Their handle aside, Acoustic Syndicate have never settled for any single strictly defined sound. Given their seamless fusion of bluegrass, roots, rock and other seemingly disparate genres, the band never fails to offer the unexpected when it comes to shifting their stance.
That’s the way it’s been for well over 25 years, so it’s only appropriate that their new Organic Records album, descriptively titled All In Time, is a collection of recently released singles and three equally varied covers — Willie Nelson’s Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground, Bertha by the Grateful Dead, and, most surprisingly of all, Rock and Roll, one of Lou Reed’s most enduring anthems.
Nevertheless — and certainly surprisingly so — the real revelation comes in the form of the original material and the varied approach represented by each. The title track, which opens the album, conveys a sound that comes across as both tingling and tentative until it gradually builds into a sound akin to actual anthemic urgency. Bright Lights boasts a bit of spunk, while Bring Me Home soars on the strength of an extended banjo riff. Man Inside accelerates the pace, underscoring further the fact that there’s really no limit to this band’s diversity and dexterity.
That, of course, is a reflection of the skill and savvy plied by the band’s individual members — cousins Steve McMurry (guitar, lead vocals), Bryon McMurry (banjo, guitar, vocals) and his brother Fitz McMurry (drums, vocals), along with their longtime bassist Jay Sanders. Indeed, it takes both imagination and ingenuity to initiate such a varied template and then pull it off so astutely.
As a result, it’s often difficult to decisively identify their sound, which may prove frustrating for those who might prefer a more predictable approach. Consistency is rarely a factor when it comes to settling on any particular style. Here again, Acoustic Syndicate ensures their time tested tradition still stays intact.