Country-bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers has been making headlines quite a bit lately. The band announced last week, that it had received a Grammy® nomination for its 2019 live recording North Carolina Songbook. The nomination comes on the heels of the release of its most recent studio recording, Arm in Arm, which it released Oct. 16 through Yep Roc Records. The band’s 16th overall recording (counting its live recordings), its release came only seven months after the release of its then latest recording, Be Still Moses, and is a work that the band’s longtime fans will find just as engaging and entertaining as Be Still Moses and the rest of the band’s offerings. That is proven through the record’s musical and lyrical content alike. This is shown in part early on in ‘Everything You Know.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Take My Mind’ is another interesting addition to the band’s new album. It will be discussed a little later. Much the same can be said of ‘In The Next Life,’ which serves as part of the 11-song record’s midpoint. When it is considered along with the other songs addressed here and the rest of the record’s entries, the album in whole becomes a work that Steep Canyon Rangers’ established fan base will enjoy just as much as country and bluegrass fans in general.
Steep Canyon Rangers’ latest album (and second this year) Arm in Arm is a positive new offering from the band that will find a far reaching appeal among audiences. That is due to its musical and lyrical content, as proven in part early on by the song ‘Everything You Know.’ The song’s musical arrangement boasts a gentle, relaxed sense through its banjo, fiddle, and vocals. The whole of those elements and the equally gentle brush strokes on the snare drum creates such a casual sense throughout the composition. One could actually argue that the pairing especially of the vocals with the banjo and fiddle lends itself to a comparison to Darius Rucker’s cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Wagon Wheel.’ On a similar note, comparisons are just as easy to works from Reckless Kelly. That relaxed sense from the song’s musical arrangement helps to translate the lyrics and mindset exhibited in the song’s lyrical content.
The lyrical content featured in this song comes across as taking on a familiar topic – that of encouraging audiences to live life for themselves and not letting others determine who and what we are and do. That is just this critic’s interpretation. The inference is made in the song’s chorus, which states, “Don’t tell ‘em everything thing you know/Let the whole world wonder/When the time is right to give up the gold/Hold a little back for the folks back home.” The song’s second verse adds even more to that seeming topic as it states, Checked out of my room, walked down to the Rio Grande/Fortune teller on the sidewalk/Laughing at the way I talk/He drew a map upon my hand/Said what’s to be and what might have been/So I pulled up these chains/Set a course for the Spanish Main/And I’ll be coming back someday, baby, but I don’t know when.” Again, here is a statement of someone not letting his fate be determined by someone else. It is his own decision. The fortune teller is just a metaphor. Considering the positive message that seems to be delivered here and its companion musical arrangement, the song in whole proves to be a work that will certainly resonate with listeners. It is just one of the album’s most notable positives. ‘Take My Mind’ is another notable addition to the album.
‘Take My Mind’ presents a vintage style arrangement with its vocal harmonies and banjo line. At the same time, there is a touch of modern bluegrass added to the mix that will appeal to fans of Steep Canyon Rangers’ bluegrass contemporaries Old Crow Medicine Show. It is an upbeat work that pairs well with the song’s lyrical content, which seems to paint a picture of someone who is dealing with a lot.
The noted inference is made right from the song’s lead verse, which finds the song’s subject stating, “Give me nothing to hold that you don’t mind breaking/My nerves are on fire, my fingers are shaking/I’ve been taking the news pretty good ‘til now/Never did any good anyhow/I’ve been racking my brain for a simple solution/A little peace to replace my shattered illusion/‘Cause I’m losing the stories that I once believed/Reality won’t let me be.” He adds in the song’s second verse, “I could walk out in the rain, find me a rainbow/Instead I sit in my room and pull the shade on the window/But the shadow I cast never fades away/It covers up my brightest days.” The song’s chorus, which states, “Take my mind/Send it on the next thing flying/On down the line/Take my mind,” adds even more to the argument that this is someone who is dealing with a lot. What is so interesting here is the fact that the song’s musical arrangement does not take the route that it could have and been so much more moody and brooding. Instead the band took a different route, and instead offered something more energetic, which completely changes the song’s mood, especially when it is considered with the song’s lyrical content. Keeping all of this in mind, the song leaves no doubt as to what makes it another important addition to Steep Canyon Rangers’ latest album. It is not the last of the record’s most notable works, either. ‘In The Next Life’ is one more way in which Arm in Arm proves its success.
‘In The Next Life’ is a gentle, flowing country western style composition whose arrangement whose guitar, vocals, simple percussion and fiddle lines collectively create a sound that lends itself to comparisons to works from Reckless Kelly. The relaxed sense established through the song’s musical arrangement pairs with the song’s seemingly thoughtful lyrical content to make for even more engagement and entertainment.
The lyrical theme featured in ‘In The Next Life’ comes across as presenting a statement of being aware of their actions. That is inferred throughout the song’s run, beginning with its lead verse and chorus, which state, “Once I had a lover who never held back/Once I had another who wanted all I had/It took a few years to remember them well/To leave my tears right where they fell/Maybe in the next life/Maybe I’ll get it right/Maybe in the next life/Baby, give me one more try/And I’ll wait my turn/I’ve still got karma to burn.” The song’s second and third verses support the seemingly noted statement even more, stating, “Somewhere in a past life I must’ve been a real saint/Hey, lucky me, born with money in the bank/And to my future self, I’m sorry in advance/But I’m feeling too good now/To worry ‘bout a second chance/It’s too early to call, it’s too late to call sober/When you were out in the woods, did you hear me fall over/Falling on your quiet place, wrecking the scene/Turning all your time away into some strange dream.” When this contemplative whole is considered with the song’s relaxed musical arrangement, the whole of the song ensures listeners will be left thinking and talking. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of the record proves itself to be a work that will appeal easily to any longtime fan of Steep Canyon Rangers.
Steep Canyon Rangers’ latest album Arm in Arm is a positive new offering from the bluegrass/country music act. That is proven through the record’s musical arrangements and lyrical content alike. Each of the three songs addressed here serve well to support the noted statement. When they are considered alongside the rest of the album’s works, the whole makes the album a presentation that will the band’s established fan base will enjoy just as much as more casual country and bluegrass fans. The album is available now.
More information on Steep Canyon Rangers’ new album is available along with the band’s latest news at:
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