THE OLY MOUNTAIN BOYS
No Label, No Number
The Oly Mountain Boys have been working the circuit around the Olympia, Wash., area since the band formed in 2008. The band consists of guitarist/vocalist Chris Rutledge, banjoist/vocalist Tye Menser, mandolinist Derek McSwain, bassist/reso-guitarist/vocalist Phil Post, and fiddler Josh Grice. This is their debut.
The accompanying press notes state that the group has a strong affinity for the Stanley and Monroe styles, but for this recording, they’re blending in folk-rock and Americana. That proves to be a good move. A lighter, folkier brand of bluegrass seems to work better for them than the hard-driving traditional sound. At least that’s the impression you get after hearing their reasonable if somewhat average versions of “Hello City Limits” or “Are You Missing Me.”
Part of the reason the folkier approach works better is that the band’s sole lead singer, Tye Menser, has a softer, lighter vocal timbre. Where “Are You Missing Me” lacks a bit of the necessary fire, a tune such as their cover of Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain” is quite good. The matching of Menser’s voice to the right material makes the song one of the album highlights.
Several other highlights are among the six originals that Menser contributed here. “Dreams Along The Way” is a medium-tempo glimpse at a life gone horribly wrong, while “Six Hours” recalls those folk ballads in which a phrase or word group, in this case “six hours,” becomes almost a mantra.
The other highlight of the recording is the mandolin work of Derek McSwain. His leads had a nice, full rhythmic feel and a good sound throughout the album, particularly on his own “Oly Mountain Waltz.” (Tye Menser, 3142 Yew Trail Dr. NW, Olympia, WA 98502, myspace.com/olymountainboys.) BW