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The Cleverlys

Blue – 2019 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by The Cleverlys

Every now and then an artist comes along that truly does catch you by surprise, for one reason or another. Bluegrass fusion act The Cleverlys is certainly one of those acts. For at one moment you're tapping your toes and humming along to their pitch perfect bluegrass stylings when in the next moment you realize that you've heard this very song, but it sounded very different and was being sung by the likes of Justin Bieber, Beyoncé or LMFAO. It's strangely disorienting at first, but as you continue to listen begins to be uniquely enjoyable.

Posing as a faux family, the quintet's Mountain Home Music Company debut finds them channeling a family friendly, bluegrass-inspired version of The Dan Band as they segue through a roster of pop classics, old and new, giving them that Cleverlys spin. Bieber's "Baby" is administered a shuffling, persistently slow beat and warm harmonies that steal the show while a cover of Kelis' "Milkshake" is a rousing toe tapper, lead singer Digger Cleverly's vocals standing strong.

Tackling Eiffel 65's "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" proves to be an exercise in playfulness with Cub Cleverly's mandolin stealing the show as a track like "Girl In The Sky," while delivering its own dose of humor, delivers on it's solid bluegrass promise with sublime picking and grinning. That energy gets supercharged on a cover of The Zombies' "She's Not There," showcasing DVD Cleverly's great fiddle work before giving way to the smooth group harmonies on an inspired take on "Wait A Minute."

Listeners won't help being able to smile at the straight fun that is their cover of LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem," with Digger's vocal delivery simply bananas before things segue into a warm, country flavored take on Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable." 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up" gets the Cleverly treatment as well and holds its own while The Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" feels like the most natural fit for the band, and they make good use of it, showcasing their full musical prowess.

The only real downfall comes when the band tries to do things in reverse, taking a classic bluegrass tune and updating it into the pop realm with a cover of "Oh Death." Infused with a techno-styled beat, it just falls flat as does the final track, "The End of the Record." Featuring the guys riffing on, well, something, its humorous for a moment, but feels like a wasted opportunity.

A unique mixture of pop sentiments coupled with serious bluegrass musicianship, The Cleverlys manage to avoid being pigeonholed as a novelty act with their great musical chops.