There are plenty of brother acts in bluegrass, but sister groups have been a little harder to come by. Enter The Hinson Girls, four sisters in their late teens and early twenties, from Lancaster, SC. The girls have been performing bluegrass and Gospel music together for the past seven years, and recently released their third album, A Life That’s Good. It’s a twelve-track collection of contemporary sounds and clear voices, filled with a selection of songs from several popular country and bluegrass songwriters.
The album opens with a smooth cut of the Larry Cordle penned Highway 40 Blues, perhaps most famously recorded by Ricky Skaggs. Admittedly, it’s a little odd to hear a sixteen-year-old singing about the rambling life (did you really squander youth in search of truth, I want to ask), but Katelyn, who is also the group’s mandolin player, sings with a steady, earnest voice. She’s also a solid mandolin player, and offers up an enjoyable solo on this track. My First Mistake is another Larry Cordle number, co-written with Larry Shell, and previously recorded by Alecia Nugent, among others. A mid-tempo heartbreak number about bittersweet memories, the song is a good fit for this group.
Fans of Kenny and Amanda Smith – or perhaps Buck Owens, the songwriter and original singer – will recognize The House Down the Block. Buck’s recording is classic country through and through, while the version here shares many similarities with Kenny and Amanda’s more recent cut. Oldest sister Kristen has a nice guitar solo on this track. The Lonesome River Band’s Money in the Bank gets a sassy, spirited updating, while the girls get to show off their harmony skills on the Osborne Brothers’ Roll Muddy River. Banjo player Allison displays some impressive picking on this track. On an album that mostly uses the music of the past few decades as influences, this song is a nice nod to the earlier generations.
A Life That’s Good has a gentle, folk flavor to it. Written by country singer Ashley Monroe and Sarah Siskind, it was featured on the television show Nashville a few years back. The song is a calm, steady reminder that even if we don’t have fame and fortune, we can still have a good life. It’s one of the album’s highlights and suits the band’s vocal and musical styles well. Gospel number Walk On is another standout. The girls have spent a lot of their career playing bluegrass Gospel, and it’s easy to tell they’re comfortable here. The song is energetic, with a strong mandolin chop and soulful vocals. One of their previous albums was a completely Gospel record, and I’d definitely like to hear them singing more songs like this.
The Hinson Girls put forth a strong effort on A Life That’s Good. Though Allison is an excellent banjo player, and tackles the several driving numbers here with vigor, the band is at their best with the more mid-tempo, contemporary-flavored songs that allow them to take their time with the lyrics and show off their vocals. Allison, Katelyn, Kristin, and Melissa (who contributes sold, even bass playing throughout) have put together an enjoyable album for fans of modern bluegrass.