With their third CD, Kane's River, the five-member bluegrass ensemble from Bozeman, Montana, offers a set of mostly original songs that ring simultaneously classic and fresh. This is a showcase for the vocal, instrumental and songwriting talents that have established Kane's River as one the best new groups in traditional music.
Among the 11 originals, group founder John Lowell's three compositions, "This Little Town," "Richmond" and "Jerusalem's Choir," favorably recall the melancholy Americana of The Band, while David Thompson's five contributions (two co-written with Julie Elkins) mine traditional territory without sounding overly familiar. Of the four non-originals, David Francey's haunting Celtic tune, "Wind In the Wires," is a standout. Elkins is the group's strongest vocalist, with competent support from Lowell and producer-mandolinist Ben Winship. Her warm, soulful voice especially shines on the swinging "Jerusalem's Choir" and Thompson's ode to the land of the big sky, "Stars and Stones." The two instrumentals, "Foisted Possum" and "Upstream," provide opportunities for Jason Thomas to give his fiddle a workout. The eclectic song list is enhanced by Winship's fine crisp and clear production.
This is well-crafted music, performed with an obvious affection for tradition, but not beholden to it. Tim Stafford's liner notes suggest that it "might just be the record you use to introduce your jaded friends to bluegrass."