Music can evoke all sorts of emotions. Some songs can bring feelings of liveliness, some can bring longing for a greater time, and others can bring messages of hope and salvation. The Wayfarers, based in Southeast Ohio demonstrate all these emotional qualities on their latest release, Stinkbug Rodeo.
Largely rooted in the old time string band tradition, the musicianship of the Wayfarers is first-rate. The material does a great job showcasing the individual talents of this quintet. Jack of Diamonds and Raleigh and Spencer are both wonderful examples of Matt Opachick’s fiddling, while Late Last Night and Elkhorn Ridge are fine displays of Justin Rayner’s skillful clawhammer banjo playing. The group also consists of guitarist Josh Hartman, mandolinist Brandon Bankes, and Nathan Zangmeister on a unique hand built bass which the band refers to as “Ol’ Tubby.” All five members contribute to the band’s vocals.
Stinkbug Rodeo is a generous twenty one song collection primarily made up of traditional songs familiar to listeners within the acoustic music world. Don’t be fooled, however, the Wayfarers present this material with their own distinctive style and arrangements. Songs such as White House Blues and Over In The Gloryland have been played by numerous different artists over the years, but the Wayfarers present them with a freshness that makes the songs sound new again. I’ve Been All Around This World is another great example, as it is played at a slower relaxed pace than other versions that have been recorded over the years.
The Ballad of San Toy written by banjoist Justin Rayner is the sole original piece on Stinkbug Rodeo. The song details a small ghost town in Ohio’s Perry County. It’s a haunting account of the frustration felt by the local coal mine workers, and it also details the tragic shootings that occurred there on a regular basis.
Stinkbug Rodeo is a project that captures the essence of old time string band music wonderfully. Each track encompasses all sorts of feelings and attitudes, which the Wayfarers demonstrate assuredly. While the material itself is traditional, the execution of it is indeed original.