The Easy Ramblers are a trio based in Syracuse, N.Y., and Country Livin’ is their second release. Most of their songs are written by guitarist Eddie Zacholl and sung by mandolinist Maureen Henesey, with bassist Dann Mather rounding out the band. Their promo material hints at a type of stylized “easy grass” that brings folk and acoustic country to their bluegrass-based sound.
Zacholl’s songs tend to fall into the category, implied by the album’s title, of mostly wistful paeans to the bucolic lifestyle. Over the course of nine original songs (augmented by covers of songs by Daniel Lanois and Tift Merritt), they run the risk of sounding collectively a bit too light and simplistic. There were times I longed for a bit of grit or detail to make the individual songs take on a bit more character. A strength of the band is Henesey’s lead singing. Her voice has a distinctive character with a pleasing touch of huskiness that is consistently appealing despite a ’60s folk vibrato that sometimes draws attention to itself. But even when an unidentified male voice takes the lead, Henesey usually steps in to carry at least part of the song.
The trio is augmented by a variety of guest players for instrumental support. While the fiddles of Brendan Gosson and Joe Davoli are mainly supportive and occasionally a bit unsteady, the banjo work of Mark Allnatt is distinctively strong and gives each song that he contributes to a solid backbone. The net result is that of a regional trio gamely daring to expand their sphere of influence with original material and strong lead singing. While they may not yet be ready to break out beyond the fans-of-the-band category, they’re worth paying attention to in order to see where their strengths and influences may lead them. (Easy Ramblers, 218 S. Orchard Rd., Syracuse, NY 13219, www.theeasyramblers.com.)HK