Hangovers & Heartaches – Breakin’ Strings

Its title aside, Breakin’ Strings new album, Hangovers & Heartaches, their first new offering in ten years, is a decidedly upbeat affair. So too, despite its hiatus, the Maine-based band, which was founded some 18 years ago, appears newly inspired. How Long Have I Been Gone, they ask early on in the album, but the lull in activity doesn’t seem to have mooted their enthusiasm. Again, the name given another song, Don’t You Dim Me, seems to say it all.

The band — Cliff Gelina (mandolin, vocals, and guitar), Corey Bonnie (guitar, vocals), Hunter Webber (banjo), Ed How (fiddle, vocals, and occasional mandolin), and Brian Durkin (bass) — creates a sound that’s uncommonly enthusiastic and infectious. As a result, there’s practically no lull in the energy from song to song, although Bandit of Dreams, Momma’s Song, and This Heart of Mine do slow the pace to a certain extent without impacting the momentum. Mainly it’s the group’s shored-up harmonies — assisted on one track, the album’s aptly-dubbed, high lonesome ballad, Momma’s Song, by Amanda Gelina — that make the most emphatic impression.

That’s not to say the musicianship doesn’t shine as well. Cliff Gelina, the band’s acknowledged leader and primary instigator, is a third generation bluegrass musician, which likely accounts for Breakin’ Strings’ precise arrangements as well as the solid songwriting. Certain songs — the  title track in particular — sound like standards even from the get-go. The result is a riveting set of songs that well represents bluegrass, a fact that’s evident on the somewhat ironically-tagged, Lonesome Sound Tonight. The instruments blend with near perfect precision, resulting in an ideal homage to the sound itself. 

It’s to Breakin’ Strings’ credit that after only one album, and years of being away, that they’ve already elevated themselves into being credible contenders for one of this year’s more impressive break-out bands. Credit the combination of creativity and competence that went into Hangovers & Heartaches for suggesting an otherwise troubling twosome can lead to such a successful scenario.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.