Taking a similar tack to newgrass provocateurs like Steep Canyon Rangers, Infamous Stringdusters, Trampled By Turtles, Town Mountain, and various other outfits that marry instrumental acumen with their story-telling skills, Stillhouse Junkies — Alissa Wolf (vocals fiddle), Cody Tinnin (vocals, bass), and Fred Kosak (vocals, guitar, mandolin) — borrow liberally from a bluegrass template, while emphasizing a sound that rings with resilience and resolve. Their kudos have come quickly; named 2021 IBMA Momentum Band of the Year, they can also claim elevated status as two-time Telluride Bluegrass band contest finalists.
Their new album, Small Towns, with Dark Shadow Recording, could be considered a concept record of sorts, given the fact that all of the songs revolve around themes common to…well… small towns… specifically those located in the vast expanse of their native Colorado. Earnest and engaging, each track is shared from a personal perspective, resulting in a set of songs that’s all the more impactful and engaging. Moonrise Over Ridgeway, River of the Lost Souls, Never Going Back Again, and Haskell Town in particular are pointedly poignant, each a determined narrative built on an emphatic delivery that still allows the sentiment to shine through.
The fact that Stillhouse Junkies is a trio and yet still manages to leave such an exacting impression makes these tunes all the more remarkable. Even with guest Becky Buller playing second fiddle on El Camino, the fact that the trio tackle all the instrumental chores nearly all on their own suggests a special savvy when it comes to being able to articulate the arrangements with little in the way of outside additives. To describe them simply as self sufficient belies what it takes to affect that level of craft and cohesion.
The result is a sturdy set of songs that’s assuredly a triumph, and moreover, a landmark effort that they can rest their reputation on as they move forward. Indeed, Small Towns succeeds while extolling a series of down-home designs.