Americana has been all the rage in 2019, and from where I sit, there aren’t many artists that capture the unique blend of the style’s sounds and influences as well as The New Texas String Band do in their self-titled debut EP, and specifically, their new single “Sweet Molly.” Applying a bluegrass aesthetic to a countrified vocal and a simple swinging rhythm, The New Texas String Band colorize “Sweet Molly” with a humble folksiness that appeals to a side of Americana that hasn’t been as overexploited by the groups’ contemporaries as others have. It’s a picture window into a shared history via its heroic harmonies, and while it isn’t the only song of its kind this vehicle has produced, it’s currently my favorite of the bunch.
While primarily a bluegrass track, “Sweet Molly” has an overtly westernized country theme to its string play that isn’t even slightly southern in design nor in nature. Contrarily, I hear a bit of the midcentury country music that helped to define the proceeding generation of folk artists largely responsible for developing rock, pop, and even bluegrass into what each genre is today. I wouldn’t say that The New Texas String Band are operating as a tribute group, but there’s no overstating how indebted the construction of this track, and most of the others on their first record, is to their forerunners in and out of the bluegrass world. As I mentioned before, this is indeed a sonic patchwork of Americana, but what’s most interesting about its framework has much less to do with spotting particular cultural elements and more to do with acknowledging just how focused and diverse a sound they’ve actually got.
One thing that I wasn’t 100% pleased with in “Sweet Molly” was the master mix, which isn’t quite as muscular as I would have liked it to be, but to be fair, this material doesn’t need an exaggerated to boost to make an impact on the listener at a reasonable volume. I can even understand why The New Texas String Band might have been reticent to do anything special in the mix here, as to avoid damaging the integrity of the music as it stands in its most unpolished form, but that said, I wouldn’t mind hearing what they sound like with a little more physicality equalized into the big picture.
If “Sweet Molly” and its six counterparts on The New Texas String Band are just a taste of what’s still to come from this group in the New Year, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that bluegrass and Americana fans everywhere should get excited about what they’re going to be hearing in 2020. TNTSB have got a lot of room to grow into this sound more than they already have, but at this point in their career together, that’s actually more of a positive than it is a negative. There’s different places they could take this music – country, folk, a more progressive strain of bluegrass or even a stint in Tin Pan Alley Revival – but no matter what they end up doing, I plan on staying tuned regardless.
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