Country & Traditional Music Short Takes: Grain Thief, Hawktail, The Deer’s Cry, Eleven Hundred Springs – Review
by John Gaddis
Grain Thief, Pedal Down (Self-Released, 2020)
Grain Thief is a 5-piece string band from Boston, MA. The sophomore album titled Stardust Lodge in 2018 cemented the groups’ place in the Alt-Country and Americana Folk genres. 2020 in its freshness, also brings a new Grain Thief single titled “Pedal Down.” Replete with tightly woven harmonies, the single offers catchy hooks and is a melody-driven ditty. Stepping away from the Americana sound on their last album and focusing on a more bluegrass aesthetic this time, Grain Thief’s new single offers tempting violin lines with the guitar driving the bus, and mandolin part colorizing with good ole’ American bluegrass goodness. A well-executed single, put your pedal down and get to trucking to a show near you.
Hawktail, Formations ( Padiddle Records, 2020)
Staying in the bluegrass lane, leaning over to the modern bluegrass idiom, a new one by Hawktail. A new member in the group, mandolinist Dominick Leslie, this time was there from the beginnings of Formations, so the inclusion of mandolin in the writing process gave the instrument much more of a role, which intensifies the overall sonic depth and breadth. The album features seven tracks of non-stop joy. From fiery up-tempo tunes to mid-tempo explorations that flow with beauty and interest to gorgeously tone ballads that resonate with tenderness. Hawktail’s sound may now be expanded with the inclusion of mandolin, but fans of their previous releases won’t be left disappointed, it’s still the same excellent writing and playing, only more substantial in the sonic palette.
The Deer’s Cry, Rise With the Dawn (The Deer’s Cry, 2020)
The Deer’s Cry is a Nashville based band whose name comes with an interesting factoid; the group is named after an old Irish prayer. At the center of their unique sound is Karen Ballew, who is the lead vocalist of the group, but also play Celtic Harp and portative organ. The album resonates with Ballew’s angelic vocal style, a mix of Irish, Bluegrass, Jazz and world music traditions makes for a tasty stew of international flavors. Another added essence to the album is the highlight of spiritual themes. The album is adorned with fourteen tracks with each featuring a large cast of special guests that add textural nuances to each tune. This is not just a Celtic music exploration, the additive of other genres blending takes this to a beautifully organic place of exploration with the invocation of uplifting spiritual themes. You will find yourself listening for hours, maybe until the rise of dawn.
Eleven Hundred Springs, Here’ Tis (State Fair Records, 2020)
Eleven Hundred Springs is a Texas son’s country band that has a sound as big as their state. The kicker is they are portraying what is now coined as the Bakersfield sound originally based in the California Country scene in the the mid- to late 1950s. The album has a strong affinity for the classic country sound, mixed with a rockabilly flavoring that Junior Brown was so well regarded for. The kind of country music that brings back the sweeter days when life had a beautiful simplicity of easy-going trifles. Here ‘Tis is filled with expertly penned tunes. It is easy to hear the authenticity in their music. At it for two decades the band is a well-oiled classic maker. From remorseful reveries to soulful crooning to depictions of traveling road songs to the fun-filled tongue in cheek tunes. Here’ Tis, has something for everyone.