The Missouri based RiverBend is dedicated to the traditional style of bluegrass music. The group’s sophomore release, Wild Mountain Honey, demonstrates their ability to keep that sound alive while combining it with their own identity.
The title track, Wild Mountain Honey, gets the recording off to a great start. While the arrangement is somewhat patterned after the original rendition recorded by the Osborne Brothers and Red Allen in 1956, the performance here comes across very fresh and vibrant.
Southern Moon is a great example of RiverBend’s vocal harmonies. Guitarist Aaron Muskopf, bassist Will Miskall, and dobro player Blake Korte have a solid blend with each other. Nashville Jail and Most of The Time are other good examples of this.
Two tracks that particularly stand out most are instrumentals both written within the band. Juliet Stomp by mandolinist Andy Novara is a tune that’s definitely in the Monroe vein. Novara’s heavy handed mandolin playing comes through in spades. Oval 8’s, written by banjoist Kris Shewmake, is a driving tune which allows the group to showcase their instrumental abilities. Guest fiddler Thayne Bradford also makes some nice contributions on this piece as well as the album’s other tracks.
Don’t Let My Ramblin’ Bother Your Mind is a great take on a song originally recorded by the Delmore Brothers in 1939. While Bad Day With You is a more recent song, having been released by Chris Sharp and David Long in 2004, it definitely sounds like a piece that could’ve been recorded in the late 1950s or early 1960s. RiverBend’s rendition is slightly subdued in comparison to Sharp and Long, but nonetheless it’s a solid performance.
Wild Mountain Honey is a wonderful recording. While RiverBend is influenced by several of the first generation masters such as Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, and Vern Williams, they don’t set out to completely duplicate what any of those gentlemen did. This project shows how they can dig deep in the well of traditional material and by the same token make it their own.