Comprised of two sets of brothers — Enda and Fergal Scahill (on banjo and vocals, and vocals, viola, fiddle, guitar, bodhran, percussion, and Wurlitzer piano, respectively) and Martin Howley (vocals, mandolin, banjo) and David Howley (vocals, fiddle, guitars, banjo, clawhammer banjo, mandolin, harmonium, synth, percussion, and bouzouki) — We Banjo 3 spawn a sound from both a basic bluegrass subtext and the traditional sounds of their native Ireland. The result is a configuration they refer to as “Celtgrass,” an apt description given its unique international perspective.
Nevertheless, the music they make owes less to confining them to any specific genre and more to songs that resonate and engage, even on an initial encounter. Some six studio albums on, they’ve received a wealth of praise and platitudes for not only putting the banjo to good use — notably, three of the four band members make it their main instrument — but also using it to drive the melodies in a most compelling manner.
The result is Open The Road, an album that boasts both memorable songs and some fine instrumental interludes, a winning combination that makes this their most accessible effort yet. Hummingbird, Long Way Down, and Alive With You are the solid standouts — earnest, engaging, and outstanding examples of the songwriting skills this quartet has developed throughout the course of their career. So too, speaking of instrumentals, The First Second Gentleman and the vigorous title track, show that they haven’t had to sacrifice their drive and dexterity in order to leave that exacting impression. So too, the tender sentiment shared in the album’s final offering, Believe In Us, leaves an emotional imprint all its own.
Having won success both on the bluegrass charts and as ambassadors of Irish music, We Banjo 3 have reached a point where confining them to any specific style is no longer necessary. Open the Road demonstrates that regardless of whatever path they take, they have clearly found the means to simply reap their rewards.