Off The Shelf – DownRiver Collective

DownRiver Collective began as a trio in 2018, but has since expanded into a five piece ensemble which includes Ali Vance on lead vocals, Bailey Warren on fiddle and harmony vocals, John Gray on banjo, guitar, and harmony vocals, Jonny Therrien on guitar and dobro, and Rico Wallenda on mandolin. The group’s latest release, Off The Shelf, is a five song EP which demonstrates not only the band’s growth, but their own combination of traditional folk and progressive acoustic music.

Every song on Off The Shelf comes from members of the band. The opening track, Daylight Breaks, was cowritten by Vance, Warren, Therrien, and Wallenda along with John Gardner, Daniel Gilchrist, and John Zahurancik. This mellow opener features excellent clawhammer banjo playing from Gray. As with all of the songs on the EP, guest musician Eli Broxham plays the upright bass.

Wasted Time by Alison Vance is a powerful piece about an abusive relationship. The lyrics use whiskey as a metaphor for the harmful partner, making for a brilliantly crafted song. It’s a track that demands close listening. 

The following track, Dead To Me, also centers on the theme of a toxic relationship, but in this case it’s between a daughter and her father. Written by Therrien, Vance, Wallenda, Warren, and Zahurancik, this track is by far the highlight of this entire recording. Not only does it display Vance’s captivating voice, but also the chemistry of this band. Their harmonies and instrumental work on this piece are incredibly strong, demonstrating DownRiver Collective’s solid unity.

The final track, Walls, by Caleb Edwards, Vance, Warren, and Zahurancik could technically be considered the EP’s title track as Off the Shelf is contained within the first line of the lyrics. This piece details mistrust and insecurity in such a powerful way, it’s surely a song that’ll hit close to home for many listeners.

The physical edition of Off The Shelf contains two bonus tracks. Lonely Mountain and Tennessee Thunderstorm had been previously released as singles in 2021. Both tracks have a strong bluegrass feel. Although they do feel slightly out of place compared to everything else on the EP, they are nice additions.

Off The Shelf is a strong effort. Originality is found all over this recording with brilliantly crafted songs, stellar vocals, and first rate musicianship. DownRiver Collective has brought us a project that will without a doubt leave many waiting for more.

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About the Author

Braeden Paul

Braeden Paul has been involved in various capacities of bluegrass music. A Texas native, Paul has been part of several Dallas-based bands as a mandolinist. He also serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Bluegrass Club in Grapevine, TX. As a writer, Braeden has also contributed numerous music reviews to the Bluegrass Society of America Facebook page, and is the co-author of Texas Bluegrass History: High Lonesome on the High Plains.