Age is a non-factor when it comes to the make-up of the exceptional bluegrass band Jeff Brown & Still Lonesome. While Brown himself is a seasoned veteran of several outfits dating back to the early ‘90s, his band is made up of mostly younger musicians who were just being born when Brown was hitting his stride. That may be one reason why the group — consisting of Brown on guitar and lead vocal, Austin Brown playing bass and guitar, vocalist and mandolin player Nick Goad, fiddler Kyle Murphy, and Mitch Walker on banjo and vocals — come across with such verve and vitality.
To their credit however, the band never opts for flash over finesse. Their music is firmly rooted in Appalachian tradition, and it’s honest and humble in a most unassuming way. Brown himself often sounds like a weary troubadour, and on their eminently satisfying new self-produced album A Distant Horizon, his earnest intent is effectively echoed on such songs as Appalachia Is My Home, Soul of a Mountain Man, A Distant Horizon, and Let Come and Go What May.
It’s not that the group isn’t capable of picking up the pace — their take on Bill Monroe’s upbeat instrumental, Kentucky Mandolin, suggests they’re clearly capable of combining revelry with resolve — but generally any uptick in energy comes across as far more amiable than agitated. The joyful sounds of You Ask Me To, as well as the easy pluck and strut of What A Man Has To Do, testify to the decidedly affable attitude they purvey all round.
Of course, that’s not to deny their strength and skills. To the contrary, Still Lonesome come across as a remarkably cohesive bunch, as seasoned as any outfit of similar standing. Even so, it’s a credit to their confidence that they rarely seem inclined to whip up any fury or frenzy simply for the sake of putting their abilities across.
Their low cast handle to the contrary, Jeff Brown and Still Lonesome are decidedly solid company in their own inestimable way.