Hailing from the highlands of North Carolina, the euphemistically named Pretty Little Goat — Josh Carter (mandolin, vocals), J.T. Linville (bass, vocals), Jackson Dulaney (dobro, lap steel), Mallory Carter (washboard, kick drum, vocals), Owen Grooms (banjo, vocals), plus honorary member Barrett Davis — share an unabashed love letter addressed to the traditions birthed in their native environs. Like their two earlier independent albums, Big Storm finds the band combining bluegrass basics with a personal perspective that allows them to share an individual imprint along with their own artistic integrity.
To be sure, the set list finds an even mix of songs derived from archival sources as well as the pens of Carter and Davis. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to discern the difference, given that the band apply the same specific template regardless of source or selection. Consequently, Davis’ lithe and lively Toe the Line sounds as if it was gleaned from a back porch gathering or some other communal collaboration. The same might be said of Carter’s jaunty 30 Mile Run, or the assured guitar work that underscores his Big Storm, and the sweet saunter/serenade that characterizes Making Time. Each of these offerings reflect the ebullience and enthusiasm Pretty Little Goat brings to their music, leaving little doubt as to the dedication and devotion they share for making their music.
In that regard, the traditional numbers — specifically, Fisher’s Hornpipe, Uncle Joe/Leather Britches, Undone in Sorrow, Home with the Gals in the Morning, and Cider — dominate the proceedings by allowing them to regale in their roots. While they tend not to stray from the archival arrangements, they do add a certain ingenuity and imagination that allows each song to come across with the verve and vitality needed to ensure the appeal.
In many ways then, Pretty Little Goat fits the same niche occupied by bands such as Steep Canyon Rangers, Town Mountain, Fireside Collective, and other outfits that find room in their palette for the essential elements of early bluegrass and and old time music, as well as a specific sound that finds a fit within a modern motif. Is that the Big Storm the album title suggests? Not necessarily, but it remains a most admirable quality nonetheless.