Joshua Rilko, a founder and former member of the band Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys, as well as the one-time mandolin player/tour manager for Sierra Ferrell’s Long Time Coming tour, makes his solo debut with an eleven song album that’s divided into two separate segments. He employs a different group of players for each (longtime pal Billy Strings on guitar, banjoists and backing vocalists Jed Clark and George Guthrie, fiddler Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, and bassist/harmony singer Geoff Saunders on the Lost Soul portion of the proceedings, and bassist/keyboard player PJ George III, drummer Alex Bice, guitarist, fiddler and mandolin player Ben Sanders, and harmony singers Lindsay Lou and Maya DeVitry for the tracks dubbed Rock & Roll), although the only discernible difference between the two sides is simply a matter of pacing, other than the variance in instrumentation.
That’s not a criticism of any sort, merely a comment. And given the exceptional sounds Rilko and company share throughout, it’s actually quite the compliment. The ebullient Memories of Yesterday is a genuine standout, as is the heartfelt When Springtime Comes, a sway of a stroll which boasts a chorus that lingers well after its final notes fade away. So too, Waltz At My Speed lives up to the sheer caress implied by its title, a gentle lullaby that’s as soothing as it is satisfying.
Naturally, there are also any number of upbeat entries demonstrating Rilko’s absolute reverence for bluegrass tradition. The album’s effusive opener, New Way To Fly and the jaunty instrumental, Ripwalk, offer but two examples. Nevertheless, it’s well worth giving a special listen to the tough and tenacious Bullshit Mountain, a decided reference to a certain “orange man at the helm… pissing on the ashes of what was once our foundation,” leading to an unapologetic refrain: “The road to hell is paved with wealth and leads to misery.” Rilko’s plucky mandolin picking drives the point home.
Political perspectives aside, Rilko’s double sided disc marks an exceptional debut. Needless to say, it bodes well for every endeavor to follow.