Review: The Mid North – You’re Right About The Stars

So the first guess on seeing the name of the band is “Where Is The Mid North?”; Pennsylvania? Connecticut? New Jersey? New York? It throws your geography for a loop, not to mention your ideas of the borders of bluegrass when you find the band hails from Bellingen, New South Wales, Australia.

They bill themselves as “Bluegrass/Americana,” and they combine the spirit of old-time roots music, the
 of the new young string-bands, and the musicianship of bluegrass. Add a touch of jug band and a bit of folk and you get a spirited sound that will have you tapping your feet or looking for a partner to dance with – the best way to describe it is “infectious!”

You’re Right About The Stars is the bands debut album, Their instrumental style will remind you of Old Crow Medicine Show while their vocals offer much to compare with Railroad Earth. You can also imagine them playing straight-up bluegrass with Bill Monroe or sitting down to jam with Earl Scruggs – they have all the bases covered.

The album opens with the fiddle and harmonica driven “Rosewood,” the strong vocals and the wistful lyrics give you a great idea of what’s ahead on the album. If you’re expecting “Cabin On The Hill” to sound like all the other “Cabin” songs from Virginia and the Carolinas, this one turns out to be a very upbeat jugband-infused sing-along. The bluegrass purists may cringe, but the only thing that’s missing is a washboard 🙂

“Pot Of Honey” shows that they can even turn a guitar-only love song into a toe-tapper and, while you can tap and dance, you’ll also find that their strong lyrics certainly bear listening. “Get Back Home” is a slower paced plunking-banjo tune about getting out of the city rush and getting back to the quiet life. “Where I Found My Home” is, no, not about the mountains or even home, but about finding bluegrass and making your musical home there; anyone with a love for bluegrass will certainly appreciate where this one is coming from! “Cocaine” is a sardonic look at, yes, cocaine. That they can turn it into a full band sing-along without losing the grittier aspects of the dark side says a lot. “Emmy Lou” is an upbeat fiddle driven love song and “Gypsy Thief” is a wistful wandering song that I think is about growing up, but one could read a lot into it’s many different layers. “Holy Water” is an ironically named take on the hard life of trying to live out of a liquor bottle. “Show Me The Right Way” is a guitar and harmonica gospel stomp. “Carry Me Home” is a quiet heartfelt guitar and vocal folk song of a dying man asking his son to take him back home, something that in it’s simplicity you could well imagine Johnny Cash having done in his later years. “Big Train” was recorded to sound like it’s being played off of a scratchy old 78 and rather than seeming to be just a fancy effect, it really does take you deeper into some of the old time roots music they’re mining. “Where The Sun Shines” is a banjo driven upbeat tune about leaving broken love and heading for a better place. “Thumbing Rides” is a guitar and dobro folk style tune about hard life on the road with your guitar and hitching.  As I listen to it again, I realize that there’s something in there that, while it doesn’t directly recall Woody Guthrie, seems to evoke the spirit of that age and hard times. A live version of “Rosewood” recorded with X-Train takes the album out in the “You-gotta-be-there” spirit that seems to fit this band so well.

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“Rosewood”

The first few times you listen to this album the attraction is how upbeat the music is and how much fun the band is having with the tunes. Given some more listening time you begin to realize the depth and richness of the song craft (I chose that word because it seems to be so much more than just writing songs). I don’t think it will be too long before you find this band really making a name for itself, you might want to get in ahead of the curve! The band is Jenny Shimmin – Banjo,Will Pregnell – Double Bass, John Woolhouse – Mandolin and Fiddle, Scott Collins – Guitar and Vocals.

While information about the band is a bit hard to come by, definitely check out the videos they have posted on YouTube! Assuming you don’t want to pay (or wait) for the CD to arrive from Australia, You’re Right About The Stars is available as a download from CD Baby.

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