Hmmmmmm. When you first think of musicians from the Garden State of New Jersey (or Joi’sey depending on where you’re from) the likes of Bon Jovi, Springstein, and Houston come to mind-not bluegrass pickers. That has now changed because today there is a homegrown organic variety of this style of that is available on your store shelves right now. The Magnolia Street String Band’s CD premiere release Wrong Side of the Rain is out, and what a CD it is! This group is no prototype or beta test band-these are very seasoned and track proven musicians. In addition to the original founding core members of Matt Backes (vocals, mando, fiddle) and Sheila Shukla (vocals,guitar), the additions of Paul Prestopino (banjo/dobro/mando), Bobby Baxmeyer ( banjo/dobro), and bassist Ron Greenstein make up this group of 5. Look these folks up and see where they’ve been. This is an impressive lineup!
The roots of this group were a lot different from what they are today. They originally started out as a string band about six years ago sans banjo, bass, and lead mandolin (say what)? Their evolution didn’t happen overnight. The years it took for these folks to grow into today’s makeup were worth the wait. This is an extra fancy crop of pickers blended into a solid and tight band with bluegrass as their root structure.
When first watching their videos on You Tube, I was disappointed that I couldn’t hear their sound due to all the commotion in the audience. Listen up: This band is way way more than background music and this release proves it. Every one of these folks have worked hard at their craft to get to the level they’re at today and they deserve your undivided attention. The vocals, sometimes with 3 part harmonies, and clean picking all blend and compliment each other nicely. Their arrangements are clean and well thought out with some interesting shaping sprinkled in throughout the CD.
“Those Memories of You”
There is a nice mixture of original material, and some traditional / old tunes. MSSB has put a nice fresh coat of paint on the older numbers (“Rabbit in a Log,” “Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger,” “Big River,” “Midnight on the Highway,” and “Brown Eyed Women”) with just the right amount of tweaking to make the time proven material fresh. Only experience gives you the ability to do that and they did it well. The original numbers including the title cut, and “Be My Friend Tonight” (both by Matt Backes) along with “Onion Grass” by Bobby Baxmeyer will likely become well known favorites. To sum this all up: I hope to hear more from this group, a whole lot more. Give ‘em a listen!