There’s something to be said about family bands, as evidenced by the success that was seen by the Jacksons, the Cowsills, the Osmonds, the Nelsons, and any number of sterling sibling combos in pop music history. It’s certainly not out of the ordinary in the bluegrass world, with acts like The Lewis Family running for decades, but in many cases, family bands tend to operate for a limited time outside the musical mainstream, with many relegated to a cult-like status.
Nevertheless, The Petersens have proved that familial bonds can reap prolific and productive benefits. The band, which consists of four adult brothers and sisters — Katie (fiddle), Ellen (banjo), Matt (guitar), and Julianne (vocals) — and their parents Karen (bass) and Jon (guitar), as well as family friend Emmett Franz (dobro, production), have become a cottage industry of sorts, one that’s crisscrossed the country through touring and performances on the festival circuit. But their mainstay is regular two-or-three-times-a-week concerts at The Little Opry Theater in Branson, MO where they can brag of being the resort town’s most highly rated show.
They’ve also released a string of independent LPs in the process. The group’s new album, My Ozark Mountain Home, mainly consists of standards and traditional tunes, but even with that familiarity factor, they manage to infuse their own distinctive identity into each of their offerings.
That heartfelt sentiment is evident in the new album’s title track. So too, the sun literally seems to shine through on a tender and transformative take of Here Comes the Sun. In each case, The Petersens show their ability to adapt their harmonious sound to a variety of songs and settings, be it vintage or otherwise. Even when they retrace well-trodden musical terrain — John Denver’s Annie’s Song and Take Me Home, Country Roads being two more obvious examples — it’s charm, not challenge that finds both purpose and prominence.
That said, one should already know quite well what to expect when it comes to covers such as Wayfaring Stranger, Wild Mountain Thyme, Amazing Grace, and Down to the River to Pray, given the fact that these songs find a natural fit within the group’s traditional template. Yet the seamless blend of classic and contemporary remains a consistent mark of their credibility and commitment.
Ultimately, the new album demands nothing more than a desire to simply relish a soothing musical sojourn, one capable of lifting the listener well beyond their everyday cares and concerns. For that reason alone, consider My Ozark Mountain Home a comforting homecoming in every regard.