Bluegrass music has been around long enough – 74 years by general consensus – that there is room for artists and touring acts to dig into its rich heritage for retrospective looks and sounds. A number of bands have been quite successful of late by featuring music in tribute to, or drawing heavily from earlier periods of bluegrass history, delighting newer fans who may not be familiar with the older style.
Most of these efforts have been focused on the era of the 1950s and ’60, but we have a new single this week that reaches back even further, before bluegrass had even been defined as a style.
Jacob Underwood is the talented young banjo player with Bluegrass Express, where he plays alongside both his dad and his grandfather. They have imbued in Jacob a deep love for the music of an earlier time, and he has a new album coming this summer, As Time Goes By, which has as its theme creating bluegrass treatments of pop and jazz songs from the 1930s through the 1950s.
Underwood sings these vintage classics with authority and a clear understanding of the style, and plays all the instruments as well. He has obviously taken great care in putting these arrangements together, and it shows in the results.
Plum River Records has released a single in advance of the full record, Once In A While, which was a major hit for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1937. Written by Michael Edwards and Bud Green, it stayed at #1 for seven weeks that year, and subsequent recordings of the song have also done well over the next 3 decades.
To assist in achieving that ’30s vocal sound, Jacob has brought in Anniken Ottersen Lindbak and Rebekka Fjellstad Fredsrud, of Norway’s singing Attitunes, for backing vocals. The combination of the banjo and fiddle with the lush harmony of the chord structure makes for a very appealing sound.
Once In A While is available now to radio broadcasters via AirPlay Direct.
Underwood has been working on this album for some time, and it will be great to finally have the complete project later this year.