Rick Faris can claim an impressive backstory, one which found him well equipped to pursue his prowess as both a picker and performer. His father was a touring bluegrass musician who had the distinction of playing at the Grand Ole Opry, as well as making appearances on Hee-Haw and Nashville Now. Faris himself had a role in the Faris Family Band, a touring outfit that spent twelve years on the road while weaving its way through the festival circuit, and sharing their skills with students in schools across the country. His big break came when he was recruited by Greg Cahill to audition for Special Consensus, trading his guitar for a mandolin and helping the band reap a pair of Grammy nominations and several nods from the IBMA.
Faris’ first album, Breaking In Lonesome, provided an avenue for establishing himself as a solo star, winning him kudos from Bluegrass Today and any number of other esteemed publications. With his sophomore set, The Next Mountain, he’s taken another significant step forward, courtesy of a dozen songs that show an astute ability to shift his stance as needed, whether engaging in upbeat, effusive offerings such as Deep River, I’m Asking You Today, Evil Hearted You, and Time To Move On, or the more reflective rumination found in What I’ve Learned, Laurel of the Mountains, and Tall Fall. He’s assisted in these endeavors by a superb supporting cast that includes Ronnie Bowman, Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury, Rob McCoury, and Mike Bub, among many others, but it’s to Faris’ credit that his singing and picking still manage to take center stage.
Given his credentials, it’s hardly surprising that Faris has created such a naturally engaging and enticing offering. Beyond the quality of the songs themselves — all of which Faris had a hand in writing — the musicianship is first rate, practically a given considering those that are involved. The fact that the melodies and arrangements fit so well in sync makes it clear that even at this point in his career, Faris is firing on all cylinders. It’s not hard to imagine that his efforts will result in contention for various best-of lists at the end of the year. At the very least, The Next Mountain ought to take Faris to the next plateau.