Bluegrass isn’t a genre defined by a specific style so much as it is a patchwork of player-driven stories and songs rewoven into a fabric spanning centuries of existence. There are a multitude of ways to use its multicolored lens to convey a statement all your own, and in his new album Waiting out the Storm, Billy Droze dives into as many of these different avenues as he can inside of thirteen proportionately-crafted tracks. Rather than following the trend towards surreal, small-scale redrafts of an old school concept entirely, Droze gets a little experimental with elements of his sound some of his contemporaries would never dare to toy with; alongside Sonya Isaacs in “All You Gotta Do is Listen” and on his own in “Anywhere the Wind Might Blow,” he crosses from bluegrass into country and back again without skipping a beat. His charisma crosses every boundary it’s faced with in the likes of “Here We Are,” “Pretending” and “Bring on the Wind.” In its grand title track and simpler tunes like “Woman of My Life,” Waiting out the Storm decries the very notion of fluff-filled bluegrass music through graceful grooves and heartache-filled lyricism, both of which are dispensed in liberal doses (thankfully).
The strings do their part to steal a lot of the show away from anything else in the master mix in “Dreamer’s Melody,” “Night Birds” and “Small Town Mystery,” but I get the feeling this was the intention of Billy Droze all along. There’s an acerbic quality to his arranging here that makes everything on the instrumental end of the spectrum function almost mechanically, but I think I would stop short of calling anything in the tracklist explicitly rigid. From where I sit, there isn’t a single song in Waiting out the Storm that couldn’t be fashioned as more of a template for continuous jamming than merely a pointed tribute to an ageless bluegrass model, and from what I can tell, “How I Tell You Goodbye,” “She’s Still Here,” “Pretending” and “All You Gotta Do is Listen”: are all itching to be played live sooner than later.
There’s no slowing down Billy Droze at this moment in his career, and with his list of accomplishments in publishing, recording, and songwriting literally growing with every month he’s in the business, I don’t believe we’re going to stop hearing good grooves like those in Waiting out the Storm in the near future. Contrarily, where others are still aimlessly drifting through the underground trying to figure out not only who they are but what they want their music to both consist of and stand for, he’s found a formula that works exceptionally well for his direction and the audience he wants to bring along for the ride. To put it simply, he’s giving every sign of being ready to turn up the heat and drive as much of his passion into the music as an artist can without sacrificing his soul here, and if you aren’t buying my break down of his latest LP on its own, listening to Waiting out the Storm will win you over with its natural charms.
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