Ogden Heart’s eponymous debut album shares an upbeat and exuberant sound that rings with reverence for their roots as well as an appealing country sensibility. “These are the songs of my younger days,” Isabel Humphreys sings on the aptly titled Backwoods Sound, one of several songs flush with heartland homilies and a good-natured embrace.
Then again, those shared feelings clearly come naturally. Formerly known as The Family Band, Ogden Heart is, quite naturally, a family affair, one comprised of multi-talented and multi-generational musicians. They include Kathryn Caine on lead and harmony vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano, with her two children, Evans Humphreys on bass and vocals, and Isabel Humphreys supplying the serendipitous lead singing. They are supported by Rusty Speidel on guitar, Andy Thacker on mandolin, Sam Wilson on pedal steel, banjo player John Lee, and drummer James McLaughlin.
The group takes their cue from the archival Americana spawned from the hills and hollers of Appalachia, and that of their forebears who passed those traditions down to the generations that followed. Yet they add their own supple blend of talent and tenderness to emboss each of the offerings throughout.
Suffice it to say, then, that Ogden Heart is flush with informed inspiration. Theirs is a combination of sweetness and sincerity that breathes new life even into such well-trod standards as Silver Dagger, The Bye and Bye, Tom Paxton’s classic The Last Thing On My Mind, and Elton John’s Border Song, which, in Ogden Heart’s capable hands, find a new sense of passion and purpose.
Still, this ensemble need not depend on tradition alone. The vibrant harmonies that soar over the pluck of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and pedal steel effectively contribute to the effusive nature of the proceedings, allowing the music to provide a luster and enticement which effectively reflects the band’s down-home demeanor. There’s not a single song here that fails to deliver on that easy embrace or the wistful ramblings that are woven into the album’s more prominent entries. The sobering sentiment of The One I Love Is Gone aside, each of these offerings provide a soothing respite — a quiet, contemplative sound that cascades and caresses throughout.
So too, the band’s talents aren’t limited to simply making music. The original album art is indicative of a view and vision that takes these artists into other dimensions. Suffice it to say, Ogden Heart makes for an auspicious introduction, one that offers the promise of equally strong possibilities still to come.