Since first forming eleven years ago, The Farm Hands have garnered considerable recognition for their tasteful blend of bluegrass and Gospel music. Although the group started its journey as a quartet, they have recently expanded to five members, ultimately allowing more possibilities in terms of vocal harmonies, instrumentation, and song arrangements. The Farm Hand’s latest release, 4.0 is a demonstration of their evolving sound.
4.0 starts off with a wonderful rendition of Pride, originally recorded by Ray Price in 1962. Sung here by fiddler Kimberly Bibb, her spirited delivery had my attention from the minute the album began playing. One issue that I do take with this project, and it’s a very minor one, is that the liner notes give no indication as to who is singing the lead vocal on each track. There were several strong performances throughout the recording with varying vocalists. I found myself having to guess who was singing which song, which sometimes took away from my listening experience.
This recording’s greatest strength is the story-based material which all touch on relatable themes. Songs such as This World Of Mine and Missing You pertain to feelings surrounding lost love and heartbreak, while Trains Make Me Lonesome and Back In My Day directly correlate to nostalgia and longing for things to be the way that they once were. Circle Of Wood, penned by Mike Waddle, is an excellent song centered around the historic Grand Ole Opry. While other songs have been written about the legendary show and similar live radio broadcasts, Circle Of Wood sums up the legacy of the WSM broadcast in a way that no other composition has before.
Instrumentally speaking, The Farm Hands are a dynamic powerhouse. This is most notably demonstrated on their rendition of the Billy Joel song, Travelin’ Prayer as well as Cuttin’ Grass, written by Josh Graves, the uncle of Farm Hands founder, Tim Graves. Appropriately this tune is played by Tim on Elbert, a resophonic guitar that his legendary uncle owned from 1977-1984.
As per usual on Farm Hands recording, there are four Gospel selections. I was particularly struck by He’s My Rock and Salvation and I Wanted To Be Saved. Both songs are performed in such a way that you can’t help but be drawn in by the lyrics, and really pay attention to the messages that they are conveying.
Like all artists, The Farm Hands have continually developed and refined their sound since they first formed in 2010. 4.0 is not only a wonderful example of the group’s recent momentum, but it also shows how much of a knack the quintet has for selecting material that the listener can connect to on a personal level.