Just As Strong may be Breaking Grass’ third album (following up their self-titled debut and Running With The Moon) but somehow they’ve managed to fly beneath my radar.
If you’re also new to Breaking Grass, they shade to the newgrass side of the bluegrass curve but you can find traditional roots close to the surface.
Their music combines vocals with both a twang and a lilt, some swing with the guitar, mando and banjo, and at times a truly haunting fiddle, all hard atop a thumping bass – quite an exhilarating ride.
“If Forrest Gump were talking about this band, he might say “Breaking Grass is like a box of chocolates….” With Breaking Grass, my very first impression was; this band understands variety. From heartfelt emotion to barroom romance to a Texas Two-Step to a genuine good-old-fashioned barn-burner, Breaking Grass lacks nothing in mixing it up. It’s refreshing to hear a band that truly is different…different from any other and even different from within.” – Brian McNeal – Prescription Bluegrass
And speaking of good reviews, it was seeing a FaceBook post from Eric Gibson (The Gibson Brothers) saying he had this album (and specifically the song “Shine”) in heavy rotation on his CD player that inspired me to ask for the chance to do this review. Can’t ask for a better reference than that!
Thelton Vanderford (banjo) is the elder statesman of the band, and grew up with a love of old country music, and he brings a long bluegrass background to the band. The “youngsters” of the band are Zach Wooten (mandolin), Tyler White (fiddle), Britt Sheffield (bass), and Cody Farrar (guitar and principle songwriter). They bring backgrounds ranging from bluegrass and country to rock and heavy metal. They may be young, but boy do they know how to play, and they fuse these diverse backgrounds into a truly original bluegrass band.
The album opens with “Raining in Virginia.” Newgrass has been around for quite a while, if there is such a thing as “traditional newgrass” it starts here, and it shows that Breaking Grass can hang with the best of the new (and old) artists. “Whatever You Need” is new song that will strike you with the bands originality – it still says “bluegrass” loud and clear, but sounds like no other bluegrass song you’ve heard. How many songs (of any genre) can make that claim? “Shine,” about moonshine of course, will raise the hairs on your neck with it’s eery sound and eerier story. “Old Willow Tree” comes up with a traditional bluegrass sound while transcribing a bluegrass love song into a murder story. “Fly” is a soaring ballad showcasing the bands vocal strength. “Beating the Blues” takes a dip into some honk-tonk.
That’s just the start, there is much, much more on this album, something for everyone from a band strong enough to pull it off. I’m also betting that from the sound they’re a blast to see live. Until I get that chance I’ll be putting my feet up and putting this album in my own heavy rotation!
Mountain Fever Records