After only two albums, the Chicago quartet that refers to themselves as the Fox Crossing Stringband demonstrates the fact that they’re prepared to move into the upper echelon of up and coming bluegrass bands of todays current generation. Founded by fiddler and mandolin player Despina Pafralides, who came up with the idea of creating an all-female ensemble, the band also includes guitarist Allison Branch, banjo and dobro player Cassie Lynn Wright, and Beth Earl on upright bass.
Granted, there’s a certain novelty attached to the fact that the group finds four women at the fore, but regardless, it’s the musicians’ skill and dexterity that really comes into play. Their sophomore set, appropriately dubbed Bluegrass On My Mind, provides an able follow-up to their 2019 debut, Box Of Memories, and features an equal mix of original songs and some well-seasoned standards. While the familiarity factor weighs heavily due to the latter, the mix of material flows evenly, allowing their own compositions to effectively find equal standing with their covers.
So while it’s wonderful to hear them covering such classics as You Don’t Miss Your Water and Act Naturally — and also finding such a natural fit with the Doobie Brothers’ Black Water, and the album’s singular standout, Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight — quality control remains intact when left to their own devices. Each of the members contribute to the songwriting, allowing for both versatility and variety. As a result, the title track, plus Manchild, and the adept instrumental, More Wine, Please, offer a well-considered mix of sass and spunk. Likewise, certain other songs — the hopeful Good News, the tangled and tenacious He’s Still Lyin’, and the deeper dive of Hell & Hallelujah — easily rank among the album’s more assured offerings.
Taken in tandem, Bluegrass On My Mind is a most impressive effort, all the more so due to the fact that this group are still at the beginnings of their combined career. Consequently, it’s easy to imagine that the band will claim further accomplishments in the future, and whatever comes will be well worth the wait. In the meantime, it’s clear that Bluegrass On My Mind lives up to all the title infers.