Trout Steak Revival has found its voice. A group of Midwest transplants now firmly rooted in the Colorado High Country bluegrass scene, this five-piece band brings real songwriting craft to its third full-length release where TSR goes for the brass ring.
TSR went the Kickstarter route to fund, produce and distribute "Brighter Every Day." And, they wisely engaged Chris Pandolfi, el Presidente and banjo player of The Infamous Stringdusters, to produce. The songwriting is strong, with contributions by all five TSR members. Road songs (or at least place songs) abound: "Oklahoma," "Colorado River." "Sierra Nevada," an instrumental turn, emphasizes the fiddle playing of Bevin Foley (who also admirably carries the load on a number of lead vocals). The overall feel is a high, somewhat removed string sound, well-suited for a Colorado based band.
"Brighter Every Day" is a strong showing; there's not a dud on the disc, and the more you listen, you are likely to appreciate the musical textures emerging in the high string sound. Travis McNamara, perhaps inspired by his producer Pandolfi, brings a solid tenor rhythm line on banjo. Steve Foltz has a free and easy mandolin style, while Will Koster (Dobro and guitar) and Casey Houlihan (bass) spin threads of gold in places. If you want to see where Western string band music is going, to Trout Steak Revival's "Brighter Every Day" is a fine place to start.
This lineup, which won Best Band award at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2014, is poised to enter the next level as a national touring band. Given that bands like Nickel Creek and Greensky Bluegrass are previous winners at Telluride, it's not a ridiculous notion. "Brighter Every Day" backs up the promise with a strong dose of bluegrass reality.