Review: Fireside Collective – Elements

“Newgrass” has become such an integral part of bluegrass that sometimes you can lose track of what’s “new” and what’s “traditional,” not to mention the shadings in between. Fireside Collective certainly checks all the newgrass boxes; driving rhythms, powerful harmonies, superb playing… backed with banjo licks straight from Bill Kieth via Bela Fleck and Tony Trishka, all played over excellent songwriting. Going back to New Grass Revival, newgrass has been around long enough to have its own traditions, and Fireside Collective could certainly be called “traditional newgrass.”

Given their progressive sound and their high energy playing, it should come as no surprise that the band was grown out of the musical hothouse of Asheville NC. Joe Cicero (guitar), Alex Genova (banjo), Jesse Iaquinto (mandolin), Tommy Maher (resonator guitar), and Carson White (bass) formed the band of five some years ago and immediately started winning awards, including the IBMA Momentum Band Of The Year for 2016. If you haven’t been paying enough attention to that particular award it puts a searchlight on up and coming bands (both Molly Tuttle and The Lonely Heartstrings Band are past winners that have played for the HVBA), so the award is certainly a winning recommendation!

“Winding Road”

Elements follows up Shadows And Dreams and Life Between The Lines, and was produced by Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters. The album opens with a short teaser of “Intro,” a jam tune-up to lead you into the bouncing, toe tapping “Winding Road,” both giving a good taste of what’s ahead on the album. “Back To Caroline” is going to hook your attention for it’s sweet harmonies and instrumental licks that are just as sweet. Not much farther into the album you run into “Done Deal,” which at first listen sounds like it would not be out of place on some of the “country” radio stations, and then you realize it would actually be a vast improvement on their usual playlists 🙂

“Where The Broad River Runs” brings the album into a distinctly traditional-sounding ballad, for the intro, and a hard-driving bluegrass romp for the break… a great highlight of both sides of the band. Across the length of this album you’ll come to realize that the band trades songwriting just as nicely as they trade instrumental leads and harmonies, and it all fits together as an album should. Remember real albums instead of bits and pieces from streaming services? Something that you can appreciate as a whole. 🙂

Fireside Collective has played the GreyFox Bluegrass Festival on their trips through the northeast, and like all the best bands (and best music) should really be appreciated live! Given the limitations on “live” right now with Covid going on, the next best thing would be to put this album up on a road trip. Oh, no place to go? You could do worse than sitting in your car, in the driveway on a sunny day, with this cranked up on the stereo. The album exits with “Winding Road Reprise,” and yeah, you’ll think you *are* on the road. Sit back and enjoy 🙂

Mark Hudson

Mark Hudson is a long time local HVBA member and music lover who, unfortunately, had to move away. He misses the local scene but will look for you at Greyfox!

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