Based in Portland, Oregon, Never Come Down are an astute outfit that weave a multi-textured dimension to their grassicana motif. There’s a great deal of depth to their approach, one that finds them blending the nominal instrumental elements of traditional bluegrass with a studious and thoughtful sentiment and sound. Joe Suskind (guitar), Crystal Lariza (vocals), Brian Alley (banjo), Keden Hurst (mandolin), and Ben Ticknor (bass) excel at creating a thoughtful musical template that plies its emotional terrain through mournful melodies with a pervasive melancholia. The arrangements are spare but effective, sharing a sound that’s solid, stoic, and yet also flush with a clear determination.
That said, Never Come Down manages to take their music to a higher plain, and there’s not a single song on Better Late Than Never, their sophomore set, that doesn’t make that apparent. At the same time, they draw out the emotion and mine it for all it’s worth. Certain songs — Sunnyside, Wallow, Passing By, and Leavin’, in particular — tend to focus on tattered feelings of a more reflective variety, a further indication of the band’s desire to stir their songs with hard realities that often negate any and all attempts to pursue more of a giddier groove. It makes for interesting and intriguing circumstance, one that lays their thoughts bare without reservation. “I work my fingers to the bone,” Lariza insists on Catch Me, and indeed, despite an otherwise harsh assessment of the situation, it’s clear that she’s not out to mine sympathy, but rather to simply relate her story honestly and emphatically. So too, when she sings, “There’s no excuse for these New Year’s Day Blues,” it’s evident that she’s not the type to wallow in self-pity.
Still, there’s no denying that the downcast disposition that pervades the album overall gives Better Late Than Never an overall pessimistic perspective. At the same time however, the quietly compelling delivery remains undeterred. So while Never Come Down never quite hits bottom, it’s clear they’re not afraid to relate a few pertinent realities as well.