Monday, September 16, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews O WINDING RIVER from The Stetson Family

Image635149278629389487You can imagine my curiosity when I received a package from Melbourne, Australia with a note requesting consideration for review.

I truly had no idea what Australia’s version of Bluegrass would sound like or if it would even resemble my idea of Bluegrass.

I admit, I am open-minded about all genres of music and, in the case of Bluegrass, will not dismiss something just because it does not fit a preconceived mold. Although, in the case of this project, it is Bluegrass with a lean towards, what I would consider, a string band or folk sound.

O Winding River, the latest release by The Stetson Family, who are not blood relatives at all but rather five friends who, through circumstances that could in itself be the backdrop of a song, came together to share a common love of Bluegrass and American roots music.

The project consists of 12 original songs written by band members Nadine Budge, John Bartholomeusz, and Andrew Carwell. The songs take listeners on a journey that goes from innocence to murder to destruction and goes down Image635149283399882344every side road in between.

The Stetson Family is Nadine Budge on vocals/guitar/dobro, John Bartholomeusz on vocals/guitar, Andrew Carswell on mandolin/background vocals, Colin Swan on banjo/background vocals, and Luke Richardson on double bass/background vocals.

Nadine Budge, whom some may recall participated in the 2012 IBMA’s songwriter showcase for what became the title track of O Winding River, takes lead vocals on the majority of the songs. Nadine’s voice, which is earthy and full of emotion, creates a sense that you are experiencing each adventure as the stories unfold. John Bartholomeusz, who also contributes lead vocals, has a distinctive voice that easily delivers a Bluegrass feel for the group. The Stetson Family’s sound is what happens when veteran musicians and vocalists are confident of their strengths and are dedicated to the music as a whole instead of the individual contribution.

While the instrumentation is not what I would consider as flashy, it is solid, tasteful, and well planned. That is to say that, when a break does occur, listeners know that it is intended to add to the overall feel of the song and not placed in the song simply to emphasize the musician’s ability.

While I honestly enjoyed each song, one of the standout tracks for me is Brother Harlan. This song introduces the listener to Cousin Stan, who, in my opinion, is Australia’s Willie. Brother Harlan falls for the snake-handling beauty and immediately is smitten. As with most Bluegrass songs, Cousin Stan cannot tolerate Harlan’s happiness and schemes against any future Brother Harlan may have with the beauty.

Image635149285387096006Another choice song is Hell Hath No Fury, which may leave the listener wondering if the song is truly about the power of Mother Nature or if the writer is giving an underlying caution on a woman scorned.

The Stetson Family is a group that I did not know existed until last month. However, after hearing this project, I am a fan and already looking forward to their next release in 2014. While this project may not appeal to everyone, it is worth experiencing and learning how Australian’s interpret Bluegrass.

1 comment:

  1. brother Harlan is my favorite track as well!
    thanks for review Rita


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