There’s something to be said for the effusive enthusiasm of bluegrass stirred with sentiment and spirituality. Indeed, that’s an initial indication of authenticity, a tack that High Fidelity pursues to the fullest. Well-garbed in their matching outfits and making no attempt to subvert their ernest intents, the five piece outfit — Jeremy Stephens (guitar, banjo, vocals), Corrina Rose Logston Stephens (fiddle, vocals), Kurt Stephenson (banjo, guitar, vocals), Daniel Amick (mandolin, guitar), Vickie Vaughn (bass) — purvey an archival approach, complete with all its traditional trappings and even occasional frayed edges. Singing songs in praise of heaven, hearth, and home, they eschew the modern sensibilities often employed by modern bands to extract populist appeal.
While every offering in the 14 song set is authored from outside the band, High Fidelity command them as if they were their own. The emotion is obvious in such songs as My Saviour’s Train and My Mother’s White Rose, but when the band launch themselves with the freewheeling frenzy of Don Reno’s Follow the Leader, their expertise is evident and the way they blend voices and instruments in sync creates a dynamic that’s fully fleshed out through solos and savvy.
While several of the songs could be considered of a secular nature, the group makes no attempt to mask their religious intents. “I’ve changed my mind about God and sin,” they sing on I’ve Changed My Mind, turning away from any notion that music of a secular nature is needed to rouse an audience and find them singing in sync. Indeed, there’s not a single song here that doesn’t inspire an enthusiastic reaction or an urge to get in their groove. Hills and Home boasts music that’s rousing and perhaps even revelatory, given their heart wrought sentiments and lack of affectation. Imagine a back porch gathering after church has let out, and the pervasive praise and effusive energy are ready to be put to rest subject to another Sunday.
Little wonder then that concluding track, a reverent read of the standby standard, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, naturally completes that blissful bond.
Consequently, don’t confuse this quintet with the film of the same name. Even Jack Black might be inspired by High Fidelity’s flash and finesse.