I have to admit that, although I’m a big fan of the Carter family and the Cox family, I liked this band a little better before I found out they were a family band. Something about the term “family band” immediately makes me suspicious about the musicianship of all the members and I worry that the real purpose of the band is to fulfill some deranged parent’s fantasy. This band is three sisters, Emily and Alysha Bankester and Melissa Triplett, along with Melissa’s husband, Kyle Triplett, and the sisters’ parents, Dorene and Phil Bankester. So, definitely a family band.
But the element of the band that initially drew me to their music is stronger than ever in this recent album. The Bankesters have what few female vocalists have: a deep, rich, golden sound that just gets warmer and deeper when they harmonize. Yes, just like honey.
I have never had the pleasure of hearing them in person, so most of my experience of their music comes from Bluegrass Junction on Sirius XM radio. I had a few months last year driving very long distances and many times what kept me going, alert and happy, was that bluegrass station. Every time a song by the Bankesters was played I had to take my eyes off the road to check who was being played because the harmonies were always so effortless and full.
I may have heard slicker picking, and tighter instrumentals, and I may be primarily a fan of male vocalists such as Tony Rice, The Gibsons, and (crossing over the line) Johnny Cash, but I am hard-pressed to think of many examples of female bluegrass harmonies that I like better. Carol Elisabeth Jones and Alison Krauss, come to mind, but few others.
This album is filled with strong songs. Most of the songs feel like a family-reunion-you-just-want to-hum-along feel to them (if your family reunions routinely include great bluegrass musicians, which I’m happy to say mine do) – because they’re sweet, tight and catchy. The strongest, instrumentally, is, I think, “Time and Love”. Vocally there are many from which to choose. My personal favorites are “Reluctant Daughter” and “Found” and “Cups (When I’m Gone)”. But I also like “Love Don’t Give Up on Me Now” and “Storms”. You can almost not go wrong on this album. I hope that Melissa Triplett (“Time and Love” and “Found”) will keep writing songs, and that all of these musicians continue to make music.
If you have too much sweetness in your life then you won’t need this album. For everyone else, the sweet sounds are ready.
Glen Herbert: I agree with your thoughts on family bands. There is indeed something unsettling about them. I always felt that there was something behind Cherryholmes, that we weren’t seeing …
Gayle Yeomans: Great review. I never heard of them, and it made me want to check out their CD for sure. A request for Lynn L.: could you possibly include a different clip online?
Lynn Lipton: OK, Gayle…I changed the sample to reflect the outstanding harmony singing on this CD. Thanks for the request.