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Sweetwater String Band

At Night – 2017 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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CDs by Sweetwater String Band

With a name like Sweetwater String Band, you might expect a contemporary bluegrass band with hotshot pickers providing a heavy dose of banjo and fiddle, but that's not what you get. Instead, this acoustic quartet is built around cellist Dave Huebner who wields that instrument to create a sonorous soundscape.

"At Night" is a moody album, and its overarching tone is serious - one that plays well with the group's plaintive vocals and the simple, but exquisitely-planned and executed arrangements featuring mandolin, guitar and bass.

The tone is established from the first notes of the lead-off track, "Same Stars," as Huebner's assertive and repetitive bowing propels the song. Joining him in the lower end of things is Patrick Ferguson and his upright bass. Layered on top of that cello and bass foundation are nice mandolin accents from Scott Roberts and a tasteful guitar break courtesy of Jeff Meadway.

"At Night" is an album about places with geography acting as a muse on many of the songs. On "Red Hill Country," the band uses locations like mountains and deserts to help convey feelings of lost love. With "Wild River," Huebner yearns to find solace in nature - asking the river to take him around the mountainside in order to hide from the world. The quartet also professes love for the ranges and rivers of Colorado on their inspired cover of Townes Van Zandt's "My Proud Mountains."

Although the album is heavy with mid-temp tunes, some of its most endearing tracks are the ones in which the band pushes the tempo like "Beautiful," with its distinctive and jaunty cello riff, the plucky "Lift," and "Up & Over," a song that's memorable for its breakneck vocals and an instrumental section featuring Roberts' mandolin and guest banjo player Aaron Youngberg.