What makes for an exhilarating bluegrass record? Drive and precision certainly come to mind. But often neglected by today's bluegrass bands is that crucial dose of irreverence that made the music's fathers so inspiring. Imagine if Bill Monroe so respected Scottish Aires that he never dared fuse them with the blues? If Earl Scruggs loved previous banjo techniques so much, why would he bother with a three-finger roll?
The Wildwood Valley Boys sing and play great. Yet, their hyperactive sense of reverence chains them. On their debut, they are content to rely on stale bluegrass cliches. From the uptempo rambles to the soft weepers, every lick and harmony is precisely placed. How about some trace of personality, some spark of ingenuity: a harmonic twist, a clever instrumentation, or a charismatic vocalist. In a music rooted in contrast and cultural collision, it all adds up to blandess.
This sort of uninspired revivalism is fine in a vacuum, but bluegrass has always been a progressive movement. While the bluegrass masters push the music to its limits, the Wildwood Valley Boys fear the future.