How often do we discover bright young talent in family bands? The dynamic seems to entice and encourage the growth of budding pickers, who often develop rapidly in this supportive environment. It seems we never lack for examples, and here’s another.
The Snyder Family has released a new album of primarily original acoustic music, dancing from the center to the edges of what modern bluegrass music is all about.
It has probably been since the early days of Nickel Creek that we saw such young prodigies in our midst. 19 year old Zeb, and 16 year old Samantha Snyder, are already in the top percentile of bluegrass pickers, and sure to rise even further as they continue to grow and mature. The Nickel Creek comparison suggests the inevitable question: what will these talented teens accomplish in the next decade or so?
With Wherever I Wander, they demonstrate a depth of musical understanding and imagination well beyond what would be expected from artists so young. On mandolin and guitar, Zeb plays with an ease and confidence that isn’t bound by genre or style, while sister Samantha plays fiddle and sings with a grace and skill that only comes from starting out as a toddler.
They don’t call themselves a bluegrass group, and performing as a trio with their dad, Bud, on bass that designation may be apt, but fans of bluegrass and old time music will find much to drop their chins over here. With about a half-and-half mix between vocals and instrumentals, all but three written by Zeb or Samantha, there’s a wide variety of sounds on display. Fans of fiery picking have plenty to chew on, with fun and insightful songs for people who prefer to hear vocal music.
On the instrumental side, we have brilliant and adventurous tunes like Zeb’s New River Rapids which explores a number of contrasting rhythms, and Samantha’s contemporary fiddle tune, Nantucket Sleigh Ride, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the 1971 album from Leslie West and Mountain. Another of Zeb’s is Trick Shot, which brings to mind Jim Hurst’s unique ability to combine flatpack guitar and Jerry Reed’s chicken pickin’ in a single solo.
The vocals are largely Samantha’s, written and sung by this sweet sixteen. She has a remarkable voice, with pin-point control both above and below her break. Perhaps most noteworthy is the astuteness and literacy of her lyrics. You notice this on Wherever I Wander, a grassy Gospel number, and A Whaler’s Song, which tells of a seafaring swain from a family of whale hunters.
Both Snyder sibs get a chance to shine on After You’ve Gone, the early jazz classic which gets a delightful swing treatment here. Zeb exercises his country rock bone on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Swamp Music and Dickey Bett’s Highway Call. All are performed in the same trio format they use on stage, without many overdubs of additional instruments. These folks get an awful lot of music out of a three-piece band.
Some of the music is mildly self-indulgent, but these are teenagers, just discovering the expanse of their own virtuosity and creativity. That can surely be forgiven, and to return again to the Nickel Creek analog, they received the same critique when they were teens.
This is a can’t-miss project from future superstars in the acoustic music world.