Family bands have a long history in traditional music. From the earliest days of country music with the Carter Family and the Stonemans, to more recent bands such as the Whites and Cherryholmes, some of the most popular bands in bluegrass, country, and Gospel music have been related. Now, a new family has joined their ranks.
The Bankesters, a six-piece group from southern Illinois comprised of dad Phil, mom Dorene, daughters Emily, Melissa, and Alysha, and son-in-law Kyle Triplett, have been on the bluegrass radar ever since their discovery in the parking lot of a bluegrass festival close to a decade ago. With the release of their third album, Looking Forward, on Tom T. and Dixie Hall’s Blue Circle Records, they have further honed their skills, presenting a smooth, contemporary bluegrass sound.
The family presents a well-rounded collection of tunes on their new CD. Most of the songs have a positive message, such as Some Things Never Change, which reminds listeners to remember those people who are always there for them, and Don’t Try to Be Anyone Else, which states that there “ain’t nothing more beautiful than you just being yourself.” Other songs celebrate the value of family and friends. Looking Forward to Looking Back is an enjoyable piece in which the singer is thankful for a life full of good memories, while All Good Things, featuring Phil on lead vocals, specifically mentions some of those memories, such as carving your name in a porch swing and learning to play guitar.
A few songs have a bit of a different sound, displaying the band’s varied influences. Emily’s fiddle helps flavor these tracks, from western swing on Where I Am, written by Chris Jones and Tom T. and Dixie Hall, to a Celtic feel on the Becky Buller Gospel song The Captain. Triplett’s banjo matches well with the fiddle, helping to drive one of the more traditional sounding songs on the album, Gypsy Jubilee, and creating a haunting, mournful tone on the Civil War tune First Minnesota.
One thing family bands are often known for are their harmonies, and the Bankesters are no exception. The women of the family blend their voices almost seamlessly throughout the album. This is especially evident in Desert Lullaby, which is sung a capella. Two songs showcase only Phil and Dorene’s vocals, creating unique husband-and-wife duets.
The Bankesters’ sweet, uplifting music will appeal to fans of such artists as Darin and Brooke Aldridge and Detour. Looking Forward’s solid musicianship and spot-on harmonies are sure to help the band continue their success. For more information, visit the band’s website at www.bankesters.com.
Looking Forward can be purchased or downloaded from the website, or from iTunes.