If there’s one thing in particular that bluegrass stands for, then suffice it to say it’s all about the energy and exuberance. That’s an approach that the High & Wides have taken to heart. Lifted, their stunning new album, lives up to its title, given the richness and revelry that reverberates through every note and nuance. The self-contained foursome — bassist Mike Buccino, singer/guitarist Marc Dykeman, fiddler Nate Grower, and vocalist, banjo and mandolin player Sam Guthridge — write all their own material save one song — a cover of Michael Hurley’s Blue Driver — and yet every song sounds like a standard, from the rousing refrains of Caroline and World Comes Alive, to the soaring chorus of Streamliner and the persistent pulse that powers Knock the Man Down.
According to the liner notes, the original version of the album was “stolen from a Nashville parking garage in August, 2017, just days from completion.” The band goes on to explain that they briefly considered remixing the original tracks, but opted instead to start fresh so as to capture their sounds and spontaneity at a particular moment in time.
It turned out to be a wise decision. Lifted represents a band in full throttle, excelling with a deft interplay of instruments, harmonies and outright enthusiasm. If, at times, they serve up similarities to like-minded contemporaries — Town Mountain, the Steep Canyon Rangers and the like — then it’s at least partially due to the fact that they’re unafraid to inject their own prowess and personality into the proceedings. On songs like Crescent Moon and Tell Me (How the World Is Wrong) they draw on arched emotions and allow their inherent sincerity to shine through.
The fact that Lifted also marks their debut makes this effort all the more remarkable. Their confidence and credence are immediately apparent, and their ability to write original material and execute it so adroitly clearly bodes well for whatever lies ahead. Indeed, it should only be a matter of time before this talented bunch find themselves standing proudly at the fore of today’s festival favorites.