One of the most recent groups from the western bluegrass world to begin gaining national recognition is Trout Steak Revival, a Denver-based band that also won the 2014 band competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. The five-piece group has been playing together for several years, releasing two self-recorded albums and earning 3rd place at the RockyGrass band contest prior to their win at Telluride. Their latest album, Brighter Every Day, produced by Infamous Stringduster Chris Pandolfi, adds a more polished and professional sound to their music while retaining the energy, strong harmonies, and interesting lyrics from their earlier efforts.
Brighter Every Day is a completely original album, with all eleven songs attributed to the band. There’s a strong western feel to both the music and the lyrics, with songs like opening track Union Pacific displaying the energetic mixture of old-time, bluegrass, and folk music that the Rocky Mountain bluegrass scene does so well. The song, told from the perspective of a railroad-riding rambler on the west coast, opens with strong old-time banjo from Travis McNamara, who also contributes lead vocals and piano. It’s easily one of the highlights of the album, with a tight, pulsing rhythm and excellent fiddling from Bevin Foley. Another standout is the hopeful title track, which also has its tone set by the intertwining of McNamara’s banjo and vocals and Foley’s fiddle.
Ours for the Taking, written and sung by bassist Casey Houlihan, is an enjoyable, loping ode to settling down with the one you love. Love also comes up in the grassy Pie, a humorous toe-tapping number about guitar and dobro player Will Koster’s deep love of “hot and cold, nine days old” pie. Another reoccurring theme is road trips, including a dip in the Colorado River as a break from a late summer drive, and a memorable trek across the Midwest in Oklahoma sung by mandolin player Steve Foltz.
Wind on the Mountain is darker and quicker than most of the rest of the album, telling the story of the time McNamara got caught in a snowstorm while hiking in Colorado and allowing the banjo to veer into a frenzied, more progressive style. Go On also leans in a different direction from the bulk of the songs, featuring Foley’s bluesy, swingy vocals on a number about kicking out a no good man.
Most of the songs here are heartfelt and hopeful, capturing memories and moments in time that obviously meant something to the band members. However, unlike many bands with a similar sound and background, these lyrics aren’t so vague that listeners can’t also relate to the feelings and events they tell about. The songs have a bright, cohesive sound, and all the band members seem to be fine musicians, with Foley’s fiddling a highlight on many of the tracks. Fans of the “Telluride” sound shouldn’t miss this one.
For more information on Trout Steak Revival, visit their website at www.troutsteak.com. Their new album can be purchased from a variety of online music retailers.