Jeremy Rilko’s initial interest in the banjo, and bluegrass music in general, began after four years in the Air Force, followed by a subsequent stint at Western Michigan University. Between his studies, he found time to attend various bluegrass festivals, which eventually led him to buy a banjo and pursue a style effectively influenced by Earl Scruggs, in particular. He was further enticed by the music of Billy Strings, Greensky Bluegrass, Béla Fleck and John Hartford as well. After completing college, he moved to Asheville North Carolina and immersed himself in its bustling bluegrass scene.
Membership in various bands followed, as well as opportunity to share stages with such luminaries as Vince Herman, Lindsay Lou, Molly Tuttle, Ketch Secor, Darren Nicholson, and members of Town Mountain and Fireside Collective. All of which makes his self-titled solo album sound surprisingly seasoned, even for a debut. The nine tracks are all Rilko originals, and while he has help from various guests, Rilko naturally takes center stage.
His songwriting shines on the upbeat opener, Back to the Country, and offers evidence of a decidedly proficient prowess on a series of riveting and robust instrumentals, Panic Attack!, Hog On a Log, and Telluride. Through it all, Rilko demonstrates a confident and credible delivery that allows his fluid picking and singing to fully standing out within each of the arrangements.
Rilko’s vocals are adequate at best, but given the emotive qualities shared in songs such as Crooked Road, Go On, and Blue Ridge Mountain Jewel, he’s able to finesse the feelings clearly and convincingly. Likewise, given his decisive delivery on the rambling Writing on the Wall, the sentiment is effectively expressed.
Given that this is Rilko’s initial effort, he deserves credit for crafting a solid set of songs, one that showcases his skills to a considerable extent. It’s evident at the outset that Rilko has a bright future before him, and that he has what it takes to achieve significant standing within the current bluegrass community. The anticipation for what will follow is already fully fueled.