With so many 'new' bluegrass acts comprised of shuffled decks drawn out of other bands, it is refreshing to find a solid release from a combo consisting of a quartet of pickers not well known outside their respective hometowns or instrumental specialties. Solivan's the name on the sleeve, so it is his clear-eyed vocal that takes center stage on a set of songs that eschew traditional favorites for new originals from the band members and their close friends.
Instrumentally, Mike Mumford shines throughout on banjo, and guitarist Lincoln Meyers' melodic lines bridge the verses on songs such as the tender Hello Friend in a way that adds to the emotions expressed in the lyrics. Just because Solivan doesn't tap into the standards of his chosen genre doesn't mean he won't accept some outside ideas, however.
Together We'll Fly is a Solivan tune that sounds like a '70s country tune set to bluegrass, while July You're a Woman actually is a classic country-folk song from John Stewart that the band "Bluegrassed all over," according to the liner notes.
Solivan is obviously influenced by the more contemporary bluegrass of groups such as Blue Highway or Kenny & Amanda Smith, but he's also enough of a student of traditional fare to include a powerful a capella rendition of the Stanley Brothers gospel classic Paul and Silas.
It is Solivan's own songs that steal the show here, however, with Tarred and Feathered sounding every bit like a classic you've just not heard before and the homelessness study Left Out in the Cold as good a topical song as any this side of Chris Jones.
Solivan may not be the most well-known singer/mandolin player in bluegrass, and his band may not have instant name recognition on the festival circuit, but this latest album is proof that one doesn't have to pack the lineup with ringers to produce a winning team.