There’s ample reason why Chris Jones and his erstwhile ensemble, The Night Drivers, have been hailed as one of the best bluegrass bands making a presence today. Yet, at the same time, that description doesn’t entail the totality of all they have to offer. While bluegrass may be the foundation for their songs, the fact is, they’re a band that has an extended reach, one that goes to the very core of full expression and assured intentions, all manifest in ways that ensure a complete connection.
Coming on the heels of three highly acclaimed albums — Run Away Tonight (2015), Made To Move (2017), and The Choosing Road (2019) — the band’s latest, Make Each Second Last, is their most expressive effort yet, not only in terms of the memorable melodies, but also with respect to themes that resonate and revolve around essential questions which are easy to embrace. Some songs deal with life on the open road (the decidedly determined We Needed This Ride, an upbeat Whither You Roam, and a spry Riding the Chief), while others celebrate the joys of home and hearth (via the steadfast strains of Leave It At the Gate and the tender trappings of Silver City).
That said, their musings run even deeper, especially on songs that offer compassion and consolation for anyone who feels adrift during these tumultuous times. The reflective They’re Lost Too speaks to those that are often forgotten when it comes to considering a collective consciousness. On the other hand, Everybody’s Got a Line and We Need To Hear From You offer well-considered thoughts on the need for all of us to speak up and state their case, even in the face of opposition and dissension, for better or for worse.
Of course, there’s no negating the musical prowess that underscores each of these entries, whether its the effusive instrumental Groundhog’s Retreat or the articulate arrangements that enliven every other song in this set. The newest members of the band — bassist and vocalist Marshall Wilborn and multi-instrumentalist Grace van’t Hof — have found a fine fit, one that’s enabled the group to reach an even higher peak of perfection than they’ve managed to achieve before.
Considering the stature they’ve already attained, that ought to be considered a remarkable feat in itself.