‘Sake of the Sound’ by Front Country - unafraid to push the boundaries(September 14, 2014)
As much as my colleagues despise hearing traditional Irish music described as ‘dum-dee-diddle-ee' music I hate references to bluegrass as ‘fast-lane banjo-bashing’. To experience just how much depth and discovery really exists in bluegrass listen to ‘Sake of the Sound’ by Front Country. One listen and your view of bluegrass will never be the same. Formed in 2011 as a collective in San Francisco’s Bay Area, Front Country includes Adam Roszkiewicz, Jacob Groopman, Jordan Klein, Leif Karlstrom, Melody Walker and Zach Sharpe. The result is an exploration that moves through bluegrass with a thirst for freedom, a fearlessness to challenge the established and a desire to add new perspectives to the sound.
The synthesis is dramatic - the gutsy depth and underlying power of the vocals, sharp lead guitar, attacking violin breaks, precisely-picked banjo, and a subtle and far-reaching mix of harmonies. The selection of songs crosses perspectives and influences, from the opening drive of ‘Gospel Train’ through the anxious yearning of ‘Rock Salt & Nails’ and the potency of‘Sake of the Sound’ to the gentle instrumental recollections of ‘Old Country’. Front Country remain soaked in the bluegrass heritage and expand on its roots with an honest fervour, yet they remain unafraid to push the boundaries as far as they will go. Next time someone talks about bluegrass and uses terms like ‘heard it all before’ tell them to listen to Front Country.
On ‘Sake of the Sound’ the musicians are Adam Roszkiewicz (mandolin) Jacob Groopman (guitar, vocals) Melody Walker (vocals, guitar) Jordan Klein (banjo, vocals) Leif Karlstrom (violin) and Zach Sharpe (bass).
Reviewer: Tom Franks