These days, much of the discussion about bluegrass, nugrass, Americana, and grassicana seems to center on to what extent the influence of vintage trappings appear to impinge on contemporary credence. Consequently, most bands are labelled according to which side of the divide they tend to lean towards — old school or new school, with little crossover exacted in-between.
Not to be confused with the film of nearly the same name, Goodfellers offer a unique proposition, one that shatters that line between the trendy and the traditional. The four piece — Teddy Barneycastle (lead vocal, guitar), Ralph McGee (vocals, mandolin), Hersie McMillan (vocals, banjo) and Tim Hill (bass) — pay little heed to the need to tow any one side of the line. Granted, their frenetic instrumental assault might simulate an old Appalachian sound, but the melodies boast a modern sensibility that obviously appeals to today’s audience. As if to prove the point, Goodfellers draws its material from distinctly diverse sources. Carter Stanley’s Last Goodbye finds a comfortable fit alongside a rousing take on Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry, segueing seamlessly in the process. Indeed, the band tastefully taps its sources, with songs from Clint Black, Rodney Crowell and Hal Ketchum inserted among their originals.
That effective transition is accomplished through earnest intents and a freewheeling style that’s neither self-conscious nor deferential in any obvious or overt way. The secret to their success lies in an ability to simply make music in a natural and unassuming manner, one that conforms only to their own instincts and desires. That becomes clear regardless of whether it’s through the effusive energy of Blue Eyed Caroline, the sacred set-up of Where Angels Fear To Tread or the sublime sound of Times Change. Indeed, the band shifts effortlessly between revelry and reverence without having to overly fidget with the flow.
For now, Goodfellers are settled well below the surface as it applies to wider awareness. However given their acumen and ability, greater recognition seems only a matter of time. “Bluegrass never let me down,” they insist on the song No Time To Kill, and indeed, whether timeless or timely, that mantra seems to hold up here.