Balsam Range- Aeonic Review

Like the last review, I am reviewing an album from a group I have never heard of from a genre I don’t listen to…bluegrass. My basic knowledge of bluegrass is the stereotype of the banjo with heavy accents. So I know absolutely nothing. This group, after some research, has won a lot of awards for their music so I’m expecting something good. Here goes…

  1. That Girl Who Invented The Wheel- Classic sound with fantastic banjo playing. It’s about meeting a girl who started everything for this man. Vocals are good, but are sort of emotionless. It gets better when the other members provide backup vocals because it adds a new dimension to the song. Feels like some of them should have been the lead vocal. He wants this girl even though she doesn’t stick around for very long. Very overused trope.
  2. Tumbleweed Town- Violin is beautiful. New lead singer. I don’t know how to feel about this. He has a classic country voice that is nothing unique. It’s about staying in a town where there are no opportunities. Even though that is the case he loves it. He tried to become something but he never did because he wanted things to be easy. The instrumental focus is the banjo and violin which provide a classic bluegrass sound mixed with a sense of softness. I feel like there was no conclusion.
  3. The Rambler- starts off much slower than the others. Guitar and violin provide the main instrumentals. Same singers as #2 with backup vocals from a female. While the song is pretty it isn’t anything revolutionary. It’s about a traveler who is never happy where he is. For me it is something I could fall asleep to, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
  4. Get Me Gone- Back to first singer, banjo and female are back. Buddy Melton sounds better in this song. This was the single. It’s about a man heartbroken over a girl which the instrumental is a stark contrast to that emotion.
  5. Hobo Blues- Back to second singer. Instrumentals are subtle at the beginning with a guitar strum and violin providing sound. About a homeless man who didn’t expect this from his life.  The Instrumental bridge provides great atmosphere as I can picture whose life is being sung about.
  6. Help Me To Hold On- Slow tempo banjo with lyrics about a suicidal people who are trying to stay alive, divine intervention stops them from killing themselves. I wish the vocal provided more emotion for such emotional lyrics. There is a message of not judging others who feel this way, but the lyric “you might remember a time when you cried” as trying to show empathy trivializes depression a bit.
  7. Let My Life Be A Light- back to fast paced banjo and violin. It’s about wanting God to make the subject do good things. Last two songs were religious out of nowhere. Subject wants a lot from his God, but does not seem to be doing anything himself to get what he wants. Asking God to help him to help people in order to get to heaven. Weird motives and lack of personal motivation. I think this song is supposed to showcase God and the subject in a good light but is sketchy on both sides.
  8. My Cross to Bear- first few notes are slow but the banjo kicks in. Singing about possibly murdering someone and having to live with it. Once again the vocals and instrumentals are upbeat which is an interesting juxtaposition. Subject understand that his God will punish him and seems okay with it.
  9. Graveyard Blues- Fiddle is the star. Backup vocals better than lead but the lead lends to the lyrics better. About the subjects wife who killed herself after their child died. I thought this album had a story but this song threw out that theory.
  10. Angel Too Soon- The mandolin is the lead this time. Very subtle instrumentals and vocals. About a little girl who died in her sleep but the family is struggling to move on as they haven’t changed their routine at all. I’m actually feeling the emotion through the vocals this time. I think it’s due to the quietness of the song.
  11. If I Needed Someone- Fiddle and banjo very fast along with the dobro. Collection of vocals. About someone in a relationship who under different circumstances would have been with someone else. The refrains are very strange. Seems to stray from the rest of the songs completely. With their other songs there has been deeper meaning but this song feels lacking a purpose and a bit empty. Feels robotic as well on each chorus. I would have never chosen this to be the last song on the album.

Final thoughts: I didn’t dislike this album. I enjoyed it more when there was a clear story through the songs. Once it got to Graveyard Blues and the idea of a narrative was shattered confused me quite a bit. The vocals were not consistent. Sometimes the emotion matched the content and other times it didn’t. The instrumentals were good, but they weren’t revolutionary. Overall I would rate it a

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