Try to Make It Fly – The Lonesome Ace Stringband

The Lonesome Ace Stringband tows a fine line between tapping the traditional while also creating a sound that’s entirely their own. It’s not an easy task; after all, reverence and relevance can often be at odds. But they succeed in spades with their latest effort, Try To Make It Fly.

The instrumental acumen of the band’s two mainstays, fiddler John Showman and guitarist and clawhammer banjo player Chris Coole, along with bassist and original founding member Max Malone, manage to maintain a balance, one that references their roots and also takes an original approach that gives them a very distinct identity. 

That’s evident at the outset. Opening track, Sweeter Sound, lives up to its handle, an ebullient and energized offering that encapsulates their original approach, yet making it clear that this, their fifth outing to date, fulfills the promise implied by the album’s title. 

The trio’s stirring melodies make a dramatic impact throughout, all original songs that share an approach taken by bands such as Steep Canyon Rangers, Town Mountain, and others that have given bluegrass and old time music a new populist revival. Despite their relatively sparse instrumentation — augmented at times by Michael Eckert on pedal steel, Gavin Gardiner on mellotron, Adrian Gross on mandolin, Sam Heineman and Justin Ruppel on drums and percussion, Jason Mercer contributing a drum loop, and Felicity Williams and Pharis Romero providing guest vocals — the band consistently manages to make an emphatic impact. The instrumental medleys, Crossing the Junction/Deer River and First Frost/Blue Grouse, are no exceptions.

Certain songs — Praying For Rain, Come With Me Tonight, The Echo, and You’ll Be There in particular — instill a reflective and reassuring attitude, but the music still retains its own presence and personality. The rousing Midnight Band and Simply Going Sideways convey an upbeat approach, albeit in a measured manner. They also provide proof that arrangements needn’t be overwhelming in order to assure an emphatic impression.

It’s not alway easy to convey a personal perspective when trying to hold true to a template that often maintains its own particular parameters. That said, the trio deserve credit for being able to put their own singular stamp on these proceedings.

Make no mistake: These Lonesome Aces are a committed acoustic string band, as sprightly songs like Country Mile, Smoke on the Shoulder, and the closing instrumental, Lonesome Ace #1, demonstrate so decidedly. Yet their ability to create melodies that are both original and refreshing give them a distinctive identity all their own. There’s no reason for them to remain lonesome any longer. 

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.