With their fine fifth album, West Virginia’s Circa Blue demonstrate once again why they’ve increasingly become the bluegrass band to watch over the course of the past several years. Adept in their arrangements and assured in their intents, the band exhibits both craft and confidence with each of the eleven tracks on Footprints In A Song, selections drawn from both original offerings and a tasteful choice of covers. In each case, they manage to make the material their own, stamping it with a sturdy signature sound that effectively resonates throughout.
If further proof is needed — and even a cursory listen proves it’s really not — one need only check out their take on the venerable blues classic House of the Rising Sun, which begins in a meditative mode only to culminate in a driving instrumental crescendo. The same can be said of their take on John Prine’s reflective ballad, Paradise, given the banjo-driven delivery, and a further emphasis on sentiment that dispenses with any maudlin undertow. Indeed, Circa Blue show they are fully capable of infusing a more upbeat element into the mix, as evidenced by such songs as Mississippi Queen, I Don’t Know You, and the title track.
Yet they don’t spin their sound simply to show off. The cohesion is apparent in every song, and none of the individual musicians ever appear inclined to seize the spotlight at the expense of their colleagues. This is a tightly integrated outfit that clearly works well in tandem.
That said, there’s also a sense of joy and exuberance that’s manifest in each offering, from the celebratory spirituality of Working on a Building to the purely effusive It’s a Beautiful Day. Even the deliberative ballad, Rollin’ Fog, conveys a contentment that’s unmistakeable in both its tone and treatment. So too, when the band strikes up a jaunty instrumental — in this case, the aptly titled Whimsical — the upbeat attitude is all too apparent.
Confidence generally equates with achievement, and as this new album from Bell Buckle Records so ably demonstrates, Circa Blue have earned the right to share more than a shade of satisfaction.