There’s just something about sibling harmony. Most of us who cherish tight vocal harmony have encountered that sentiment, and maybe even expressed it ourselves. And it’s plainly true. The similar tonality you find within family groups allows for a vocal blend that is hard to duplicate elsewhere.
And that is what you find among the singing Klassen family on the self-titled release from The Traveling Kind. Carolyn, Calvin and Raymond Klassen have been singing together for some time, and Carolyn and Raymond sang with their dad’s bluegrass band, Homeland Harmony, as youngsters in central Canada.
Jason McKendree will be familiar to fans of the short-lived Josh Williams Band, where he played banjo and sang baritone. It was he who dragged Carolyn Klassen down to the lower 48 when they married in 2009. The two met bluegrass cute, at the Galt House in Louisville, KY in 2001 when the IBMA World of Bluegrass was held there. They became closer over the years, and now live with their young daughter in Benton, KY.
So after a few years apart, the Klassen siblings have reunited to record a album, along with McKendree and his older brother Justin. Carolyn is on fiddle and lead vocals, her brother Calvin on bass and harmony vocals, brother Raymond on guitar, dobro and harmony vocals, with Jason on banjo and lead vocals, and Justin on mandolin. Most of the tracking was done at the McKendree’s home, with Raymond and Calvin adding their parts from the Klassen home town of Winkler, Manitoba.
The material they have chosen consists of mostly familiar bluegrass songs, with a couple originals from Jason (A Thousand Miles, Help Me Find My Way), a new instrumental from Raymond (Hang On), and an inspirational Gospel number from Klassen cousin Kevin Elias (Without My Shield). All are arranged simply, and performed with power, passion and clarity.
Carolyn has a soft, pleasant and unaffected voice that really shines on Bury Me Beneath The Willow, Endless Highway, and Help Me Find My Way. On the other hand, Jason’s is equally strong, with a bit more growl in the lower register which shows on A Thousand Miles, Sweet Sunny South, and Leaning On The Everlasting Arms. Their duet on Are You Tired Of Me My Darling is lovely, as is the trio on Blue-Eyed Boston Boy, one of the most evocative Civil Wars songs ever. It may be a chestnut, but if this version doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, I don’t know what to do with you.
Instrumental solos are almost exclusively taken on banjo or dobro, each of them solid and appropriate. All of the rhythm and vocal parts are spot-on, and the sound of the record is transparent and accurate.
If you enjoy fine vocal harmony and sincere bluegrass music, The Traveling Kind is a can’t miss.
CDs can be purchased from CD Baby, and downloads are available at popular digital resellers.