Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss family bands as cute kids with more than their fair share of musical talent, but more and more frequently these days, family bluegrass groups are proving their abilities not only at fancy picking, but also smooth vocals and excellent original songwriting. Flatt Lonesome or Mountain Faith, anybody? South-central Kentucky’s Lindsey Family is an act that might easily creep up on those two sibling band powerhouses. Their latest album, My Town, is a fine slice of contemporary grass.
Though there are eleven kids in the Lindsey Family, only five (plus dad Alan) form the band for My Town. They offer four original songs alongside a selection of country covers, and three numbers from songwriter Steve Gaydusek. They have a light, modern sound with sweet sibling harmonies and melodic instrumentation, touching on old memories and the country life, among other topics.
The album opens with a cheerful number from oldest Lindsey sibling Jared, who no longer regularly performs with the group since beginning college several years back. Tall Buildings is no relation to John Hartford’s In Tall Buildings, though it has a similar theme of choosing to enjoy life over being shackled to job you don’t enjoy. With a catchy chorus and bright fiddle from guest Stephen Burwell, it’s a fun, encouraging song. Jared also wrote the title song, which mourns the loss of a small town and childhood memories. It’s captivating and reflective, with the wistful tones of a pennywhistle (courtesy of Naomi Lindsey) laced throughout the song.
The pennywhistle also appears on Temperamental, an original instrumental from Caleb Lindsey. The pennywhistle contributes to the song’s Celtic flair, while Timothy Lindsey contributes strong progressive-style banjo. The tune is interestingly layered, matching the title well. Caleb also wrote the peppy They’re Gone, along with sister Rebekah and Elisabeth Taylor. It’s a sweet remembrance of a daughter looking back on life lessons from her grandfather as she leaves for the city.
Defuniak Springs is one of the most straightforward bluegrass numbers on the album, penned by the aforementioned Gaydusek. Mid-tempo and bouncy, it’s a classic bluegrass ramble about a man who regrets leaving home and returns home to the one he loves. Gaydusek also contributed two odes to childhood, Bubble Gum Days and Movie House. The former is a cute – though thoughtful – list of all the things that make childhood innocent and sweet: chocolate chip cookies and grape Kool-Aid, falling in love in the second grade. The latter, with its classic country fiddles and drawled vocals, hearkens back to the olden days of Saturdays spent watching movies downtown. Its poignant descriptions of shoot-em-ups and hot popcorn are sure to bring a flood of memories to generations of a certain age.
Other highlights on the album include a cover of Merle Haggard’s Today I Started Loving You Again, with excellent country-style vocals, as well as a lilting version of Take Me Home, Country Roads. Burwell’s fiddling carries the latter song, matching the soaring harmonies on the chorus. Another strong track is Barry Scott’s The Only Thing That Matters. Though the Lindsey Family has been mostly known for their bluegrass Gospel work, this is the only Gospel song on this album. It’s strong through, guided by Caleb’s mandolin, through overall stripped down musically.
The Lindseys have been somewhat absent from the bluegrass scene for most of the last several months, as youngest son Michael battles brain cancer. However, if this album is any indication, their music is plenty deserving of attention. Here’s hoping that we’re able to hear much more from the Lindsey Family in the near future!