We’ll cut to the quick; there seems to be two views on drums in bluegrass. The first take, to borrow a phrase from Bill Monroe, is “That ain’t no part of nothin.” The second take is to view the drums as another way to provide a punchy, driving bass line. If you’re of the former group you can stop reading here, for those of the latter, well, you’re in for a treat.
Lonesome Panoramic is the 8th album from a band that’s been around for the better part of two decades. That alone should tell you that you’re getting a band at the top of their game, and with everything running smoothly they can devote all their attention to the crafting of their songs. Indeed, all of the thirteen songs on Lonesome Panoramic are originals.
Nate Keefe (guitar) and Erik Yates (banjo, resonator, and acoustic guitars) share the songwriting and vocals for the band. Zebulon Bowles provides the sharp fiddling and harmony vocals, with Bryon Horne (bass) and James Stafford (drums. percussion, and mandolin) teaming up to provide the driving rhythm footing for the band.
The band is based out of San Francisco, and you would expect any band from there, most especially a bluegrass band, to be a bit “alternative.” And while the band draws inspiration from the jam band scene and rock and roll, with the first listen one can tell that the roots of their songs are in bluegrass. Most importantly, one can also tell from the first listen that the band is still having fun.
“You Can Tell”
Lonesome Panoramic opens with “You Can Tell,” which I hesitate to call an updated version of the Stanley Brother’s “How Mountain Girls Can Love.” It has that same infectious toe-tapping spirit, but is just enough of a different generation that I can’t quite picture the Stanley Brothers playing it. However, I can picture the Stanley family’s grand and great-grandchildren sitting down to a jam with this one and it’s a great intro to the rest of the album.
“Sitting Here Alone” evokes the classic harmonies of old bluegrass gospel tunes, backed up with a bouncing banjo driven riff. Like the entire album it’s not really traditional bluegrass, but you can see it from here.
“Country Tunes & Love Songs” brings us to a bit of a different side of the band, more of a folk/country ballad song, opening with a simple guitar run behind sweet harmonies then with the rest of the band dropping into the song and opening things up. If country music needs a reminder that a country song can be a beautiful tune instead of cowboy hats and a lot of overproduction they would do well to start here.
“How Short The Song” is a gorgeous ballad with enough spirit that it should qualify as it’s own church service. “We Never Got Married” harkens back to HBR’s past, as they are probably best known for their high-energy rapid-fire tunes that fit right into the jam band scene.
The rest of the album alternates between well-crafted ballads and high energy romps with a touch of blues and even some jazz influences.
There’s a horrible pun in here somewhere, but if you’re looking to expand your bluegrass horizons Hot Buttered Rum as a band and Lonesome Panoramic as an album are both great places to start. Give them a listen and don’t be surprised to find some new favorite tunes.