If It Wasn’t For Longing – Serene Green

Pennsylvania boasts a rich history within bluegrass music. Del McCoury, Bob Paisley, Gloria Belle Flickinger, and Tom Adams are just a few that have come from the Keystone State. Although Serene Green hasn’t been around nearly as long as the aforementioned names, they certainly should be included within that talented list. The group’s third release, If It Wasn’t For Longingis another demonstration of their fresh originality combined right alongside the traditional bluegrass sound.

The opening track, Back To Appalachia, was written by guitarist Michael Johnson. Right off the bat we’re shown the chemistry these players have. Serene Green has maintained a solidified lineup since their debut release, To Whom It Pertains, in 2017, consisting of Johnson on guitar and vocals, Quentin Fisher on mandolin and vocals, Shane McGeehan on bass and vocals, and Steve Leonard on banjo. The most recent addition is Katelynn Casper on fiddle, who adds another strong element to the band’s instrumental fitness.

Find Someone Who Will, another Johnson original, is a straight forward song about finally making the decision to move on after a relationship has continually struggled. This track is a great showcase of Johnson, Fisher, and McGeehan’s smooth vocal harmonies.

Do I Ever Cross Your Mind features Katelynn Casper on lead vocals. Written and first recorded by Dolly Parton in 1976, Serene Green gives this song a crisp bluegrass treatment. Casper delivers an excellent performance here. Unfortunately this is the only song her vocals are featured on. Hopefully they’ll be utilized more on future releases.

Two of the songs on this project were penned by bassist Shane McGeehan, Holding You Closely, and the title track, If It Wasn’t For Longing. The former is a happy go lucky love song while the latter is a gripping, bluesy lament about the end of a meaningful relationship.

Both of the instrumental pieces on this recording were written within the band. Carbon County Breakdown was written by mandolinist Quentin Fisher, while Rough Patch came from banjoist Steve Leonard. Along with displaying Fisher and Leonard’s compositional abilities, both of these tunes do an excellent job of exhibiting the band’s technical abilities on their instruments.

Three of the tracks are pulled from the traditional bluegrass canon. Homesick and Dreams will mostly be known to fans through the catalogues of Jimmy Martin and Del McCoury, while the closing track Doin’ My Time is a standard that’s been recorded by numerous artists. The first two songs mentioned are performed in a vein similar to the original recordings while the final piece is rendered in an up-tempo driving fashion.

If It Wasn’t For Longing is an excellent effort. Serene Green continues to grow in their originality and chemistry as a band without sacrificing the traditional approach they love. It’s a recording with equal appeal to fans of the modern and classic bluegrass stylings.

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About the Author

Braeden Paul

Braeden Paul has been involved in various capacities of bluegrass music. A Texas native, Paul has been part of several Dallas-based bands as a mandolinist. He also serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Bluegrass Club in Grapevine, TX. As a writer, Braeden has also contributed numerous music reviews to the Bluegrass Society of America Facebook page, and is the co-author of Texas Bluegrass History: High Lonesome on the High Plains.