Review: Northern Lights – One Day

“One Day,” the new album from long-time New England bluegrass band Northern Lights, isn’t exactly what I’d call “that high lonesome sound,” but it is tight, toneful, and tasteful. To my ears, the 11 tracks revealed diverse influences from newgrass to western swing, to folk rock to southern rock, from Monroe to classic country, all bound together by great musical chops and accomplished harmony singing. I especially liked the tone of the lead guitar, the gutsy fiddle solos, and the sweeping, ringing mandolin chords on the more “newgrass” songs- let me be clear, there was hardly a note out of place on this album.

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“Please Search Your Heart”

Highlights for me included the instrumental work on “Short Time Going,” the country-style harmony on “Please Search Your Heart,” and the two tracks featuring Jonathan Edwards on lead vocals- his voice adds a wonderful emotional texture to the folk-bluegrass sound that Northern Lights has crafted so well. If I have any complaint about this album, it’s that it’s just that- it’s so well crafted that sometimes I wished for a bit more raw intensity, a bit more cragginess or “ancient tones,” as Ricky Skaggs calls it. What Northern Lights has done is use the bluegrass format – mandolin, fiddle, banjo, bass, guitar – to make American music that draws on diverse roots. It’s not the high lonesome bluegrass of James King or Ralph Stanley, and it isn’t meant to be, I think. It is, however, very enjoyable, musically creative storytelling that reminded me how much music can come out of a handful of voices and acoustic instruments. Recommended.

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