I really like the Remington Ryde, in the same way I really like local historical museums, small-town fireworks on the 4th of July, and mom-and-pop stores that aren’t big-box chains. I like the Remington Ryde the way I like minor-league baseball, but let’s be clear: that’s not a put-down, that’s a compliment. Minor league baseball is where you feel the players striving towards their ambitions, with the experience made all the more dramatic by not knowing which of the baseball players are on their way up, which on their way down, and which have plateaued at Triple-A.
I like the Remington Ryde the way I love all the regional bands who play in the early afternoon at a typical bluegrass festival- these are hard-working musicians, who love their craft, who want to please, and who haven’t yet played so many concerts that they’re “phoning it in,” as my brother calls it. The Remington Ryde- Ryan Frankhouser on lead vocals and guitar, Danny Stewart on mandolin, Wally Yoder on bass, and Billy Lee Cox on banjo- really sound like they’re having fun, and that’s no small virtue in an era when music has been professionalized and computerized and tweaked to the last eight-note.
The Ryde are all competent on their instruments, with the band really being driven by the banjo rolls and rhythm. Harmonies are tight, if not quite welded shut, and Mr. Frankhouser is certainly a decent bluegrass singer. (Though I do wish they’d consulted a rhyming dictionary for a few of their songs- c’mon, guys, it’s not like you ended the preceding verse with “xenophobic.”)
The Ryde are- in my estimation- competent, joyful, energetic, and great representatives of the “play it hard boys” school of bluegrass. Not every band blazes a new trail- some walk proudly on paths cleared by others, and some embrace a tradition tightly in order to perfect the form. The Ryde are a fine band for- well, a ride (I reviewed this CD while going up and back on the NJ Turnpike), and I’d look forward to hearing them at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon on a hot summer day, kicking off a great day of music at the festival.