Any band that opts to bend a few boundaries and tamper with a template deserves credit for daring to do so. After all, programers and pundits prefer to put music in a convenient box because it makes their jobs easier when they can conveniently classify it accordingly. Still, the fear of limiting themselves can be an inhibiting factor, both creatively and commercially as well. After all, simply being sound-alike doesn’t offer opportunity to set one’s self apart.
With that proposition in mind, credit Colorado’s Thunder and Rain for their melodic blend of bluegrass, folk, and country, an approach that integrates all those elements without falling back on any one in particular. On their third and best album to date, Passing in the Night, they create a melodious sound that emphasizes song over style and succeeds accordingly. Singer, guitarist, and songwriter Erinn Peet Lukes can take much of the credit, but her bandmates — mandolin player Dylan McCarthy, dobro player Allen Cooke, and bassist Ian Haegerle — contribute their own set of skills when it comes to shaping the subtle arrangements that allow each offering to soar. It’s little wonder that the band has garnered their fair share of critical kudos both in the states and abroad, as well as Lukes’ finalist placement at the Kerrville Folk Festival, and both collective and individual scores at various RockyGrass competitions.
Still, for all their high profile accomplishments, Thunder and Rain don’t flaunt their well-seasoned skills. Both their low-cast ballads (Uncharted, House of Light, 10 Hour Flight, Uncharted, Farewell) as well as their decidedly uptempo offerings (Two Ships, Run with You, Make It Better) convey a distinctive charm and infectious enthusiasm that clearly enhances their winning ways.
Their’s is a decidedly unassuming sound, but it’s alluring to say the least. When they revert to a distinctly down home stance, as with the folksy Walk Right Through the Door of My Heart and Nobody’s Darlin’, their charms are simply too compelling to ignore. With Lukes’ tender vocals at the fore and the band plying its tasteful accompaniment, the songs share an intimacy and appeal that ensures acceptance across the board.
With Passing in the Night Thunder and Rain have clearly found a platform from which to attain wider recognition. It’s an excellent addition to any folk or bluegrass playlist. If they’re able to maintain this level of quality control — and there’s no reason to suspect they can’t — the certainty of success seems all but inevitable.