The Irish band I Draw Slow has been getting a lot of buzz lately. Their new album Redhills, on the resurrected Pinecastle label, showcases the group’s blend of bluegrass, Celtic and old-time music. The group is made up of Louise Holden, Dave Holden, Adrian Hart, Konrad Liddy, and Colin Derham. Louise and Dave Holden write all but two of the songs on the album, with the other two cuts being traditional fare. Because of that, there is a singer-songwriter aspect to this project and the good news is that the songs and storytelling are of high quality, the arrangements are solid and the group as a whole is very talented.
Now, this is not the fast-paced, hard-driving traditional bluegrass of Bill Monroe. But at the same time, the more I listen to Redhills, the more it reminds me of what Monroe called the “ancient tones,” the Celtic roots of bluegrass music. And that is why this album fits into the extended bluegrass genre as it represents the “roots” side of the “roots and branches” equation.
The highlights include the two opening cuts “Mama Don’t Cry” and “Goldmine” (which feature fine vocals floating over a bed of banjo and fiddle), the “Hesitation Waltz,” and an atmospheric take on the ominous-sounding traditional “Kingdom.” Most of the songs on the album go along at an easygoing pace, but the group finally kicks it into high gear with “Low Down Girl Like Me.” The ancient tones made their way across the Appalachian Mountains long before bluegrass was invented, and the musicians of a century or two ago would appreciate the music on Redhills. (Pinecastle Records, 2881 NC 108 Hwy. E, Columbus, NC 28722, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)DH