Review: The Basstree String Band

The Basstree String Band have released a new CD featuring 5 tracks of traditional, soulful bluegrass.

The trio hail from Norfolk and Lincolnshire, with a lineup of Howard Burton on banjo, Mark Jones on guitar and Asa Hardy-Brownlie on bass. The band first formed in 2017, though Howard and Mark have been making music together in various forms for around 25 years. In recent months, they’ve been building up momentum with gigs, festival appearances and media coverage including an interview with Bluegrass Today.

The Basstree String Band

The band have gone for quality over quantity on this release, with each of the 5 tracks coming in at less than 3 minutes. But this is ample time for the group to show off their instrumental chops and tight vocal harmonies, putting their own spin on songs that have been performed by the likes of Bill Monroe, Patsy Cline and Jim and Jesse.

Old-style bluegrass is delivered in the form of Six White Horses, Them Blues is an upbeat toe-tapper, Seven Lonely Days offers a bluesy, early rock ‘n’ roll feel, while the vocal harmonies really shine on the melancholic If That’s The Way You Feel. The one instrumental track, Dixie Hoedown, gives the group a chance to showcase their technical skills, with some impressive banjo and guitar picking from Howard and Mark.

If you’d like to hear more, the album will be available to stream on all major platforms from September 19th. If you prefer your music in physical form, head on over to the band’s website where you can purchase the CD.

Review: Space Guitars by Pet Yeti

Album cover for Pet Yeti's Space Guitars

Pet Yeti release their debut album Space Guitars on September 13th.

Previously known as the Propane Brothers, the band have changed their name in anticipation of the release, but their commitment to producing tightly arranged, high-quality bluegrass remains the same.

Pet Yeti

Featuring members of Cup O’Joe, Cardboard Fox and Hot Rock Pilgrims, Pet Yeti brings together some of the best young talent on the UK bluegrass scene – Benjamin Agnew on bass, Reuben Agnew on guitar, John Breese on banjo, Kieran Towers on fiddle and Joe Tozer on mandolin. The majority of vocals come from the Agnew brothers, who create the kind of effortless, spine-tingling harmonies you’d expect from bluegrass siblings.

Space Guitars features eight originals, with all band members contributing to songwriting duties. Things don’t stray too far from the traditional, with energetic banjo kickoffs, fiery fiddle solos and lyrical themes of heartbreak, drinking and long journeys home. However, it’s clear the main influence is the more poppy, indie-orientated sound that’s developed in recent years – think Nickel Creek, Deadly Gentlemen and Joy Kills Sorrow. This is perfectly encapsulated in the title track, a fun ditty that closes the album with multiple Back To The Future references.

Album cover for Pet Yeti's Space Guitars
Space Guitars Cover Art

Three covers complete the track listing. Bluegrass/old-time standards Hello City Limits and I’ve Endured won’t raise too many eyebrows, but album opener Said I Loved You…But I Lied, a cover of Michael Bolton’s 1993 hit, might just unsettle a few purists (or even bring on a few pangs of nostalgia if you’re that way inclined).

Overall, this is a well-balanced album that offers a good dose of old-fashioned, hard-driving bluegrass combined with more modern influences. Exceptional cover art from Jacob Matthess rounds off the package nicely.

Space Guitars will be available 13th September 2019, and Pet Yeti will be playing a number of gigs to support the release. Visit the band’s website for all the details.

Photo review: Man About a Horse

Man About a Horse continued their debut UK tour on July 6th with a stop at Bath’s American Museum and Gardens.

The Philadelphia band could not have wished for a prettier venue, with the audience seated around a grass amphitheatre and the stage surrounded by gorgeous plants and flowers. The weather thankfully played its part for this outdoor gig, with blue skies and soaring temperatures.

Man About a Horse
The picturesque amphitheatre and stage

Over the course of the afternoon, Man About a Horse performed two well-received sets of original and traditional material, along with a few covers by artists such as Gram Parsons.

A workshop filled the break between sets, with the band covering the history and mechanics of the music and explaining each instrument’s role, before performing a few numbers to demonstrate what they had just taught.

Here’s a few photos and a video from what was a very entertaining and successful event (click the photos to see full size).

Man About a Horse played Bath on July 6th 2019, and continue their UK tour until July 14th. Full tour dates can be found here.

Live review: John Reischman and The Jaybirds

John Reischman and The Jaybirds completed a UK tour this month, which included a stop at Manorbier YHA in Pembrokeshire on May 8th.

The North American band formed over 20 years ago and now have 7 recordings to their name. This intimate show was promoted by Pembrokeshire Eclectic Music Society, and featured two sets of captivating and superbly-executed bluegrass. The setlist included a good mix from the Jaybirds’ back catalogue, as well as a few numbers showcasing individual band members’ songwriting and instrumental skills.

The John Reischman fans in attendance were treated to a few of his most popular mandolin tunes including near-legendary waltz The North Shore, and Little Pine Siskin, a cute, endearing number that has become a firm favourite in UK bluegrass jams recently.

Here’s a few photos from the night.