As much as the popular media might want us to, all bluegrass fans don’t live in an old homeplace in the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, that doesn’t mean that those images don’t stay popular in this style of music. Some of the best bluegrass songs come from the feeling of longing for the past and/or a simpler life. The Easy Ramblers, a relatively new group hailing from the Syracuse, NY area, have embraced that theme for their second album, Country Livin’.
On this album, The Easy Ramblers show off a cheerful, folky sound. Befitting their name, the group’s music is laidback and easygoing. Nine of the eleven songs are originals, written by guitarist Eddie Zacholl, with the remaining two pulled from the Americana world and given a bit of a folkgrass makeover.
The title track opens the album and sets the pace and style for most of what follows it. Guest fiddler Brendan Gosson kicks things off with some old-time fiddling, while lead vocalist Maureen Henesey sings of the virtues of a slower paced life with a nod to the old story of the town mouse and country mouse. Cabin on the Hill is not the Flatt and Scruggs classic, but instead an upbeat, almost-chanted number that finds the singer yearning for the various trappings of rural life – a hammer and nail, a Stetson hat, a chicken shack, etc. Clearing Trails, on the other hand, uses the outdoors in a more metaphorical sense, as the song’s narrator forges her own way as she leaves a relationship.
While most of the songs do have a basis in a bluegrass or old-time sound, Six Mile Bridge could have been taken from a 1960s folk album. Henesey’s vocals are perfectly suited for this style of music, and this song, with its peaceful melody, is one of the album’s best. Black Hawk, an Emmylou Harris number from the mid-’90s written by Daniel Lanois, also has a folk feel as it tells the story of two lovers’ younger days. Midnight Blues is the album’s other cover. Written by Americana favorite Tift Merritt, it’s another of the album’s standouts, with a fuller (and grassier) sound than many of the other tracks.
The Easy Ramblers – Zacholl (guitar), Henesey (mandolin), and Dann Mather (bass) – seem to have a great chemistry together, and have put together a fine collection that listeners who prefer their bluegrass with a healthy dose of folk and old-time should appreciate. They are joined on the album by a number of guests who help round out the instrumentation, including Scott Ebner (guitar, accordion, and mandolin), Mark Allnatt (banjo), Joe Davoli (fiddle and mandolin), and Jason Barady (mandolin).
For more information on The Easy Ramblers, visit their website at www.theeasyramblers.com.