Over the past several months, we’ve written several times about the Generation Bluegrass films, which feature a number of young, up-and-coming bluegrass musicians, including several family bands which have seen their music reach a wider audience since the premiere of the first film. One of these groups, The Snyder Family Band (featuring teens Zeb and Samantha), has recently released their fourth album, entitled Building Bridges, for Mountain Roads Recordings.
Zeb and Samantha take care of almost all of the songwriting and composing on the album, with each sibling contributing six tunes, including Zeb’s co-write with Terry Foust and Dicky Minor on Old Timer. The music, with the exception of a few pieces, is not quite bluegrass (the band is generally just Zeb on guitar, Samantha on fiddle, and their dad, Bud, on bass), but it’s well-executed acoustic music with touches of jazz, Celtic, and other styles. The group is certainly talented, and those who enjoy smooth instrumental work should enjoy this album.
Samantha’s originals tend to be Gospel numbers, with varying styles. Listen to His Word has a bluesy, Doc Watson feel, particularly in the intro, and shares several stories from the Old Testament that emphasize the Lord’s power. Open Up This Heart of Mine is a sincere prayer put to music and filled with praise. There’s an extended musical interlude in the middle of the song which showcases Zeb and Samantha’s playing. Kneel Down and Pray has a traditional Gospel feel and urges listeners to seek the Lord when they are discouraged.
Zeb’s songs, on the other hand, are mostly instrumentals built around his guitar playing. Folkston is a mellow tune with a James Taylor sound. Blockade Runner is one of the faster tunes here. The liner notes mention that this piece was written as an opportunity for the band to “mash,” and it does have more of a bluegrass feel than many of the songs, although it raises the age-old question – is it really bluegrass without a banjo?
Smokey Mountain Railway is another piece tinged with Doc Watson’s influences, and is one of the few which finds Zeb on lead vocals. This tune is a nice homage to both western North Carolina and the railroad. Zeb’s other turn on lead vocals comes on Old Timer, which is the only song featuring a full band sound. In addition to guitar, Zeb also plays mandolin, banjo, and dobro on this piece about an old cowboy.
The Snyders are beginning to become well-known in the bluegrass world, and they definitely have a wealth of ability. Many fans will surely be interested in hearing this latest effort from the family, and will be looking forward to what the future has in store.
For more information on the Snyder Family Band, visit their website at www.snyderfamilyband.com. Their new album can be purchased from their website and County Sales, or from Mountain Roads.