It’s somewhat rare for a new band to release an album filled almost completely with original material. Most up-and-coming groups tend to rely on established songwriters and updated versions of old standards, with perhaps a few originals sprinkled throughout. Not Backline. With A Thousand Wishes, its debut for Poor Mountain Records, the upstate South Carolina-based band treats fans to a succession of fresh songs, mostly from the pen of guitarist Katelyn Mabry Ingardia. The result? An enjoyable modern traditional record and a fine way to introduce the band to a wider audience.
Ingardia seems to be a guiding force for the band, contributing numerous original songs, and handling lead vocals throughout much of the project. She has a strong, clear voice with a noted country influence, meshing well with the country and progressive vibes throughout the album. The album opens on a strong note with Your Love, a gentle, mid-tempo love song featuring a nice combination of mandolin and melodic banjo from Louis Hughes and Zachary Carter, respectively. Love is also the topic at hand on the easygoing Me and My Man, a positive declaration of sticking with the one you love through both good and bad times, and the tender and sweet Lullaby, a new mother’s message to her baby as she rocks him to sleep.
On the opposite end of the love spectrum is the title track, which features a standout vocal performance from Ingardia. It’s one of the album’s best songs, both musically and lyrically, and finds the singer musing about the futility of wishing for a lost love to return. Carter delivers a strong banjo performance here, adding a dark groove to the song. There’s a nice breakdown at the end, as well, letting the musicians show off a little. Another strong track is Lawman, a great story song about the cost of revenge and justice. Bass player Jason Belue sings lead on the verses, taking on the persona of a man who sought to even the score when his family was killed, while Ingardia takes the lead on the choruses as a narrator. Belue, who offers a fine deep lead (think Josh Turner), has good control of his vocals and is a great fit for this song. Rambler follows Lawman on the album and has a similar sound; a rolling melody guided by Carter’s banjo, and dobro from Travis Tucker, match the familiar bluegrass theme of roaming and rambling.
Also from the band’s pens include Hughes’s Fire Inside of Me, an uplifting number about overcoming obstacles and defeat, and two instrumentals that allow the band to explore various bluegrass sounds. Pirate’s Dream, a dark number from Belue, Ingardia, Hughes, and Tucker, ventures into progressive territory. A haunting intro sets the tone for moody mandolin, dobro, and banjo throughout the tune. Carter’s Shadow Drift, also on the darker-sounding side though with a more traditional vibe, offers some interesting licks that are sure to catch the attention of listeners.
A Thousand Wishes is a solid album. It’s stronger in some places than in others (the mixing seems off in a few places, for instance), but overall a commendable effort. With talented musicians and the ability to fill albums with their own songs, Backline should go far.
For more information on Backline, visit them online at www.backlinebluegrass.com.