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Snyder Family Band

The Life We Know – 2017 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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North Carolina's Snyder Family Band (brother, sister and dad) are a familiar sight at bluegrass festivals, where the novelty of their blood relation status has taken a back seat to the trio's musicianship and stage presence. The CD is as much Lyle Lovett as it is Bill Wells, stretching boundaries even as the songs fall squarely into traditional styles.

With just guitar, fiddle and bass the Snyders will never be mistaken for a standard bluegrass act, but the stripped-down lineup doesn't restrict their musical movement. For every driving, melodic bluegrass romp like "Far Away" there's a waltz tune such as "Clouds over Texas," or the vaguely Celtic strains of "The Mystery," which tackles the meaning of the universe itself - never let it be said the Snyder family doesn't talk about the big subjects.

Samantha Snyder is the revelation here, coming into her own not only as both a vocalist and a songwriter on songs such as the gospel number "The King," where the power in her performance overcomes any comparisons to Krauss or others and just becomes her own sound. Zeb Snyder's guitar work is stellar as usual, carrying the group's melody nearly all by itself on songs such as Marshall Tucker Band's "Blue Ridge Mountain Sky" where he's also an effective, bluesy vocalist, while Bud Snyder remains the siblings' rock solid backup.

There is a long tradition of the 'family band' construct in bluegrass music, and while the Snyder Family Band certainly continues that line, they also have the talent and originality on this latest effort to cross over it and back, forging a singular, signature style of their own.