Life Between the Lines – Fireside Collective

This review of Life Between The Lines is a guest contribution from Lisa Brewer, Executive Director of the Carolina Bible Camp Bluegrass Festival, held the second Saturday in September in Mocksville, NC. She is a legal assistant at Brewer Brewer & Sorel in Wilkesboro, NC.

The fire is burning brightly in Life Between the Lines, the second album by the Asheville-based Fireside Collective.

The work is a true and total gem, without a single disappointment.

All twelve songs are originals: nine are penned by lead vocalist and mandolin player Jesse Iaquinto, two are contributed by dobro master Tommy Maher, and one comes from acoustic guitarist Joe Cicero. Bassist Carson White keeps the rhythm going strong and steady throughout, and he’s not afraid to throw in a bass solo that dares you to say you saw that coming when in fact no, you did not.

The album’s danceable exuberance is that of a live performance, but the musicianship is the tightly crafted, perfect product of a well-focused studio project. No detail is overlooked.

As the refreshingly sparse liner notes state, the album is “a testament to the time spent driving down that long lonesome road. It also explores the lines of bluegrass, newgrass, and beyond. Those same lines that define what’s already been done, pave the way for the lines which will guide us where we go.”

Fireside Collective approaches their traditional bluegrass heritage with respect and affection as well as innovation and sheer joy. This impressive collection features the haunting old-time sweetness of Cabin Song, the darkly comic funk of By the Look of It, and the unforgettable Drivin’ Through the Rain. The solos are sizzling on the instrumental Burnin’ At Both Ends.

Cicero’s By the Time will quickly become a favorite within the “goodbye, good riddance” genre. The positive energy and wholesome harmonies of Maher’s Like a River will live with listeners long after the song is finished.

Each band member is a strong instrumentalist. Fans will check the group’s tour schedule, hoping that live performances will provide opportunities for longer lasting solo innovations. Their vocal harmonies may well draw favorable comparisons to the Eagles, especially on the upbeat Dreams of California.

The band received a strong vocal production assist by East Tennessee State University’s Dr. Daniel Boner, director of Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music studies. Guest producer was Jesse Langlais of Town Mountain.

Fireside Collective was the winner of the 2016 MerleFest band competition. They are a showcase band in the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association Bluegrass Ramble during the World of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, NC – one of only 30 bands honored from more than 160 submissions.

“Depending on where you come from and your experience with folk music, you may think we’re very traditional, or on the other hand, consider us a progressive act,” Jesse Iaquinto wrote on the band’s website. “We appreciate both ends of the spectrum and may lie on a different end on any given night.”

The album’s subject matter may cover life between the lines, but the work is neither boxed in nor limited. No doubt about it: Fireside Collective is headed in the right direction, and the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places.