SOUND VARIETY Playing with bluegrass.
Where Mockingbirds Roam, the Mutineers' 2005 debut, was an all-covers affair, and it's been good to watch them get progressively more original and interesting as the years go by, taking on more of a personality along the way. Coal Creek, from 2008, saw them ultra-old school acoustic string-band music, and now the new Drover's Bones sees them moving a bit in the other direction.
While they're still all about the sweet-voice leads and the three-part harmonies, and there are certainly still very traditional takes (like the "Pretty Fair Maid"/"Cherokee Shuffle" medley), we now get drums and accordion on the opening "Stephens Green," penned by frontman Stuart MacDonald, in something that's akin to contemporary country.
Maybe the good choices are best personified by their version of "Old Home Place," which just about every folksy/bluegrass band takes a swing at some time or another. You kind of get the idea it'll be ultra-traditional, with the opening Scruggs-style banjo from Jeff Trippe, but then the country-drums backbeat comes in, and then there's a cool almost rockabilly electric guitar break that's really hot.
I even like the way they phony up the opening to "How Long Blues," making it sound like a 1920s record before ramping up to modern-day standards. Is it predictable? Sure, but it's yet another variety of sound on a record inhabiting a genre where everything can sometimes sound the same.
Good on the Mutineers for having some fun: The hot picking on "OPC (Other People's Chickens)" is just so much gravy.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
DROVER'S BONES | Released by the Mutineers | at One Longfellow Square, in Portland | Oct 5 | themutineers.com