By Evan Verploegh
Let’s be honest here: Bluegrass bands are a dime a dozen these days. It takes a true uniqueness and distinction to set yourselves apart from the large pack of bluegrass and americana musicians we see today. What has come in the current revival of bluegrass, folk and americana is an incredible amount of friendly competition that challenges bands to excel in musicianship and develop a notable sound that can be quickly identified. Minneapolis’ own The Last Revel has successfully honed in on a sound that does just that.
In their 2nd full length album the band has shown huge growth and done an exceptional job at properly displaying their strengths. The self-titled release focuses on relatively simple instrumentation, with bone-stirring three part, folk influenced harmonies. The trio takes a rawer look at modern folk music and caps it off with a bluegrass swagger
The band comes out in full force with “Unbound”, an up-tempo track that makes wonderful use of fiddle player, Vinnie Donatelle’s gorgeous, yet haunting tone. The song ebbs and flows through a variety of dynamic and tempo changes before settling into a roaring fiddle solo from Donatelle. The vocals maintain a certain growl that mirror the raucous nature of the track.
The fourth track “Building on a Month” shows the delicateness that The Last Revel can provide. The song starts with gentle picking from guitarist Lee Henke before we hear our first ardent vocal line. The track puts the band’s lyric writing prowess on full exhibit. The sincere vocal delivery begs each word to be not only noticed, but understood fully. “I can be myself loathing, but it’s all a joke/Standing on edge and waiting to choke/Gimmie 19 days, I’ll be a new man/I’ll learn just to live, well I’m sure that I can”.
If I were to choose one track that I felt embodied the spirit and the soul of The Last Revel, it would come in the 8th spot on the album, “Nail in my Coffin”. In combination of a soaring vocal performance, and powerfully stirring lyrics comes a compelling chorus that will leave you humming for hours afterward. The galloping guitar line grows and crashes like ocean waves and the subtle banjo licks from Ryan Acker perfectly accents this striking tune.
The Last Revel has become known for their bombastic live performances and I’m sure they will continue to blossom in a concert setting. However, this album proves that they a force to be reckoned with in the studio and have the staying power to grow in the bluegrass/folk/americana community. For a band that tests the limits of the genre, yet stays true to the roots and heritage as well as The Last Revel, the sky’s the limit.