Credit guitarist Mark Jones’ time spent in East Tennessee for instilling in him a love and admiration for authentic bluegrass, both in his mindset and his mantra. Although he now resides in his native UK, it’s clear that the lessons learned during that time he spent in the US remain firmly entrenched in all his ongoing efforts. The evidence is easily discerned through the self-titled debut EP recently released by his bluegrass trio, The Basstree String Band, a five song set which emphatically reaffirms his abject devotion and dedication to the music of America’s heartland.
The group — which aside from Jones, consists of Howard Burton on banjo and vocals, and Asa Hardy-Brownlie on double bass and vocals — is so absolutely assured in its stance that if one wasn’t aware of their origins, they could easily assume the band originated in Appalachia, the Ozarks, or similar environs instead. That’s evident in each of these offerings, especially the bluesier bluegrass of Six White Horses, and the rowdy, robust closing track, Them Blues, a pair of bluegrass classics, both of which find the group exorcising their more expressive inclinations.
Likewise, the forlorn lament, If That’s the Way You Feel, effectively conveys the Stanley Brothers’ high lonesome sound through a convergence of humility and heartbreak. On the other hand, Seven Lonely Days may be another ballyhoo about break-up, but the carefree attitude and jaunty delivery moots any sense of sadness and real disappointment. The sentiment is still strong on the record’s sole instrumental, Dixie Hoedown, but words aren’t needed to express the pleasure the trio find in conveying their joy in providing the sounds that they share.
Ultimately, The Basstree String Band help prove the point that roots music need not be confined to any particular place, however far from their origins it often appears. Attitude and affection are the most essential additives needed, and the ability of Jones, Hardy-Brownlie, and Burton to serve them up so well clearly underscores that assertion.