the quartet, who are joined by backing vocalist Abigail Washburn and a medley of guest musicians, making this album a real gem. Leading the songs with his warm, comforting vocals, David Howley tells a variety of tales with earthy traditional themes of love and togetherness, with joy and abandonment.
‘Hummingbird‘ sets a beautiful opening scene. It is followed by the picturesque ‘Garden Song‘ with its soaring backing vocals bringing summer sun to Howley’s melodic tones. ‘Long Way Down‘ continues with further beautiful vocal arrangements complimented by a fabulous array of instrumentation. A bright, pacy beat makes this song soar.
The serene ‘Heart in Hand‘ features gentle fiddle from Fergal, the lovely Irish lilt of Howley and a lyric that could be a beautiful international anthem:
“So before you shut the window
Before you think the worst
See the flowers of every colour
Rising up from the same dirt
We are not divided
In Classes or in scenes
Could we just call each other
Fellow human beings
And oh, you know – something has to change”
Elegantly crafted songs are a mainstay of ‘Open The Road‘, and musical virtuosity features throughout. For example, the title track is an epic seven-minute instrumental built around dazzling fiddle playing and ‘The First Second Gentleman‘, another instrumental of rousing Irish music.
The last two songs on the album are beautiful love songs. The lively ‘Alive With You‘ calls you to:
“Dance like nobody’s watching
Laugh like our hearts are free
Sing like nothing else matters
I’m alive with you, and you’re alive with me”
Then the more mellow ‘Believe In Us‘ is captivating as it declares “I believe in us, my dear. Maybe that’s enough… Maybe love’s enough”
‘Open The Road‘ has just about everything you could want in an album. Given the myriad of wonderful instrumentalists contributing it will be interesting to see how the sound is replicated live and hopefully, that happens on the UK festival circuit sometime soon. In the meantime, however, it is an absolute pleasure to have on repeat in the car.