Reared in the traditions of Bill Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs, the Mosley Brothers gained a firm basis in bluegrass basics early on. These days, the band that bears their name continues to foster an appreciation for those origins while also mining contemporary precepts as well. Consisting of bothers Joey and Jacob Mosely on vocals and guitar and mandolin, respectively, and bassist/vocalist Johnny Calamari and banjo player Dean Phillips — the band shares a sound that’s rich in harmony and enlivened by the picking and passion they put into their performances.
While certain songs on their recent self-titled release from Patuxent Records – Carry Me, Exactly What I Need, and Kiss Me Like You Did Yesterday – demonstrate a desire to root their music in pleasing melodies that would certainly work well in any context, the execution keeps to a decided grassicana template that tows the middle line between bluegrass and arcane Americana. The sentiments are sweet but succinct, maintaining a homespun delivery based entirely on erstwhile intent. The pleading and plaintive My Baby’s Gone is a fine example. A lament about lost love, it adds nothing new to the description of the heartbreak that occurs in the aftermath of a severed relationship, but the emotion is nevertheless palatable and otherwise irresistible. When the song breaks down into its acapella chorus, the sadness seeps through.
The Mosleys ply their homespun attributes on an earnest ramble, Grasping for the Wind, the uptempo drive and delivery of Blues Are Just Outside My Door, the folky flourish of Prisoner of the Pines, and the album’s two instrumentals, Foxtail and Bushy Mountain. All provide astute examples of early lessons learned well. A low-lit take on Del McCoury’s Rain and Snow is both reverent and reimagined all at the same time, while still offering the individual musicians opportunity for improvisation.
A tight-knit ensemble, the Mosley Brothers provide an outstanding example of how today’s generation of players and pickers are moving bluegrass forward, even while gazing through the proverbial rearview mirror. That’s the kind of combination every audience can appreciate both fully and distinctly.