Formed in 2013, Beg, Steal or Borrow received substantial acclaim well before the release of this, their debut album, Old Mountain Time. This publication in particular proclaimed them to be a “Triple Crown Bluegrass Band” by virtue of the fact that they took home honors from regional bluegrass competitions held in New York, Maine, and Connecticut. Although they’ve noted that their initial inspiration was drawn from Old and in the Way, the seminal acoustic bluegrass outfit helmed by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, they’ve clearly exceeded expectations by creating an impressive repertoire of original songs that boast both contemporary and archival appeal.
That ability alone qualifies the group for distinction. While their name might suggest — and rightfully so — that they rely heavily on past precedent, Beg, Steal or Borrow have managed to absorb their essential influences — Appalachian, folk and country sounds in particular — and refashion them in a way that’s so accessible and infectious that the music’s all but irresistible. The five musicians involved — Fran Forium (upright bass, harmony vocals), Geoff Goodhue (mandolin, harmony vocals), Jeremy Sicely (guitar, lead and harmony vocals), Luke Auriemmo (banjo), and Roland Clark (fiddle) — not only meld their skills in a fluid and flawless manner, but also write all their own material, an element that further enforces the cohesive, creative sound they manage to maintain throughout.
That then is the essence of the band’s appeal, specifically, the ability to emulate a traditional tapestry while creating a sound that as affecting as it is evocative without regard to any specific motif. Indeed, songs such as Molly Bootlegger, Old Mountain Time, Harder Than Time, and Medicine Man sound like they were culled from a vintage songbook, but there again, the melodies are compelling enough to allow for contemporary credence. Adding a spoken word preamble about Bootleggers adds historical context, but fortunately it doesn’t intrude on any tuneful trappings that follow.
The fact that Old Mountain Time is Beg, Steal or Borrow’s initial offering speaks well for the band’s obvious potential. There’s no doubt they’ll be able to acquire a formidable fan following without having to resort to any of the action adjectives their brash banner might imply.