It seems almost gratuitous to say that the Songs From The Road Band is more than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, its players boast impressive credentials. That’s especially true of bassist and chief songwriter, Charles Humphrey III, who had a lengthy stint with the Steep Canyon Rangers and an initial solo effort that gave the group its name. Indeed, it certainly appears that Humphrey was feeling a bit nostalgic when it came to composing his contributions to the new album, given that its themes of change, transition, and travel are all hinted at in the title of the record itself.
If that seems to indicate a somber prognosis, there’s really no reason to worry. In fact, Waiting on a Ride is well stocked with upbeat tunes —Any Highway, Green Rush, the title track, Lost in Austin, and Waterloo, among the many. While the band’s instrumental make up maintains an allegiance to a solid bluegrass template — mandolin, fiddle and banjo play predominant roles in the mix — Waiting on a Ride, like the group’s three previous efforts, also finds them operating in grassicana mode as well. That said, those who prefer a more traditional approach won’t be disappointed.
The album’s two instrumentals, Wood Chuckin’ and Thunderstorm Serenade, offer excellent examples of the group’s ability to pick and pluck in tandem. Closing track Nowhere To Land also finds the ensemble solidly in sync, its revved-up delivery leaving demonstrating an ability to echo some early inherent instincts.
Like any number of other outfits that simultaneously tackle and challenge basic bluegrass precepts — the aforementioned Steep Canyon Rangers, Town Mountain (that band’s Phil Barker is one of the many songwriting collaborators), Railroad Earth, the Punch Brothers, and the Sam Bush Band in particular — the Songs From The Road Band garner their appeal through a populist approach that finds favor with a younger, contemporary audience.
That’s admirable indeed, especially given the fact that newer admirers supply the fuel to keep the genre going. For that reason alone, these self described road warriors deserve credit for helping to pave the path forward.